Are Video Games Really Addictive?

Video games have gained mass popularity and attention over the years. Being a part of the technology revolution, they have the potential to keep people of all kinds occupied for hours at a time. VIdeo games have changed from an activity that people have enjoyed as a pastime to changing people’s lives, both children and adults alike. More so, gaming has become more of an acceptable occupation than in the past. People can play video games and make a very good living off of it. What people have once seen as a harmful thing that controls children’s minds can now take them farther than they’ve ever gone before. 

Video games aren’t all that positive. They also have some negative attributes as well, like addiction. Aviv Malkiel Weinstein, author of the article, Computer and Video Game Addiction—A Comparison between Game Users and Non-Game Users, says:

“Although repetition of favorite activities has a moderate effect upon computer game addiction, flow experience, the emotional state embracing perceptual distortion and enjoyment shows a strong impact on addiction” 

Addiction is seen as a mental health issue that has gained more attention over the past few years. It can lead to other things that become more problematic as time goes on. In Video game addiction: The push to pathologize video games, authors Anthony Bean, Rune Nielsen, Antonius van Rooij, and Christopher Ferguson claim “it should be possible to document that there are some individuals who start with video game addiction even if that then worsens into depression and other issues.” They go on to explain how it is unclear if video game addiction is a gateway into a “‘unique’ disorder if the excessive gaming is symptomatic of underlying issues,” or they are being “miscategorized and misinterpreted as a separate disorder.” 

An addiction to video games must be addressed. However, the different signs of addiction are no different than a person with a gambling addiction or someone with a drug addiction. But what if the problem isn’t addiction? Something about video games of all kinds is attractive to its players. But the question is “what is it” and “why do the players keep coming back?”

To fully understand why people are captivated by video games, we first need to understand the different incentives that games offer. 1.2 Incentives and Flow, a section from the study, Project: Video Game, addresses the different incentives that gamers are introduced to. According to the study, “there are other factors that can keep players engaged in a game.” They go on to say that an advantage of adding incentives to video games is ”they can quickly teach and reinforce desired behaviors. Typically, people will quickly learn the cause-and-effect relationship between their actions and the incentives.” 

But the same can happen for people when they perform poorly in a game. The study suggests that removing the incentives will teach people to “quickly stop performing a behavior if the rewards and punishments are removed–unless the person has developed some internal motivation to keep performing the behavior.”

The stimulation that players can get from the incentives of video games is something that Calton Erickson and Richard Wilcox address in their essay, which talks about drug addiction. In their essay, Neurobiological Causes of Addiction, they say that people “mistakenly believe that drug-induced euphoria, craving, or physical withdrawal are causative factors in chemical dependence.” This is just with drug addictions but it could be assumed the same with gambling addictions.  

Though they don’t put any unnatural chemicals into the mind of the user, video games  do give the user a euphoria. Almost like a momentary high. People with addictions want to keep that high feeling, so they’ll do anything that they can to keep that feeling going. And if that means continuing with the unhealthy behavior, then so be it. But video games don’t cause addictions though. The feeling of doing well in the game, and the incentives that are given to players when they do well can give the players a momentary high as mentioned before. 

There have been a number of different games that have become popular. Point of view shooter games, where the player can immerse themselves in a virtual atmosphere, and the only thing that matters is the amount of kills that the player has is a good example of this. 

The amount of kills that a player gets in a game boosts them on the tier list. A person can think of those tiers as a social ladder of other players. Someone that does well in different matches will continue to advance. On the other hand, those who struggle to do well in said matches against other players will be at a standstill, and even fall down a tier. 

A player can fall down a tier and can use that as the motivation to get back to where they were or even move up more tiers, if they’re able to do it. When a player climbs up the different ranks that a game has to offer, it isn’t because they’ve suddenly gained the skills to beat any opponent that comes their way. It’s more because of the luck of that player. If they are paired with a random player, there’s no telling whether they’ll do well or not, which can result in a player’s rank falling a bit. 

These shooter games reward both skill and luck, but they also punish both. Players who rise a tier face stiffer competition, which might harm their rankings and punish them for succeeding. The good fortune of being assigned to a series of successful teams might not be addictive, but if it’s followed by a string of bad assignments, it might provide just the right amount of “random reinforcement” that psychologists and addiction experts say keeps players coming back.

Why do people continue to play the games if they can cause some signs of addictive behaviors? They do it because it’s fun, and they do it because they need the satisfaction of doing well.

Video games have grabbed the attention of our youth, for decades now. Especially now, when it comes to perfecting their skills. Players will do whatever it takes to stay engaged. They’ll push themselves beyond their mental limits, just so they can have a good social standing on a ladder in a video game. 

This may sound fine and dandy on paper, but being a player with an addiction is nothing to marvel at or be proud of. Honestly, anyone that takes the time to be very skilled in a video game will want to keep playing to hone their skills, but the truth dives a little deeper than that. But there are a few things that need to be understood first. 

The first thing to be acknowledged is what causes a player to turn the game on and play again. There are a few different contributing factors. The first one is the feeling of Dopamine that players have when they play. Amy Webb, in her article, The Revealing Reasons Why Kids Love Video Games explains that Dopamine is “a neurotransmitter in the brain that becomes active when individuals participate in something fun and pleasurable.” She also goes on to say that most studies done by other researchers on this topic have related to the rise in dopamine levels similar to those with a drug addiction, even though the levels aren’t as high as drug users. 

Some players like to play just for the feeling. They enjoy the rush they get when they play, and for them, that’s just enough. The rush encourages and enables them to pick up the controller and play again. 

Another key contributor to players getting hooked to video games is the reward system that they have in place for the players. The reward systems are easy to understand. If a player performs well in a lobby or on a mission, they’ll be rewarded. The harder the mission or the level of the game, the better they’ll be rewarded. If a player’s performance is poor, or not up to the level’s standard, they won’t be rewarded, and in some cases, they’ll even be punished. 

With that being said, players will do whatever they can to keep themselves from falling too far. If they lose too much, or lose one point too many, then they’ll fall down a level and it’ll take more time and effort to get themselves back up to the level they were once on before. Amy Webb elaborates on this point in her article. The author states, “Kids playing these games know they will get a reward eventually but do not know when or how often it’s coming. This only heightens their compulsion to continue playing.” Webb goes on to explain how the obstacles with varying rewards can “produce a ‘hit’ of dopamine that makes for games that most adults can’t resist, not to mention kids.”

Winning in video games can also keep players coming back. Wanting to uphold their status, as already mentioned players will do whatever they can to put themselves on top. The article from, explains the reason players want to put themselves through such a thing. “Stemming from [the need to win], winning also leads to the esteem of others and increasing social status. Competitions provide a safe method of winning and gaining this good feeling in a way that mostly does not require harmful physical combat. Winning in games can hence lead to benefits in real life as others admire your skill and give you higher overall status.” 

There are studies that show that video games support the idea that sufficient skills can promote someone to higher social status. Psychology and Competitive Gaming, says professional success in competitive gaming seemingly requires persistent practice and sophisticated skill sets. It is likely that these positive effects are more substantial than the effects of gaming more generally in lieu of the positive effects of competitive gaming, particularly in relation to improved spatial cognitive benefits.” 

Another aspect of games that should be mentioned is the competitive nature of the video games themselves. Outside of the players working themselves to be the best in the servers, there is the gameplay, which could contribute to the competitive nature of the games. The competitive nature of video games is different from that of a regular game with a win or lose outcome. Some games have the variable component in them, where basically anything can happen. 

To keep the game exciting to its players, they tend to chance and skill to make it more enjoyable for all. The set ups of the servers won’t have a person that just joined the game play against the strongest and most skilled players in the game. That doesn’t make sense, and that would cause players to stop playing the game altogether. Instead of the servers doing this, the servers will put players of similar skill together. That way, the element of chance and skill are put into effect when determining the winner of different games. 

The changingminds article addresses this idea from their article. The author of this article says, “The best games are often those which mix chance and skill such that a good player will be more likely to win, yet weaker player always has a chance to win. Over a series of games, though, if skill is involved then the most skillful player will win more often.” 

Obviously, there are a number of different reasons that could begin to scratch the surface as to why video games continuously draw their players back. The competitive nature of video games is set up in a way that puts players against those a little above their skill level and a little below their skill level, that way the different players can never get bored of playing against the same people over and over again. 

Not only the competitive nature, but also the reward system of the games. The reward system tends to give players more and more based on how well they do. Not only that, but there is no telling when they’ll get their next reward, which to them is all the more reason to keep playing. 

The relationship between a player and the video game is based on what the game offers, and the player brings to the table themselves. With those two things combined, it bring the players right back for them to enjoy the game more than they did the last time they played.

Gaming has gotten massive over the last few decades. Video games, as a result of their increasing popularity have transformed from a hobby into a career, with all kinds of people being self employed to where they make content for their audience. Gamers of all kinds can play against others like them in different lobbies and work their way to the top of the leaderboard. Or they can take part in a tournament to show off their skills. Video games have come a long way since they have first come into fruition.

As gamers immerse themselves in the world of video games, some other people may be concerned about their behavior. Friends and family members of those gamers will sit and ponder on the behavior of their loved one, and whether or not they will put themselves before a virtual world on a screen. 

As previously discussed, there are different components of the video games’ nature that is at question. One of those components can be the pure pleasure that someone can get from playing the games. Another component is the positive reinforcement that the game offers to its players for completing a quest, a task, or from ranking high in a game. There are a plethora of different reasons as to why a player is compelled to come back and play the game even more, but that isn’t the topic at hand. 

There are people that will argue with the fact the video game addiction exists and the different causes of it. Regardless of if they don’t understand the concept or if they just don’t believe it, whatever the case may be, there are people that will disregard the idea of video game addiction. 

Take the authors, Christopher J. Ferguson and Patrick Markey, authors of the New York Times article Video Games Aren’t Addictive for example. In their article, Ferguson and Markey address the different parts of the claim that “Video games cause addiction,” while saying that playing video games “is a normal behavior that, while perhaps in many cases a waste of time, is not damaging or disruptive of lives.” They go one step further and address a study done by the American Journal of Psychiatry, which is a credible source, and go in a direction that most people don’t go into detail with when talking about the status of gamers that play video games excessively. 

While Ferguson and Markey give a compelling argument, there are a few different holes in their argument. The first part that needs to be mentioned is in the third paragraph. They say 

“[alcohol addiction] is terribly misguided. Playing video games is not addictive in any meaningful sense. It is normal behavior that, while perhaps in many cases a waste of time, is not damaging or disruptive of lives in the way drug or alcohol use can be.”

While no one argued that playing video games is a normal behavior isn’t the issue at hand here. Throughout the course of the article, the author’s don’t acknowledge that video games can even lead to any type of behavior that is out of the ordinary. In fact, they seem to double down and say the risk of the “immoderate playing of video games” is unethical and “we are pathologizing relatively normal behavior.” Playing moderate video games is not the problem at hand. Again the problem is if someone plays video games to the point of them putting the games before themselves. If they devote more time to playing video games then they do socializing or getting exercise, then it becomes a problem. 

Another hole in their argument is that Ferguson and Markey is that the people that were considered addicts in the study that they’ve referenced. They go on to say that the study done by the American Journal of Psychiatric Association only says that “at most 1 percent of video game players might exhibit characteristics of an addiction.” Using the results of the study is fine, but the study should apply to everyone. Saying that the one percent of people that participated in the study might have some characteristics of an addiction isn’t really enough to say that people don’t have it. 

The authors say that video people who are concerned for those who play video games to relieve stress or come home and relax shouldn’t be worried about their use of video games. Again, the authors making this point insinuates that they haven’t taken into account the fact that there are people who don’t do anything else, but play video games. Those people that only play video games and don’t exercise or have a social life can be considered addicts because they let their virtual worlds consume them. 

If they feel like everyone playing video games is “moderate,’’ then how do they address those that don’t take care of themselves. The authors of this article completely disregard that question and the groups of people that could fit in that category.


Bean, A. M., Nielsen, R. K., van Rooij, A. J., & Ferguson, C. J. (2017, October). Video game addiction: The push to pathologize – proquest. ProQuest. Retrieved from

Competitive games. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Erickson, C. K., & Wilcox, R. E. (2008, October 20). Neurobiological causes of addiction. Taylor & Francis. Retrieved from

Ferguson, C. J., & Markey, P. (2017, April 1). Video Games Aren’t Addictive. The New York Times. Retrieved from

Griffiths, M. D. (2015, December 9). Psychology And Competitive Gaming. Psychology Today. Retrieved from

Webb, A. (2020, December 30). The Revealing Reasons Why Kids Love Video Games. The Thoughtful Parent. Retrieved from,equating%20it%20to%20drug%20addiction.

Weinstein, A. M. (2008, October 20). (PDF) computer and video game addiction—a comparison between game users … Retrieved from

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1 Response to Research–mercythyhealer

  1. davidbdale says:

    Problems noted in the short arguments are not solved here, Mercy, and the repetitions are much more obvious when all three arguments are presented in one paper. You don’t have enough powerful research to support your claims, so you’re compelled to make the same explanations over and again. It weakens your persuasiveness.

    Provisionally graded. This post is eligible for a Regrade following substantial Revision.

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