Like most of us today, you have probably experienced playing some form of game or games on your mobile device at one time or another. If you have, you likely already understand just how easy it can be to get engulfed in solving puzzles, shooting your opponents, unlocking new collectible items, and climbing to the top of leaderboards. You also likely understand how one can completely lose track of time while doing so. That’s not by accident.
Mobile game developers are using several different methods and strategies to keep players glued to their mobile devices and feed their addiction. Everything from color schemes to the soundtracks are well thought out in these games and designed to keep you coming back.
One of the most successful games in history on any platform is Candy Crush. It has been downloaded over 2.7 billion times, has over 70 million followers on its Facebook page, and has had over 1.1 trillion rounds of the game played. At its peak, over 93 million players played daily.
Candy Crush uses a very simple formula. They release new levels every weak, force players to wait for lives to “refill”, and it provides a simple method to purchase additional lives and other boosters for the game with just a couple of clicks.
So called freemium games like Candy Crush are a leading driver behind mobile game addiction. These games are free to install and play, but give options for in-app purchases. These purchases may allow a player to play more often. They may give boosts to progression in the game. In some games they unlock additional characters or cosmetic items.
Dopamine and Mobile Game Addiction
Game developers are using strategies to increase a player’s dopamine levels in order to keep them hooked on the game. Dopamine is a chemical in the brain largely responsible for controlling your feelings of pleasure. When players earn rewards in games, especially difficult to achieve ones, they will often experience a release of dopamine.
Increased dopamine levels are a significant factor in most types of addiction, including opioids and alcohol. Individuals struggling with addiction often will drink more alcohol or use drugs to achieve higher levels of dopamine. With video games, players will invest more time in the game and/or spend more money to unlock the same sort of feelings.
Because both are often described as impulse control disorders and alter our brain’s dopamine levels in a way that keeps people coming back for more, gaming addiction is most often compared to a gambling addiction. Some who suffer from gaming addictions may also suffer from other mental health disorders that contribute to the addiction.
Mobile game addiction increases an individual’s risk for a number of physical and emotional health problems. It can also lead to significant complications in one’s day-to-day life.
Some common issues seen in those suffering from a mobile game addiction include:
● ADD and ADHD
● Learning disabilities
● Weight gain
● Neglect of personal hygiene
● Increased anxiety
● Sleep disorders
● Poor nutrition
Overcoming a Mobile Gaming Addiction
A gaming addiction is not often overcome by simply deciding to spend less time gaming. It usually involves counseling and behavioral therapy that can help show someone how to prevent themselves from turning to video games as a way to escape from reality or avoid facing problems. By learning to identify and cope with the underlying causes of their addiction, a person can take the first step to overcoming it.