This weekend, I started doing something again that I hadn’t done in years: play The Sims 4. If you’ve heard of this video game, you’ll know it makes you a half. god who gives life to the different characters that you want to have in your hands, you build them a house and you make them survive. It’s simple
So far, so good. I started playing and bringing my little Sims to life, I could see how they grew, worked, ate, slept, until suddenly I looked at the (real world) clock and I saw that six hours had passed. Still, I thought to myself, “A little more, just until my Sim is promoted to his role as a Food Chef.”
Another hour passed. And finally, I managed to shut down and shut down the computer. Although, honestly, I would have continued to play.
Then the idea to write this article came to me. I started to research to understand what psychological components make video games so addicting.
I also wanted to know what are the most addicting video games in history (the Sims are not on this list even though they managed to catch up with me for 7 hours) and how the gaming world started to emerge in our society.
However, I have found that video games don’t have to be bad or addictive.
Here’s an answer to all those strangers my post-Sims 4 addict self started asking me over the weekend.
What was the world’s first video game?
To begin to understand, let’s start from the beginning: how did it all start? William Higinbotham is the name that appears on Google when you search for information on the world’s first video game.
We date back to 1958 and are located in Long Island, United States. There, at Brookhaven National Laboratory, what would be the first video game in history was presented to the public.
The name of the video game was Tennis for Two (tennis for two) and it used a small computer to simulate a game of tennis on an oscilloscope. Fourteen years later, the famous game Pong was born, which has many similarities with this first video game.
The game was designed within hours and became the star of the show. The participants lined up to play, so it appears that video game addiction has been around since they first saw sunlight.
As you might have imagined, it was a very simple game, with poor graphics, a far cry from what we think of a video game today. However, he managed to make all scientists and intellectuals who attended the exhibition fall in love with the new discovery. They challenged each other and followed the points won or lost in the video game.
Higinbotham wanted to create Tennis for Two to entertain and show that science can be fun too. It is paradoxical to think that the spirit of this same person was the cause of the death of hundreds of thousands of people. The physicist took part in the development of one of the worst inventions in history: the atomic bomb.
His invention as a player emerged in our society years later. It took decades for the video game industry to emerge and that’s how what we understand as a culture today began to emerge. player.
In the 1960s, this industry began to develop. Of course, the progress has been slow, nothing to do with the very rapid progress that we see today in any kind of technology.
On November 29, 1972, the aforementioned video game, Pong, was released, modeled after the first Tennis for Two game. Pong’s success fostered the development of the video game industry.
And the rest, you already know: one of the most effective ways to make money in the West is consolidating. Better and better video games are being developed, and it is increasingly common for every household to have a console or computer to play with.
Easy access to the world player and the great popularity of video games among young people (and not so young) has even led to the development of a gamer culture, which includes both amateurs and professionals.
And despite the positive side of video games (which we’ll talk about later), there is also a dangerous side that has to do with addiction to them.
Psychology: why are video games hooking?
Since video games have been so successful, different psychologists have tried to explain the cause of their addiction. The first thing to differentiate is that you maybe play a video game a lot and you are not addicted or addicted.
When we talk about drug addiction, we are talking about a serious problem. On the psychology website The Mind is Wonderful, it is explained that to diagnose video game addiction, you must have at least five or more of the following symptoms:
- Worry or obsession
- Withdrawal symptoms when you are not playing
- Tolerance: Anytime you feel the need to spend more time playing
- Loss of interest in other activities
- Excessive and continuous use
- He lies about the time he spends playing
- Threat or loss of personal relationships due to the use of video games
Obviously, it is always a professional who must diagnose this type of addiction, but if you recognize that you are suffering from at least five of the symptoms listed above, it is recommended that you consult this professional so that they can help you.
On the other hand, if we talk about video game addiction understood as simply that we suddenly enjoy spending a lot of time playing this game (without it being considered a diagnosed addiction), psychology professionals establish that what makes a game addicting is its structure.
The structure of the video game must have mechanisms to activate different neural pathways capable of generating dopamine. Video game psychologist Carlos González Tardón explains that the most addictive games are those that activate the reptilian area of the brain, the most primitive, the basic reward mechanism that all higher animals possess: if something does you feel good when you do it and when you remember you did it you dare to do it again.
The same Mind is Wonderful website explains that in order for games to have these rewarding characteristics, they must have different elements in common: openness, persistence, simulation and social component.
We understand how “opening” the fact that a game has an open course, that is, the player must choose which path to follow. When you complete a mission, you get rewards that motivate you to keep going.
Games have no end, what we mean by “persistence”. The game takes place in real time, in some cases it seems to continue even when you stop playing because when you return you see that you can collect rewards. This allows you to play endlessly.
The “simulation” refers to the anonymity offered by some online games. You will be able to create a character and interact as if you are him or her in a world where no one knows you. Anonymity uninhibits you because you don’t suffer the same consequences doing the same thing as in real life.
Finally, the component “social” that’s another part that gets you hooked. In some games, you can play remotely with other real people, or even build relationships. Social reinforcement increases involvement in the game and also satisfaction.
Can anyone get addicted to video games?
Psychiatrist Nestor Szerman said: “There are no addictive substances; there are vulnerable people ”. In other words, the propensity for addiction is written in our genes, although that does not mean that all people with this genetics end up developing an addiction.
“The result of becoming addicted to something then will be the mixture of genes, environment and attitude of the person,” says Szerman.
At the same time, the Avance Psicólgos website explains some of the causes that, in combination with each other, can lead to video game addiction. In other words, in addition to genetics, they can also influence factors such as:
- Lonely living habits, lack of other stimuli
- Problems at home or at school: video games are used as a means of escape and immersion in imaginary worlds
- These tendencies are genetic
- Existence of a unique social circle of friends whose only form of entertainment is video games
- Participation in competitive environments (case of online multiplayer games)
What are the most addicting video games in history?
Very Interesting magazine published in 2019 the list of the most addicting video games in history. All meet at least one of the characteristics described in the previous sections.
In first place is World of Warcraft, followed by other classics such as Tetris, Super Mario Bros, Sonic the Hedhehog, Pokémon Red and Blue, Minecraft, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Grand Theft Auto III and Mario Kart 64.
On the other hand, psychologist Isabel Monzonís explains that the genre of massively multiplayer online role-playing video games (MMORPGs) is the most addicting type of game of all.
This type of game allows social interaction through the creation of an avatar, in addition, they are vertical, that is, they do not have multiple screens but there are always new challenges or battles. , they have no end.
The good side of video games
Despite the addiction risks that some video games present, like everything else, to some extent and with control, they don’t have to be bad. In fact, some studies show the opposite: playing certain video games can be beneficial.
This is the case with games that allow you to improve visual skills, strengthen your memory and prevent brain aging. The psychologist specializing in video games, the German H. Beneditto, explains that they can help even the elderly because when they play, their driving and concentration skills improve.
Another positive point of the video game world, according to Beneditto, is that they can become a test environment, that is, they allow the player to make mistakes, to test, to train, to etc. This is the case for certain professions, such as airplane pilots, who use video games for training.
On the other hand, video games can also be used as a tool to combat the days of isolation that the current pandemic is forcing us to do. Our colleague Hannah Cowton explains in this other article how video games are the solution to your anxiety during isolation.
Either way, video games are a hit today. Millions of people around the world enjoy it for hours, some may even go professionally into video games, as there is an industry that revolves around gaming.
However, in summary of this article, keep in mind that playing video games is not bad, but not setting limits with them can be dangerous. Otherwise, your sanity might tell you the game is over.