Couple is playing a video game.
We have all heard confessionals from video gamers who sacrificed their jobs, relationships, or education to their obsession with games. But can video games really be addictive like drugs?
People who have joined a class action lawsuit against a game company in Canada say yes. The defendant company Epic Games is the creator of Fortnite, an extremely popular third-person shooter game. A Montreal law firm, Calex Legal, has filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of two parents claiming that the game is as addictive as cocaine and harmed their two children ages 10 and 15.
Her complaint argues that Fortnite, when played for a long time, causes players' brains to release dopamine in the same way as drugs, which leads to chemical addiction. The lawsuit further claims that the game's developers hired psychologists to help them make the game as addictive as possible.
The law firm models its lawsuit along the lines of class action lawsuits against Big Tobacco in the United States and Canada, claiming that the accused knew about the dangers and did not warn the players. In this case, the two parents say that if they knew about the risks, they would never have allowed their children to play Fortnite.
How similar the effects of video games and drugs are
So what evidence is there to support their claim?
For starters, the World Health Organization recently classified "gaming disorder" as an actual disease that should be listed in its International Classification of Diseases. (The American Psychiatric Association's classification system, the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders, states that "Internet gaming disorder" requires more research.)
In 2018, researchers at Nottingham Trent University in the United Kingdom conducted an extensive review of the studies conducted on gambling disorders and found a strong consensus that the neurobiological effects of gambling addiction and drug addiction are similar. These included "poorer working memory and poor decision-making ability, reduced visual and auditory functions and a lack of their neural reward system".
On October 22, the New York Times looked intensely at video game addiction and found that it is "an open secret" in the game industry that the games are said to be addictive. "With the help of dedicated scientists, game developers have used many psychological techniques to make their products as untraceable as possible," Ferris Jabr writes. According to Jabr, a typical attraction to keep players going is to use "intermittent reinforcement," which gives players random rewards.
Drug analogy also has doubts
Despite these findings, however, there are many people who say that nothing makes video game obsessions more intense than other activities. "The same goes for many activities. People go overboard with sex, eating, exercise, work, or religion," wrote Christopher J. Ferguson, a psychology professor at Stetson University, in the US News and World Report. "(D) The solid, consistent, and well-validated research base required to describe video game addiction as an illness or disorder has not materialized."
Addiction or not, parents who think their children are spending too much time playing video games might consider some measures to reduce this activity:
- Encourage them to exercise more physically.
- Talk to children about what they like to play. This can help determine if they are using games to avoid other problems.
- Limit the hours in which you can play the games.
- When you get them from the game, ask how much time it takes them to finish the game. Then hold on to that time.