The Perfect Score Project

One mom's quest to ace the SAT.

Video Game Addiction: Why Some Students Fail Out of College

I've always been ambivalent about video games.

Here's why: Read More

Alternatives

One interesting theory used to explain why women
are doing better in college is that women, in
general, are less interested in video games.

I agree that video games definitely improve certain
brain abilities. But as you so aptly point out,
stopping at just one hour per day is very hard
for a lot of players. Even if playing video games
is improving brain power, if it is leading to
skimping on homework and studying, the result is
lower grades or even dropping out.

An important point is that playing video games is
not the only activity that improves the brain.
Exercise, playing music, reading have all be shown
to make impressive improvements in brain power.
The difference between playing video games and these
other activities, is that these other activities
are much more self-limiting than playing video games.
That is, they are just not as addictive as video games.
A small minority of people do become so addicted to
exercise, playing music or reading that they cut into
homework and studying time. But such addiction is much
more rare than addiction to video games.

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/09/16/what-sort-of-exercise-can-make-...

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/brain-sense/201105/music-lessons-the...

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091209121200.htm

-----

Improving the brain

AGREE AGREE AGREE (i.e. there are better ways to improve the brain). Thank you for these links. Will check them out.

I just started a 5 week program called CogMed that is supposed to improve working memory. I'm one week in. Not sure I feel results yet, BUT, I definitely felt mentally fatigued yesterday. I want to take an IQ test AFTER I finish the program (I took one right before it) and see if there's any improvement. Great if you can count a million numbers backwards, but does your reading comprehension improve? That's what I want!

I also believe, with every bone in my body (though no scientific backup), that Kumon improves brain ability. I just know it......

The other thing, that I did not mention in this post, is that I notice a negative personality shift in my son when he plays more than a very little bit of video games. He becomes surly and short tempered, and frankly, seems like a drug addict. Versus when he's played piano and read books, he's sweet as pie.

Lucky

Hi Ms. Stier

“The other thing, that I did not mention in this post,
is that I notice a negative personality shift in my son
when he plays more than a very little bit of video games.”

Well your son is very lucky that you had the fortitude
to put limits on how long he could play. Too many parents
just can't be bothered, or it is too much hassle.

Terry

thanks!

I'm glad you see it that way. I hope he will see it that way, some day, too!

From the wolf himself

"He becomes surly and short tempered, and frankly, seems like a drug addict."

Guilty as charged. Why? My self-control goes out the door. It's not that I develop some devious thoughts, or turn into Mr. Hyde, or generally become an aggressive person, quite simply it's self-control that drops to the treshold of impulsive reaction. I feel bad about it of course, just as anyone else who ever reacted on impulse. Why does that happpen? Well I'm no expert but I'd guess that you allocate a lot of resources to playing games so that when it comes to self-restraint you just don't have any more resource to give. Although games look dumbing and one could easily claim that your brain goes idle while playing them - it actually takes a lot of processing power to play them.

To make things short and give you my un-professional opinion:
Video games require you to multi-task, multi-tasking requires working/executive memory, working/executive memory is responsible for self-control.

Hope this helps explain a few things, I'm open for more questions on my personal experiences. Oh and I have set myself limits at age 19. I simply decided, one day, on a whim (more like on a long-time work in progress) to balance the time I spend for sleeping-mental activites-recreational activities-gaming-television. Doing fine and keeping to it (although I never imagined I'd be able to do it, before I started).

the wolf

you give me hope!

Video Games - Entertainment, or Virtual Drug?

Let me begin by saying that I agree with the possibility of Video Game Addiction. It is very real; it does happen. I would know because it happened to me. Beating the addiction was difficult and it took some time, but I now enjoy my past time as just that - a past time pursuit during quiet hours.

As for why people become addicted to video games, I have a couple of theories, depending on the game. Some games offer huge, expansive worlds full of entertaining things to see and do. These games generally provide a nice, yet finite, escape from reality. Such games become addicting because of the level of realism involved. Those susceptible to extremes of escapism tend to want to spend a lot of time in these alternate realities. During periods of depression, I found myself retreating more and more often to such worlds. Of course this raises the question: Is it indeed video game addiction, or is it addiction to escapism?

The other game type is more of a problem, in my opinion. The games I mentioned before are very appealing to escapist habits. However there exist other games whose very structure more closely resemble that of a virtual drug, as opposed to a form of entertainment. Such games promise rewards of ever-increasing significance, doled out just often enough to keep players online for one more raid, one more boss fight, and paying their subscriptions for one more month.

If we examine the setup of these games we find that the manner in which they dole out rewards very much resembles the results of drug use. At first a small does suffices to give rise to minor euphoria - the excitement of finding something new. Before long, however, increased amounts of time - and often of money - are required in order to work toward more and better rewards. Now a 5 minute raid and a level 5 reward are no longer enough; now I must "grind" to level 30 and spend months paying a subscription fee in order to get a bigger, better reward.

Where do we draw the line between virtual entertainment, and virtual substance abuse?

World of Warcraft

I know very little about the differences between games -- but if I had to guess, World of Warcraft falls into the later category, right?

And what about Runescape (sp?)? Same?

World of Warcraft

My 21 year old son (who happens to be brilliant) is permitting WOW to destroy his life. He has already lost one year in college because of his gaming. Now...being $40,000 in college debt and still having two more years to go, he knows this is it. If he doesn't do well academically this semester, then we can't afford to continue his education. My son does not drink or smoke or take drugs...but, at this point, I don't know that any of those vices are any worse than gaming. I am physically ill over this. I know he is destroying his life with this addiction, but he says he has everything under control...that he will do well this semester, etc. I have heard it all before. I have done everything I can do: I have begged, cried, pleaded...have let him know that I love him unconditionally, but that my love for him will not be enough to sustain him when he crashes from the consequences of his addiction to this very destructive game. I have looked for clinics that treat this type of addiction, but cannot find any. At this point, I have no idea how to help him...and he does not believe he needs any help. I am a wreck over this, and I have no idea how to help my son.

WOW

Heartbreaking......and I identify, and fear I could have my own similar situation some day.

Do you think they are all as addictive as World of Warcraft?

Testimony to parents of gamers

Ok, I see some issues have picked up and I will again try to share you my view on them.

Now before I begin let me again state, I am no expert in any field what you choose to do with the information I provide is up to you. I am simply a patient and I wish to share you my view on video games, which in most cases should resemble your childs view on video games if you have this sort of a problem.

"Do you think they are all as addictive as World of Warcraft?"

That would be a negative. Besides the games that you like/dislike there is the great difference that heavily influences how addictive games are. The difference is single-player vs. multiplayer. Singleplayer (SP) games are games that you play against the computer. In general they are not as addictive as multiplayer games, because they are limited. After playing an SP game you soon figure out the bits and pieces and you can learn to predict every computer-opponents move. So after some time (depending how well the game is designed) you will tire of it as there will be nothing new left to explore.
The most addictive games are thus' multiplayer games where your rival, opponent, competitor or friend is a real live human, somewhere on this world. The fact that you're playing with various people of various personalities from all over the world is already very interesting but there is a lot more to it than that. You do not tire of multiplayer games easily because you cannot ever figure out the people you're playing it with. It's a virtual social environment and it doesn't give you that feeling of being all alone as is the case with SP games. Most addictive aspect of them, however, is as Jason already mentioned the very desing of these multiplayer games themselves. They keep you on for just one more thing or simply to get ahead of others and if you stay away from it for long, it feels like losing - and nobody wants to lose if they can help it, right? More on this subject in the common misconception part below.

Why is study and gaming incompatible?

As I have slightly mentioned already in my previous post - playing games is tiring for the brain. In some cases you are more exhausted playing games then studying. So if you say to your child that s/he's been playing games all day and should now study, s/he will have a hard time doing that - for reasons unknown to you - well the reason is that they're just as tired as if they spent those hours studying. One way to unwind and relax would be a leisurely stroll. That's what helps me anyways - I often like to go hiking or take a walk through the woods, over the hills and onto mountains. Once you clear your head (whichever way fits for you) and return, do not play anymore games for the rest of the day. The point was to get you ready to study a bit rather than being drawn back to games.

"I have it under control."

That is obviously not the case but gaming is the easiest type of control denial there is. You have things under control because you can stop - you can prove that you have things under control because you can stop and then not return to it for 'a while'? I can easily see why a person would say s/he has gaming addiction under control but to help you understand here is an analogy example you can relate to. The need to play is similar to a need to eat - how? If I talked to you about eating you'd most likely say you have it under control (unless you struggle with various eating-disorders and are aware of them). But do you really have eating under control? Well sure you can stop eating now, but you'll get hungry sooner or later and you can fight the hunger for a while but eventually you'll just have to eat. So in truth you don't have eating under control - you don't get to decide when you wish to be hungry. With gaming it's similar you can stop at any time so surely you have things under contrl, right? You can even stay away from games for quite some time, so that surely proves it, right? It doesn't, but you think it does.

A common misconception of the "escape to virtual world" phrase.

The "escape to virtual world" doesn't happen under the terms - "oh life is so hard, I'll just play games". The core cause of it is low self-esteem but particularly self-worth. A person feels worthless, a good-for-nothing nobody whose presence in society makes as much good as his/her absence and that's why s/he moves to computer games. Because in the virtual world you matter, you make the calls, you influence the tide of things, you are important and respected should you choose to rise to that level and in fact you are as close to divine as you can be.
"Oh no! I'll go and tell my child I love him/her and that s/he is smart and perfect!" - No, by all means do not do that. In most cases it will make matters worse (sonner or later). If a person fully and unyieldingly percieves him/herself as useless, a simple pep talk won't work - you need to prove it. A praise or scold can have harmful effects if it comes out of nowhere, you need to praise after a praise-worthy action was done. So to truly tell your child s/he matters and is not worthless you need to challenge them to rise to the occasion and in doing so, in overcoming the trial you show them that their perception of themselves is exaggerated. More about this in the summary below.

And now we come to a motherload of all comments - my personal experience on the field and my own conclusions on the matter:

I too crossed paths with a massive online multiplayer game (not WOW though) and became a serious addict. Getting on the computer to 'check-in' on my status was the first thing I did in the morning and loging off was the last thing I did before I went to bed, sometimes even waking up for 'a while' in the middle of the night. I spent every possible moment wasting away at the screen. I eventually began to realize it's destroying my life and myself included - so did I stop when I realized it? Nope. I hid it. I used every trick I could to convince others (and myself!!!) that it's not soo bad and got away with it. I was officially hooked, fully fitting the example of a computer game addict. What happened was that several days into my 'days of madness' my grandfather had suddenly passed away. By suddenly I mean there was no sign of it prior, there were no talks in the hospital saying 'you should be prepeared', no nothing. One moment fully alive, stronger than most who are half his age, still actively working on the field or around the house and the next moment gone. For three days my access to computer was impaired as I and my family spent most of the day in the wake-room and then on the third day was the funeral. After the burial my inner-conflict to stop took on a dramatic turn. I'd love to say I questioned my morality, I'd love to say that questioning myself made me stop - but it wasn't what did the trick. The truth that I am greatly ashamed of was that I stopped because "3 days have gone by and there is no way I can keep up with the rest of the gamers now, might aswell quit it". Yes, I was that much of a bastard. The only way to stop is to do it quickly and then stick with it. So I did, I deleted my account and never returned. I got my life back, months later I checked in to see the messages I got about my disappearance (yes most of these games never allow you to fully delete your account - making it possible to relapse) and that was the last I've ever seen of that game. I was free.
I now keep my schedule balanced and cling on to it as if my life depends on it - because in a way it does. I never thought that I had it in me to uphold the productive curriculum and as I became addicted I completely forgot about the times before my addiction. But I moved past that for whatever reason and I just hope your children won't have to suffer a loss like me, to do it.

Summary:
As promised from an earlier paragraph to talk about self-worth here, I have to say that to do this you will have to consult an expert. No need for your child, you, or both to go to therapy, simply consult someone on how to properly challenge your child to thrive and raise his/her self-esteem so that s/he will not need virtual conformation of his/her worth.
But what I can say about this matter is that when your child fails (eg. at college) s/he will not say "Oh no these games are ruining me, I have to stop!" the 'inner conversation' will instead look more like "Yep. I knew it. I'm useless, I tried everything but I still fail, no use sticking with it". They will never blame the games (absence of study) but instead will accept their fail as something innate to their personal traits (that's what people low on self-esteem do). If a person who thinks poorly of him/herself succeeds in something, they will think - "Meh, I just got lucky." or something similar.
You may see your child as briliant but that does not mean the child sees him/herself as briliant too.

I know this is a delicate matter as most parents want to intervene without their children resenting them for the rest of their lives. But since I'm not an expert all I can give you is your childs view on things - you'll need an educated person to tell you more on how to rehabilitate. The few tips I can give would be:
- when you talk to your child (for whatever reason/problem) never become upset. I know this can be hard at times, but keep in mind that becoming upset or angry will only add more oil to the fire. Remain calm and talk things through - you'll acomplish more this way. Also do not question their actions, instead question their reason for them (eg. What do you like about this game so much?)
- try a reward system, where your child becomes rewarded for exceptional achievements and encourage them to give their best (eg. We will go somewhere you like if you pass that test with an excellent mark)
- "Party now, study later" doesn't work if you have to study the same day of the party. See if you can get your child to reverse his/her order of work (eg. If you study for a certain amount of time now, THEN you can play games for a certain amount of time)
- IF YOU CAN then get to know what interests your child in playing games so much. If it is possible and the child allows it then sit down with them as they play - knowing what drives them will give you more power to help them out of it.

Additional advice for parents in a situation similar to that of Kathleen
To treat addiction to games, in my opinion means to treat a person for his/her low sense of worth. My suggestion to you Kathleen would be to somehow see if you can convince your child to stick with a schedule and always study before he starts to play. And instead of looking for video-games-addiction clinics search for self-help clinics that specialize in raising a childs sense of worth and self-esteem.
If you play your scheduled amount before the study part you are less likely to follow through.

The schedule I set for myself works like this:
8-10 hours allowed for sleep
3 hours allowed for recreational activites
3 hours allowed for mental activites
3 hours allowed for playing games
3 hours allowed for watching TV
(on workdays everything is -1 hour and I plan to lower most limits as I get more 'comfortable')

If I play (or watch TV) more then I am allowed to I get minus points. If I study (or recreate) more I get plus points (and vice versa for using up less time). The goal is to get a sufficient amount of points each week (I set mine to a minimum of 10 points per week). Mental activites (MA) and gaming (GM) counts double, so 1 hour for MA or GM influences 2 points, whereas an hour for everything else influences 1 point.
An example day would be:
SL 7
RA 0
MA 3
GM 2
TW 1
(this was yesterday when I also worked so the limit is -1h). So I get +1 point for sleeping less, I get -2 points for not recreating, +2 points for an extra hour of mental activites, 0 for gaming and +1 for one less hour of television watching - a total of +2 points for the day.
The system can be easily adapted in the minimum points for week, in the activites a person undertakes and how much they count and you can also add bonus points for other achievements. You could then try to stimulate your child with a reward in order to keep up with this schedule (I don't know, perhaps with allowance money?). My reward is simply a sense of satisfaction that I didn't waste away my week as I normally would have. At the end of each week I also write a summary to have a better overview of what I did and what needs to be done, something to reflect upon for my future.
I place upkeeping this schedule before anything else and cling on to it with all I got - because I've been down the alternative road and don't wish to go there again.

Hope this helps, I'll be keeping an eye for any more questions and inquiries.

I'm not sure it's do with

I'm not sure it's do with self worth. I got hooked on games at age 11 and I was the best student in my class. I also started gaming again after I graduated from high school, again with flying colors. I also got admitted to the best university in the country. I would say that my sense of worth was pretty high. Nevertheless when I started gaming, my grades dropped and actually I was almost kicked out of uni.

I would say the reason I got addicted is because gaming is simply so much fun, there's nothing like that in real life. I would say it's better then sex, because when you game, you get this sense of euphoria, like full joy as if you were high on drugs. I'm not sure if other people can experience this in this way. Though, I always had a thing for strategy games, when I was younger I would sit hours by a Risk game board and devise my plan to conquer the world, haha. When I was away, I would still think about the games and have "flashbacks".

Actually my inner monologue was "Shit, gaming is destroying my life, I need to stop, I don't want to throw my life away because I've already achieved so great things" but then it went "well fuck it, this shit is fun, and I'm hooked. I know it's bad, but I just can't help it". So to me it was more about lack of self control. I couldn't really enjoy life, because compared to building empires in a virtual world and fighting with others, everything in the real life just looked crap. And it still does, but I learned to accept it. I think the main problem with games is that they are too fun to play.

I'm not sure it's do with

I'm not sure it's do with self worth. I got hooked on games at age 11 and I was the best student in my class. I also started gaming again after I graduated from high school, again with flying colors. I also got admitted to the best university in the country. I would say that my sense of worth was pretty high. Nevertheless when I started gaming, my grades dropped and actually I was almost kicked out of uni.

I would say the reason I got addicted is because gaming is simply so much fun, there's nothing like that in real life. I would say it's better then sex, because when you game, you get this sense of euphoria, like full joy as if you were high on drugs. I'm not sure if other people can experience this in this way. Though, I always had a thing for strategy games, when I was younger I would sit hours by a Risk game board and devise my plan to conquer the world, haha. When I was away, I would still think about the games and have "flashbacks".

Actually my inner monologue was "Shit, gaming is destroying my life, I need to stop, I don't want to throw my life away because I've already achieved so great things" but then it went "well fuck it, this shit is fun, and I'm hooked. I know it's bad, but I just can't help it". So to me it was more about lack of self control. I couldn't really enjoy life, because compared to building empires in a virtual world and fighting with others, everything in the real life just looked crap. And it still does, but I learned to accept it. I think the main problem with games is that they are too fun to play.

I guess so

Well I never really had a wide panel of "research-subjects" so I only spoke in what I could deduce. But video games are becoming shown as a genuine addiction (that does make synaptic brain change). So it's hard to say if this is just another "invention" of an addiction or if it's genuine (a lot of new types of addictions are sort of "showing up").

But game addiction of this kind if it feeds anything it is procrastination. I mean if you wouldn't bother with video games at all you'd still have a bit of that "Nah, I'll just do it tomorrow.", but with video games is just so much more compelling to postpone everything.

And yes the virtual vs. real life struggle is quite evident, I just thought it was because you can "achieve a lot more" in virtual world that soo many took to playing games and I connected that with sense of worth, but I guess it's just plain satisfaction. After all (fun fact coming) our inner brain / limbic system / primitive brain /etc. can't tell the difference between doing something in virtual world and doing something in real life. Usually you do supress it's alerts but some slip through and I guess this occurence is also behind the euphoria of virtual success.

So yeah ... we (the addicted) struggle on :)

Please read and revaluate

I implore you to follow the link to a YouTube video, this is a group of people who, (every Thur.) take a new topic on video games. The last week was video game addiction. Here is the link:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=00SvIIualUw

I watch them every week and can see a massive paradigm shift in those who play and those who don't. I can not preach their insight enough. They take many topics, from "Women's roles in Video Games" to "Violence in an Interactive Media". I hope to hear a response from you on the subject, but if not, no worries.

They have more videos on another site, the segment is known as "Extra Credits"

Video games are not the problem...

... the real problem is the real world makes too many demands on people and they feel the need to escape, in the earlier era's it was music/drugs and rock and roll, in todays era it's videogames. The real world is a screwed up stressful place.

We shouldn't be worrying about "video game addiction" we should be worried about how our whole society exists for the corporate machine. Think about how distant people are today as they can't stay in one place for too long.

Video games/other addictions are signs of more fundamental issues with the adult world and social order, and societal expectations in general.

We don't have a place for people who don't fit the corporate capitalist model of society where you 'work till you die' and not much else.

I mean come on couldn't we say the media, tv, and celebrity news/gossip are addictions as well? Just ways to check out of a stressful and increasingly unhealthy society obsessed with beauty/money/profit/status at all costs?

I know kids to whom games were a refuge from bad family dynamics, I think there's just as many positive to games as negatives. How many kids are saved from suicide/depression by games for instance each year due to stress?

We often forget games are an outlet for something missing - mosit adults don't want to ask fundamentally disturbing questions about the nature of society in which one lives. If it wasn't games parents would be complaining about something else.

Everyone has bought into "do well in school, get a good job" narrative, the world is much more complex then that. Jobs are constantly being displaced by technological advancement and all sorts of other issues people don't want to deal with until theirs a crisis.

Human beings are not very good at planning ahead that is for sure nor are they very good at perceiving what is happening around them.

Therapist comprehensively discusses game addiction

There is a very helpful series of 4 videos on youtube by a therapist who is an expert on gaming.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8U1T9ZumALk&playnext=1&list=PLFEDDCB0CA33...

Therapist comprehensively discusses game addiction

A very good series of 4 videos in which the subject of "addictive" or "compulsive" video game play is covered by a therapist.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8U1T9ZumALk&playnext=1&list=PLFEDDCB0CA33...

I tell you what happens. We

I tell you what happens. We had 4 people in our team at university. One of them played WoW. 4 week after the project started we didn't see the WoW playing guy anymore because well... he was playing WoW all day. Oh yeah, he also missed all of his exams...

Now I don't blame him because this happened to me as well. During my first year, I played way too much WoW. Luckily I realized this and quite cold turkey, I haven't played since but my grade improved a lot!

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • You may quote other posts using [quote] tags.

More information about formatting options

Debbie Stier is the founder of The Perfect Score Project, and is writing a book about her experience of trying to get a perfect SAT score.

more...

Subscribe to The Perfect Score Project

Current Issue

Just Say It

When and how should we open up to loved ones?