Gaming Addictions – Have You Fallen Into the Virtual Trap?

Gaming addictions – most of us have heard about it. Some of us have maybe even experienced it. Some think it could never happen to them, until that one game is released and they are not heard of in a while … Why do some games take over our lives, and what can be done to avoid this?

Computer and online games are designed to get people involved, and to keep them playing. Computer games encourage the player to increase their score, to reach that next level, to keep going until the finish. This can be a time-consuming business. Once the player is caught up in what is going on, minutes turn into hours and hours turn into days. Just that one more round, just that one more level …

Online games, especially those you pay a monthly fee for, will often release new challenges or items to keep their players hooked. Some hold regular contests to keep players involved, trying to earn that extra special extra rare unique item, or status. Or both. After all, if people lose interest, the business loses money. Developers need to keep people playing to secure their income, both from the players themselves and, sometimes, from advertisements.

Many of us know this and still get caught in the game. If this has happened to you, it's important to keep in mind the following things:

– The game may be exciting and enjoyable. It may be a nice distraction from the ickiness of the world around you. The game may have a pleasant community of people playing, and you may have wonderful friends on there. And that's fine. But there needs to be a balance between offline life and online / gaming life. The world around you will keep moving. Are you sure you're not missing out on what's going on? Are you missing out on a nice sunny day, an opportunity to go somewhere away from the computer screen, or even enough sleep to make sure you're well rested for work?

– A gaming addiction can cause friction in relationships with family and friends, even partners. It's too easy to ignore this, but that does not make it any less real. As time goes by, the people around you may start thinking you do not care anymore. So what is more important – pixels on a screen, or those who love you?

– It may seem like it's really important to reach that ultimate score, or to complete that next level, or to earn that extra ultra rare limited edition pixel … but is it? The only importance it has is in our own minds. A pixel is just that – a pixel. It has no real value away from our computers. It's only a pixel, and we do not even own it. It's owned by the developers of the game. And that high score has no real importance offline. Sure, it's nice to reach it, to achieve that status or pixel, but there are other things that are far more important and worthwhile … even such small things as the purr of a cat, and especially the hug of someone who cares.

– You may be someone who is online because it's hard to make friends offline. You may be lonely, and the friends online care. It may be difficult for you to go out and meet new people, because of your circumstances. This is not unusual, and it does not mean anything negative about you.

However, a game is not going to make everything better. It's not going to solve health issues, and it's not going to improve your quality of life. This may sound harsh, but it's true. Do try to take a break and have a think about what else you enjoy doing, even if it's reading a book, or watching a movie, or going for a walk – whatever you enjoyed doing before you started playing the game. You might gain a different perspective on it.

There is nothing wrong with enjoying a game. Like everything in life, though, there needs to be a balance. If you feel it's starting to take over your life, if it starts taking up hours of your time each day, try to take a step back and analyse what it is that is causing this involvement. Are you simply spending this amount of time on it because you're enjoying the distraction, or are you hooked? Are you playing the game, or are you being played?

Something to think about …

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