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The Science Behind Video Game Addiction

Video+game+console+in+Mr.+Affolters+classroom.
Video game console in Mr. Affolters classroom.

Video game console in Mr. Affolters classroom.

Bryce Davis

Bryce Davis

Video game console in Mr. Affolters classroom.

Bryce Davis, Staff Writer

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As use of video games rise, people wonder what the negative side effects are. So we ask the question, how do video games become addicting?

According to a study conducted by Molecular Psychiatry, it is a process similar to compulsive gambling. Most video games work on a reward basis. After you complete a task, you get a reward. This releases a chemical known as serotonin, the “feel good chemical,” into the user’s brain. Some heavy users may become physically addicted to that feeling of winning. However, some scientists still do not believe that you can get addicted to video games.

We asked Rhea Fox, mother of a Cottonwood student, if she thought video games are addictive. She said, “To an extent, just like everything else in life.” A former Cottonwood student who asked not to be named, said, “Somewhat, however I believe that they are mentally addictive, not physically addictive like drugs. Somebody that is addicted to video games is not going to have physical withdrawals if they do not play.”

According to Molecular Psychiatry, constant gaming can affect the size of the brain depending on which type of game you play. In one scientific study, participants played 90 hours worth of video games over about 10 weeks. They played either action video games, such as first person shooters, or Super Mario style games in a controlled setting. After scanning the brain, it showed that participants who played the action games had lost brain matter in the hippocampus region (portion of the brain that regulates emotion). Participants who played the Super Mario games had growth in the hippocampus region. Researchers speculated that more on-screen help in the action video games resulted in loss of brain matter.

Rhea Fox believes video games affect emotion and/or behavior. She said, “In moderation, no. However, when a child is exposed to games that are not made for people that young, there can be adverse effects on behavior.” Although, the researchers say that participants who played action games should not be worried. The anonymous former student believes there should be a restriction on games played by younger kids, “They should not be playing rated M+ games (Games made for 17+ years old) until they are old enough to comprehend right from wrong in a video game.” He believes children should be at least 15 to play these games.

As video games become more life like and more popular, addiction is a growing issue. Just remember, use everything in moderation. Stay safe and have fun!

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The Science Behind Video Game Addiction