What Makes Video Games So Addictive?

The gaming industry has grown exponentially in recent years, thanks in part to the success of video games as a recreational activity. With nearly three billion users worldwide, video games have become a mainstay in popular culture. But why are video games so addictive? In this article, we will explore the reasons why video games can be so difficult to put down, as well as the social implications of video game addiction and practical solutions to combat the problem.

Reasons why video games are so addictive

At the core of video game addiction is the game’s stimulating and engaging nature. Video games provide intense mental stimulation, allowing users to escape reality for a few moments and explore new and exciting worlds. This mental stimulation can come in the form of captivating storytelling, thrilling combat sequences and engaging puzzles. Video games also allow players to explore decisions of morality, challenging the player both emotionally and mentally.


The addictive nature of video games can also be explained in psychological terms. Video games provide a sense of accomplishment, as players are rewarded with points, badges and other forms of recognition as they progress through the game. This reward system is similar to the concept of operant conditioning, whereby a desired outcome is linked to a certain behavior. As players begin to associate the outcome (such as a high score) with the behavior (playing the game), they become increasingly motivated to play, effectively creating a cycle of dependence on the game.

Mental stimulation

The mental stimulation provided by video games can also affect the brain’s dopamine reward centers. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter often linked to positive reinforcement and pleasure. As players progress further in the game, the dopamine levels in the brain increase, providing a feeling of satisfaction and making it harder to stop playing. This principal can be applied to other activities too, such as sports, work and hobbies, which can become equally as addictive as video games.

Game mechanics

The design of a video game plays an essential role in its addictive qualities. Many video games have built-in mechanisms that reward players for playing more. This could be in the form of bonus points, exclusive content or discounts. Developers also often employ an incremental reward system, whereby the player’s reward increases as they progress through the game. This encourages players to keep playing in order to reach bigger and better rewards, further developing their reliance on the game.

Social impact of video game addiction

While video game addiction can be entertaining and stimulating, it is important to consider the social implications of excessive gaming. While for some it provides a sense of escapism, for others it can be detrimental to their social and mental health.


Video games are often seen as solitary activities and spending too much time playing them can have a negative effect on an individual’s social life. Playing video games can reduce the amount of time spent with friends and family, leading to feelings of isolation and depression. In some cases, video game addiction has been linked to excessive gaming leading to decreased academic performance and absenteeism in the workplace.

Mental health

Whilst video games can serve as a stress reliever and provide much-needed entertainment, excessive gaming can become a source of distress. Studies have linked video game addiction to depression, anxiety and low self-esteem. It is important to be aware of the emotional responses associated with gaming and acknowledge when taking a break is the best option.

Financial costs

The cost of video game addiction can also be significant. Many games require an upfront purchase, with additional downloadable content available for a fee. Gaming is also often linked to other purchases such as gaming consoles, accessories and peripherals. Many gamers have been known to use up to 20% of their monthly income on gaming related products. As a result, it is essential to have a gaming marketing plan to guard against overspending on games.

How to combat video game addiction

Video game addiction can have serious social implications, both mentally and financially. For those struggling with video game addiction, there are a few steps that can be taken to take some control of the situation.

Setting rules

Setting rules and guidelines can be an effective way of reducing the amount of time spent playing video games. Setting a rule such as “no gaming after 9pm” can help to break the addiction cycle, giving users the incentive to engage in other activities. If necessary, consider setting a weekly budget for gaming expenses and make sure that it is adhered to.

Find alternatives

Look for alternatives to gaming as a form of escapism and relaxation. Activities such as reading, listening to music, exercising and even speaking with friends and family can all provide stress relief, without the guilt of addiction.

Seeking professional help

In extreme cases, professional help may be the only option. A qualified therapist can provide insight and advice to help deal with the root causes of addiction and ensure that the individual is on the right track. Additionally, there are many online support groups and forums dedicated to helping individuals struggling with video game addiction. Members of these groups can offer tips and advice regarding video game addiction as well as support and motivation.

Video game addiction can be a difficult problem to tackle and it is important to remember that, in many cases, the problem lies with the user and not the game. Taking the correct steps and adopting healthy gaming habits can go a long way in reducing the risks associated with video game addiction.

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