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The science of game addiction

Video game addiction is a phenomenon that has been getting a lot of attention in the mainstream media in recent years. While most people think of hardcore gamers as being the most likely to be "addicts", mobile users and casual gamers can be addicted to their chosen form of entertainment too.

The most prominent video game addiction cases in recent years relate to World of Warcraft, Starcraft, and other similar games. Young Korean professional gamers have been known to die of exhaustion after Starcraft gaming marathons, and parents have allowed their children to die of neglect while they were playing World of Warcraft at an Internet cafe.

Fortunately, these cases are the minority. There are many more innocuous examples of "addiction", from the phenomenon of people paying babysitters to look after their Tamogotchi in the 1990s, to games such as BeJeweled, Angry Birds, Candy Crush Saga and Flappy Bird. These games have spawned their own merchandising, from phone cases to plush toys, and have huge numbers of users from all walks of life.

What Causes Game Addiction

Video game developers have a very good understanding of what causes addiction, and actually build addictive mechanics into their games to keep users playing. Everything from the sound and images to the reward scheme and pacing is designed to keep people wanting to come back for more.
To understand the science of game addiction, you first have to understand why people play. The main reasons why people play video games include:

  • Distraction
  • Escapism
  • To test their skills
  • o bond with friends

The best video games hit several of those points. Candy Crush, for example, is a great distraction. Each game lasts only a few minutes, and you can play it on your PC or your phone. Candy Crush saga can be enjoyed in bite-sized chunks, and each game session has a clear objective, and offers the chance at a big reward.

Escapism is something else that all of the most addictive games offer. While casual games rarely allow you to simulate the life of someone else in the way that AAA or hardcore games do, they offer a good distraction from day to day life. If there’s one thing that all of the best games have in common, it is their cheerful graphics and sounds, bright colours and encouraging messages. You are never told that you have "failed", rather you are always told how close you were to succeeding – that small difference in wording makes a big difference to player retention.

The best games also let players feel like they are in control. The games offer a small test of skill. They avoid the steep learning curve associated with more traditional "core" games such as EVE Online, and instead offer simple mechanics that are easy to learn but may take a long time to master.

Players enjoy comparing their scores with their friends, and this is something that the most popular casual games facilitate well. You can send notifications to your friends if you beat their score or surpass them in level, and these notifications do a good job of pulling users back in if their addiction is starting to wane.

Ed Ockleford is experienced in multiple business areas but he has flourished in the retail industry successfully running independent units as well as licensing his services. Ed is now a director at mrnutcase.com – business he has successfully grown and developed over the past 3 years. 

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