Understanding the PlayStation Addiction

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How PlayStation Addiction causes people to escape their unfulfilling real world by entering into a virtual world of video games. The PlayStation Addiction is analyzed by how the new games are designed and how they interact with the gamer.

For many playing video games is enjoyable fun; for a few it is a compulsive addictive way of life. PlayStation Addiction can easily be called, XBOX Addiction, Gamecube Addiction, or, in general, Computer Games Addiction. All fall into the same general category of psychological addictions found in compulsive behaviors like gambling, pornography, over-eating, to name a few.

In general, there are two subcategories of compulsive addictive behavior. One is caused by the body’s craving for a chemical substance while the other craves the satisfaction of repetitive compulsive behavior. The first of the two is the more well known type. It is induced by a physically addictive substance. Those types of addictions are common to drug and alcohol dependencies. Certain addictive forming chemicals found in substances like heroin, cocaine, crack, alcohol, nicotine, found in cigarettes, all have the same general features. They all have certain chemical compounds that react with the body’s chemistry to cause the person to have a physical craving for the chemical. The other kind of addiction, to which PlayStation Addiction falls within, is a result of compulsive behavior. In this form of addiction, the pleasure the mind receives is from the repetitive and compulsive acts performed by the individual. Examples of two well known addictions are compulsive gambling and compulsive viewing of pornography. In both cases, the action of gambling and viewing pornography is the stimulus the body needs to satisfy the cravings for repeating the actions. This type of craving is circular. For example: someone suffering pornography addiction, the more they view pornography the greater the need to view more pornography because the next picture might have a pose, action, body feature, that they want to see.

The first reported case of PlayStation Addiction was in 2008. “Lorenzo Amato was rushed to hospital by his father, who feared he was suffering a stroke or brain trauma as the teenager would not respond to his surroundings… The teenager couldn't speak and didn't seem to understand anything going on around him. Doctors diagnosed the condition after discovering that Amato had just finished a marathon session on his new PlayStation.” Later “Local politician, Antonio Buccoliero, who spoke to the doctors, said: ‘They eventually managed to take care of him once they understood that this was a strange kind of mental detachment connected to his PlayStation.’ ” (1)

In the PlayStation Addiction the behavior is viewed “as defensive behavior in which an addiction is used to 'zone out' of a situation or to 'numb emotions'. In each of these situations, an addiction is actually protecting a person from dealing with things, and so allowing them to suppress strong emotions… So they start to 'retreat ' into things that help them forget the situation. Feeling an 'escape' from the scenario creates a 'zoning out' feeling and so becomes common practice to deal with stressful situations.” Thus “An addiction is born!” (2)

The phenomenon of the PlayStation Addiction can be analyzed by how new games are designed and how the gamer interacts with the game. “The most obvious element of gaming that differs from most other activities is the interactivity and reward aspect… Clearing a particularly challenging level, solving a daunting puzzle, or defeating a powerful boss, all instill types of emotions in players that can rarely be achieved outside the medium and it’s the drive for this feeling that continues to push gamers on to the next challenge…

Games also allow players a degree of freedom that they may not have in the real life, where they can do what they want, when they want, within the context of the game. It also allows them to enter fantastic worlds that let them escape what can often seem to be the drudgery in their daily lives…

This Freedom has increasingly extended into the storylines of games, allowing gamers to influence the story and determine the endings based on their actions within the game… you simply don’t have this ability to affect the outcome of the story in any other medium, such as books, movies or television.” (3)

This entire PlayStation Addiction phenomenon is now been greatly multiplied with the introduction of MMORPG's. (massive multiplayer online roll playing game). In these role playing games, called RPG’s, you are playing with hundreds to thousands of other gamers in a virtual world. You are all playing the game by assuming a game character, called an avatar, and interacting with other player’s avatars. You have all the challenges of traditional video games plus the social interactions that your avatar has with other avatars.

This all inclusive, self-perpetuating and ongoing fantasy world keeps the addict playing the game for hours on end. The play time is so extensive that it severely interferes with all other forms of social interactions in the real world. The reason is that the virtual rewards generated by solving puzzles, winning virtual prizes are as addictive as people who suffer from other traditional forms of physical and psychological addictions. In this case the psychological craving is met by “getting their fix” (“getting their fix” is a slang drug term used when an addict gets the drug to meet their cravings). This is met when the gamer accomplishes the next challenge, goes the next level, achieves the next prize, or completes the next task. For the PlayStation Addict this is as real to them as it is for the rest of us to achieve comparable results in the real world.

Is there a cure?

Since most PlayStation Addiction is due to people escaping from the unfulfilling drudgery they find in the real world, the question is more about finding something in their real world that will give them the same satisfaction they currently receive in their virtual world. Then we can talk about a cure.

(1) Telegraph.co.uk, “13-year-old Italian boy diagnosed with PlayStation addiction,” By Urmee Khan, Published: 12:25AM GMT 22 Nov 2008.

(2) Natural TherapyPage.com.au, "Childhood Addiction," By Jacklyn Cimino, Feburary 1, 2008, 9:15 AM.

(3) PS4PlayStation4.com, “The Pleasure and Peril of PlayStation Addiction.” September 15, 2009.