But it is so innocent!  When a gaming hobby turns into an addiction.

But it is so innocent! When a gaming hobby turns into an addiction.



Part of Largest Heart’s mission is that people need to be educated about addiction issues so that we all can talk about them and find solutions.    Addiction is often uncomfortable, and people don't know how to handle it.   The only way to confront it is to get it all out in the open.   


Gaming addiction is a genuine issue in the 21st century.   Video game addiction is not just playing electronic games all the time. Instead, it is when gaming takes over how a person copes with life.   Addiction happens when other essential areas of life are disrupted or being neglected.


This blog is the first in a series where we at Largest Heart delve into this matter.  In this blog, we ask why a gaming hobby turns into an addiction.  In the next few weeks, we go on to explore the stages of gaming addiction, the top addictive games, how to recognize a gaming addiction, and how one can go about getting treatment for it.


The essence of gaming


The definition of a gaming disorder


Video games are designed to tempt players to keep on playing, and as there is no definite end to games, players often continue playing indefinity.   Throw in that people can advance through different levels, earn rewards and skills, and connect with like-minded souls electronically, it is no wonder that people feel good when playing games.  


However, when children and adults start playing games exclusively and cannot control themselves, it can become an addiction.  


The World Health Organization defines a gaming disorder as a pattern where people give priority to gaming over other activities in their lives.  People with a problem will often let their gaming habits escalate, despite the negative consequences of their behavior.  


Gaming addicts know that they should stop playing, but they can't.  They neglect their education, work, family, friends, and often their hygiene, but they keep on playing because it makes them feel so good.   A gaming disorder is just as real as alcoholism or any other substance abuse.  


Gaming addiction withdrawal is still being studied, but symptoms can include headaches, sleeplessness, exhaustion, getting aggressive, and the intense craving to play the game again.


What causes a gaming addiction?


As with any addiction, gaming addiction is multi-faceted.   


  • Video games are designed to be addictive.  The brain receives high amounts of dopamine or the feel-good hormone.   Overexposure to this level of stimulation can change the structure of your brain.    The brain then develops a tolerance to the high levels of dopamine, and the individual has to play games more often to feel the same levels of satisfaction and pleasure.  Some games, of course, are more addictive than others.


  • It is a world of instant gratification.   Video and digital games allow you to escape into a world where the hours fly by.   You can see measurable progress in a social environment where you feel safe and in control.


  • Game designers want to make money.The more people they can get to play their game, the more lucrative it becomes for game developers.   Video game designers make money through in-app purchases and loot boxes.  Almost like games in a casino, video and digital games are designed to make the player feels that success is just around the corner.  Sometimes it helps to buy more ‘lives’ or reward tokens to further your game.


The ‘hooks’ in games can make them more addictive.


  • Beat the score! Trying to beat the score of a game, whether it is your own or somebody else’s, is one of the most easily recognizable hooks of a digital game.
  • You are competing against- or with your friends.There are many permutations of this:  in some games, it is about the 'last man standing' and in others, you form 'clans' to compete against other groups.
  • Leveling up.Try to beat the game by finding the next clue or level up, is another hook.   
  • Create an avatar.Role-playing games allow you to embark on an adventure with your very own character.   The emotional connection to the avatar makes it harder to stop playing.
  • The discovery tactic in role-playing games gives players a thrill, and it can be extremely compelling to keep on playing.
  • The online community.    Online role-playing games allow players to build relationships with other players.   For some kids and adults, this becomes a place where they are accepted – more than in the real world – and they return to this again and again.




Video game and digital game addiction are serious.   Sixty hours per week behind a video console are nothing for some of these addicts, and it can make people sacrifice school, their jobs, their marriage, or their family life.


However, strategies for overcoming a gaming addiction should consider the broader context of the person's life and circumstances.   Excessing gaming often co-occur with issues such as ADHD, anxiety, and depression.   In our next blog, we will explore the stages of gaming addiction.