Playing with addiction

New gaming addiction classification takes affect on SHS students

From the first video game, Pong, in 1958, to the latest game 2018 Madden NFL 19, video games have grown exponentially. In 1996, the U.S. Entertainment Software Industry recorded 74.1 million game units sold. Twelve years later, computer and video game companies sold 298.2 million units. Due to the rise in popularity of video games throughout the years, The World Health Organization now classifies gaming addiction as a mental health disorder.

“(Gaming addiction) can get pretty severe, (to) where people are borrowing money to get games, and people are spending hours where they are not sleeping,” psychologist Elliott Vonzololla said. “It becomes a taking over of a person almost, whatever they are into is taking over any reason in them.”

An addiction is anything that causes you harm and keeps you away from a healthy beneficial life, according to Vonzololla. Basically, any substance or activity that makes your brain produce dopamine, a chemical that gets released when the brain is happy, with heightened levels, makes your brain crave more of what produced the good feeling. Winning a jackpot in gambling and getting a new high score in a video game both release dopamine.

“I’m so addicted,” junior John Armstrong said. “I get off football at about five o’clock (p.m.) and I play until about 9:30 (p.m.) to 10 (p.m.) everyday, and on Saturdays I play from 10 (a.m.) to 10 (p.m.).”

Armstrong says his playing even affects his schooling. He says he gets excited if there’s a new update to any of the games he plays. He says he has to know about it, he has to see it and it gets really distracting. Armstrong says he obsesses over the update instead of paying attention in class or thinking about anything until he can download it.

“(Gaming) got me thinking a little bit more about everything,” Armstrong said. “Instead of just jumping to a conclusion, I think more because during the game I have to think more about how I’m going to win. If I dont think, I’m not going to win.”

According to Armstrong, he plays video games because there are different people that you can meet. He says he has played with many gamers from all around the world. While having fun, he feels that his stress levels lower and that he is educating himself by interacting with others.

Sophomore Sarah Mendoza claims she’s also addicted to video games. Although unlike Armstrong, she recognizes that school comes first and gaming is for fun. “Usually I put homework in front of (gaming),” Mendoza said. “As soon as I get home, I do my homework, and whenever I have time, I play my games.”

Mendoza, much like Armstrong, plays because in games you get to know a lot of people and meet a lot of new friends, but also because of the distraction and the ability to just relax and unplug from the world.

According to The Real Truth, computer and video games are often used to help people focus on something other than life’s daunting problems. The players can, for a time, “lose themselves” in the game as they feel the bliss and release of being in control. They are in a virtual world that makes sense to them—a place where they can be whoever or whatever they choose, without worrying about how they look or act, and without having to deal with real-life problems.

“Sometimes it’s an escaping behavior not wanting to do deal because your mind can literally tune out and that’s in almost any addiction,” Vonzololla said. “Tune out in the sense of emotion or any feelings.You can play a game and you might get wrapped up in it. You can get mad or excited, but you don’t have to interact with any other real emotion. That’s the same with gambling and drugs.”

Jordin Baker
Sophomore Sarah Mendoza plays video games in her living room on Sept. 3. Mendoza says she is addicted to video games.

Because gaming addiction is such a newly established mental health condition, many doctors are still figuring out how to help. According to Popular Science, the best way to get help is to go “cold turkey” or in other words, to stop completely. However, this may make the addict more irritable, and it may be harder to resist returning to the game. Popular Science then suggests finding another way to produce dopamine, like with an exercise or a fun hobby.

While quitting is a start to fix the larger problem, professional help is limited at the moment. Talking to peers, family or whoever one feels comfortable with is another resource to utilize until more discoveries are made in the video gaming addiction field.

“If you have a friend thats addicted to anything, I would say something to them, not on an attack mode, but like ‘How are you? Are you okay?…’” Vonzololla said. “You can’t change anyone but we can offer to be with them if they want to get help or to let someone know.”