Are Video Games Psychologically Addictive or Stimulating? 

Despite not yet being recognized as a mental disorder, video game addiction has been included in recent editions of the DSM, which is the overarching guide used by the psychological community for characterizing and diagnosing mental health disorders.

Yet, while video games can certainly be interruptive of daily responsibilities, can they actually be addictive? What’s more, some research has even suggested that certain video games might actually be mentally stimulating – if they are played in moderation.

For a visualization of the mentally addictive and stimulating effects of video games, check out the infographic by Clarity Way Rehab below:

Are-Video-Games-Addictive

Characteristics of Psychologically Addictive Games

Research conducted in 2010 by Thomas and Martin suggests that MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role-playing games) are some of the most potentially additive video games you can play. One cause for this seems to be due to the “leveling up” of characters within MMORPGs, in addition to the strong social component (interaction with other players) characteristic of MMORPGs.

Furthermore, additional research has suggested that certain lifestyle characteristics can put gamers at increased risk of addiction. Lack of parental support and attention in childhood, a history of impulsive behavior and poor academic performance are just some of the early indicators of a potentially addictive personality.

Some of the most popular MMORPGs on the market right now are, of course, World of Warcraft, along with Guild Wars 2, Rift and Eve Online. Naturally, that’s not to say that every person who plays one of these games will become hopelessly addicted, but it can become pretty easy to lose yourself such a game.

One Extreme End of the Spectrum

At the most extreme end of video game addiction, there have been several deaths in recent years. Two video-game related deaths occurred in 2005. One occurred after a gamer in South Korea played a 50-hour gaming marathon and then passed away. The other took place in Shanghai when a gamer sold his friend’s virtual sword on eBay for approximately $740. The owner of the virtual sword stabbed its seller to death.

Also, in 2009 a 17-year-old was sentenced to 23 years in prison when he shot both of his parents after they took his copy of Halo 3.

While these extreme cases are certainly not the norm for gamers of any kind, they do show that video games can make certain players dependent on them – to the point of violence, even.

The good news is that there may be some games which, when played in moderation, are actually good for your brain. 

Characteristics of Psychologically Stimulating Games

The Max Planck Institute for Human Development conducted research in 2013 that suggests that playing some video games can benefit specific areas of our brains. The researchers found that participants who played Super Mario 64 for half an hour every day for approximately two months improved in strategic planning, memory formation and muscle control.

Super Mario is a platform game, meaning that players guide the game’s character through suspended platforms throughout each game level. Super Mario is by far one of the most famous platform games in existence, but if playing Mario for half an hour each day can help you improve memory and muscle control, it stands to reason that other platformers should, too.

Besides Super Mario, some other popular platformers to check out are Donkey Kong, Rayman and LittleBigPlanet. Although these games haven’t been scientifically studied, it’s probable that playing one of them for a limited amount of time each day can help improve your mind in ways similar to that of Super Mario 64.

Do you think video games are more helpful or harmful? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.