How Many Video Games are Addictive by Design

(Written by brother Robert.)

Video Games as a Habit are an Unhealthy, Immature Waste of Time, Money, and Energy

How long is the average movie? About two hours. How long is the average video game? That's not so easy to answer. They're not like movies. You can keep playing them and playing them and playing them, even the same game day after day, week after week. If it's a console game with a story, maybe a more concrete answer is 20-40 hours to finish. It varies greatly depending on the game and genre. Some of them are much more addictive and repetitive than others. But overall, that ought to give you a sense of the difference between watching a movie and playing a video game.

But, more importantly, many games are designed to be addictive and engrossing. That's how they get the sales. That's how they get people to hang around and advertise the game and buy more stuff. More and more, games are designed to consume as much of a player's time and even as much money as possible. They have a rewards system. They give a sense of progress. They're full of so much content that players who want to do everything can keep going and going and going.

Many games allow for socialization with other players from around the globe. This means that anyone so inclined to play all day would always have someone to talk with and cooperate with in achieving the game's goals. It sounds like work, doesn't it? But to the average child in modern society who isn't allowed to do real work, the work-rewarding, skill-rewarding progression of a game is very addictive compared to the slow drag of schoolwork, where even if you did study harder and learn everything sooner, you'd still be kept captive and not allowed to graduate and work with the adults. And, the characters in these games range from cute cartoon characters to realistic-looking fictional macho men (besides all the representations of real sports players). They can pretend to be a kid's friend, or their role model.

If games were simply something inconsequential that young people are too obsessed with, then that would be bad enough, and I wouldn't have much more to say. It's even more antisocial and more immature than the classroom-to-bedroom box-to-box life that many children experience, where adult role models are hard to find. And the competitive games that boys and young men get into often lead to a gang-like social experience, only even more immature and more demonic. And even more antisocial, because these are people they only see and hear over the internet.

Taken to the 40, 60, 80, even 100 hours a week extreme that the gaming hobby demands of enthusiasts, it deprives children of real friendships and real-life experience. It competes with work, it competes with relationships, and it competes with family. It's like being high on drugs 24/7. Just because it doesn't turn lungs black and ruin brains and livers, doesn't mean it isn't a horrible addiction. These are people being stunted and ruined.

Moreover, the simplified, easy goals of video games are at odds with the complexity and ruggedness of life. In short, there are a lot of ways these games mess people up long-term.

If your kid is stuck in their room 60 hours a week, then how much are you not doing with them? Abandoning a child and handing them off to a screen. That's child abuse. It is.

And if you're the one stuck in your room 100 hours a week playing games, then what are you not doing with your life? Where is your job? Your wife? Your family?

With so many video games being a 40-hour affair or more, not only does the player spend money on the game, but they also spend a whole week's paycheck or more just playing the game. Adults mostly understand that. But so many young boys aren't allowed to work and sweat for paychecks, and therefore the gaming addiction infects these boys so readily. It's been their passion, their religion, and their job from a young age. Any adult man who turns to gaming at that age quite clearly has something important missing from his life — at the very least he's missing friends and doesn't belong to any club, which is what playing some of the more mature competitive games would be an attempt to fulfill.

(Also, the way many anime characters are cute and childlike, I wonder how many single women and men alike "adopt" these characters as a way to try and fill the void from where they never got married and never had kids.)

Now, this line of investigation establishes that video games are destructive by nature of obsession and addiction, competing with all the work and labor a person needs to do and ought to do. Something that, like cigarettes or alcohol, might have been harmless if only occasionally indulged in, but that became destructive through constant abuse.

Like with the tobacco industry, you can hear all sorts of arguments for how it isn't bad for children. Or that it's their fault if they're addicted to it. Or you'll hear people say that it's not their problem if it ruins someone else's life. It's the kid's fault, or the parents' fault. Even the people putting out the drugs on the market think like this: It's OK for them to sell these drugs, because only stupid people get addicted, and it's their fault when they do, not the dealer's.

But the people putting the product out on the market aren't total fools. They know what's in it and they want it to give people a certain kind of high.

Waste of Money and Time: Deliberately Addictive Free-To-Play Games and Competitive Games

Let's look at some of the most egregious examples of people spending tons of money on "free-to-play" games.

Usually, these singular acts of spending are done by children who don't understand money. There are some reports of egregious amounts being spent, and other reports of lawsuits. But how many times has a game developer gotten away with robbing money through children without punishment? There really is some truth when they say that these people who blew their money are stupid. They should have known better. And you ought to know better after looking at this, too. Don't let young children have the phone or the credit card.

Warning for Parents: Kids spending thousands of dollars on "free" Roblox game

Your Child's Favorite Video Game Could Be Hiding a "Criminal Underworld" Right Under Your Nose

New Class-Action Lawsuit Contends Video Game Fortnite Is as Addictive as Cocaine
Fortnite Fined $520 Million by the FTC for Violating Children's Privacy and Manipulating Users into Purchases

Belgian teen spends $46,000 in free-to-play 'Game of War: Fire Age'

This 6-year-old racked up $16K on mom's credit card playing video games

Dad Saddled with $20,000 Credit Card Bill after Daughter's In-game Spending Spree on Genshin Impact

Kids Who Wasted Thousands of Dollars on Gaming

So how does that happen? Well, there are a lot of ways the games entice people to spend money, and even hide how much something costs (trading cash for digital currency, random packs/crates of items with different rarities, and so on). But when it comes down to it, a kid can hit a button and spend any amount of money on made-up virtual goods. And the game stores being inhuman and robotic will simply allow it. You're going to have to fight with customer service or get help from the credit card company to try and get an exception to "the system" and return your purchase.

There are similar stories involving huge credit card purchases of physical goods or even pizzas. In those cases, some kid makes an order, someone moves product out of a warehouse. Someone has to pay for it. And, just because of things like this, parents really should keep young children far away from computers and phones.

But what about when the kid buys a worthless virtual item, that's of no loss or consequence to the seller to refund and cancel, yet they don't?

Such game companies are extremely corrupt, getting rich off the financial irresponsibility of children. It's one thing when adults do it to themselves, but the designers of these cash-grabbing games will go right for the children if they can.

And many modern games are designed to be so addictive that even adults get hooked. If you let them, they'll nag you to play them every day, reward you for giving them constant attention, ask you to tell all your friends about them, ask for your credit card number, and before you know it you'll be buying a game more virtual jewelry than you'd buy for a real girlfriend.
Most so-called "free to play" games are like this. They're the most popular games on mobile phones, even games like Candy Crush Saga that comes pre-installed on computers and phones. They're designed to be addictive, expensive, very rude, and a drain of time and money.
That's why they're so successful: Enough people just don't care and will pay an invisible game designer unlimited sums of money in order to subject themselves to psychological stress and torment. (On the other hand, anyone who's tried to design and promote such a game themselves quickly finds out that only a small minority of such games are very successful — everything else flops, regardless of elegance of design.)

Addictive By Design

These games, like Candy Crush Saga and Coin Master, are designed to be insanely addictive, even to adults.

The sad part? At least someone who goes and gambles at a casino might walk away with more money every once in a while. But the cash only goes one way in mobile games.

When an adult has a gambling addiction, they can request themselves to be banned from a casino.

There's no similar self-ban mechanism and few gambling laws in place for these casino-like free-to-play games. It's not as easy for a loved one to tell when you've gone to this kind of virtual casino. And, since it's credit and virtual money, you might not find out til later unless you were watching the balance.

All this talk ought by itself to make parents to not want to link their credit cards to the app store or the play store. Don't give let kids play these free phone games. Keep the kids off the internet, off the games, off the TV. And don't buy them a smart phone with a phone data plan like everyone else does.

Also, in many of these free-to-play games, you can buy the same things with a different currency: time. There are lots of games where you can show off to other players that you have lots of time, or lots of money, or both.

Frankly, some people are just obsessed and want to have a power trip and be the richest, most powerful person in some obscure game. So they spend a ton of money on this stuff as a power trip, as a status symbol. That's actually a big motivator in a lot of competitive games, even to buy cosmetic items, just to have the gold guns and gold hologram cards and other fancy symbols that tell everyone that you spend a lot of time and money on it. Then other games will, even worse, link money spent to items with actual power in the game (worst example is when some competitive "games" actually become a cash bidding war!).

Anyone who plays such a game and wants to get ahead is going to have to fork up. All those people are getting exactly the ripoff they paid for. If you're a grown adult and you buy a house and a car in a video game instead of a house and a car in real life, then you have only yourself to blame. Accept the ridicule. Don't do it again.

But is there any excuse for game designer who try to get rich from siphoning thousands of dollars through individual children and mentally undeveloped adults? It's not an honest living. And you sure aren't doing anything to make their lives better.

What of the sharks and hucksters who designed these kinds of games and advertised them to people, knowing that the way to get rich was to hook a "whale", as they call it. That's actual game development community terminology, and the vocabulary even made it into medical papers. There are all sorts of stories about developers going to great lengths just to hook power spenders. And about what happens to these big spenders and their families. These developers know it happens. They try to make it happen. They don't care as long as they get paid without getting sued and losing. Or maybe they pretend to care, but at the end of the day look who has the money and who doesn't. These top games gross many millions, even billions of dollars. Where did those many millions of dollars come from?

A lot of what happens to these addicts is reminiscent of what happens with the caged rats of Bruce K. Alexander's famous Rat Park experiment, when those caged rats are exposed to morphine. Even if you have an addictive personality, if you've got friends, family, responsibility, a real life, then you're much better off against these temptations than as someone who is stuck alone in a room all day with nothing better to do.

Free-to-Play Games Are Like Cults That Use People for Their Money

These games will sell power for money. They won't let you play long enough to finish them, requiring you to spam advertise the game to your online friends or spend real money to make progress. It was one thing when a game cost a quarter or even two dollars at an arcade to play it, you had a good time with your friends and got your money's worth. But these new games will gladly allow you to spend and wager an unlimited amount while you suffer in the privacy and loneliness of your home. (Remember: All the console video games before the internet didn't ask for a cent once you took them home and started playing them.)

Doesn't that sound abusive? Why would anyone want to subject themselves to that kind of abuse by an invisible game designer? But many people do, and it's incredibly addictive and destructive. They'll say they love you, try to make you feel good, and take your money. Playing some of these free-to-play games is like joining a cult that's just out for cash and power and doesn't care what happens to you in the process.

Worst of all, this is a common style of game, and very easy to find. Usually filling the top slots on the list of most popular mobile games.

This style of "free-to-play" games are vampiric. They waste people's time, they drain their money, and they'll make addicted people unhealthy and immature.

These games aren't well-liked in much of gaming culture. Many hardcore "mature" gamers and game developers alike detest this style of games for their mindlessness, designed addictiveness, and the way they demand cash in exchange for relief from the game's psychological abuse, and for items necessary to win.
Serious game designers hand-craft many hours of story and gameplay, others hire artists to design virtual costumes and cosmetics so they can make additional money without corrupting the gameplay. Then these wolves and sharks come out building addictive Skinner boxes, dealing amphetamine high slot machines to children and women, getting rich off this unhealthy addiction they've created and marketed to the world.
There's a lot of anger and envy towards these boundary-pushing free-to-play game companies. Even within the hedonistic world of video games, where people are trying to waste their lives on more and more new and varied pleasures, many people know and understand that a 20-40 hour story game is a better use of sixty bucks than a short-lived power trip in a free-to-play game.

So what do these other gamers play instead? Many young boys and teenagers gravitate towards online competitive games, particularly first-person shooters, MMOs, and fighting games. These are also extremely addictive, especially to youths struggling to develop a sense of identity. The games provide a community, a purpose, and a sense of identity. But it is very corrupt, and clearly demonically influenced — just look at the most popular competitive games: They aren't human sports, but rather first-person shooters, witchcraft card games, and demonic combat arena and fighting games — players literally people playing as demons, trying to kill other player-controlled demons. That kind of activity is not healthy for anyone, especially not impressionable youths.

Studies About Negative Effects of Gaming Addiction

In 2013, internet gaming disorder (IGD) was included in the DSM-5 as a condition requiring further research, and gaming disorder (GD) was included in the ICD-11 in 2018.

The cognitive psychology of Internet gaming disorder

Internet Gaming Disorder: An Emergent Health Issue for Men

Exploring the prevalence of gaming disorder and Internet gaming disorder: a rapid scoping review

Free-to-play: About addicted Whales, at risk Dolphins and healthy Minnows. Monetarization design and Internet Gaming Disorder

Do Violent Video Games Increase Aggression? By Brad J. Bushman, Ph.D.

Influence of violent video gaming on determinants of the acquired capability for suicide
(I can also testify that video games greatly increase incidences of less-reported violence, such as breaking of controllers/consoles; self-harm, self-biting, and other self-mutilation; and verbally or physically abusing others in the immediate vicinity or on the game. Even some difficult single-player games that most would not consider violent can have this effect, by repeatedly presenting crushing defeats or losses, or by wiping out the player's work, which they then try to repeat over and over. Many, many video games tend to become an antisocial, abusive, and lonely experience.)

There are dozens more research studies and thousands of case studies and testimonies against video games. I will share only a few of the most egregious ones.

The Dark Side of Gaming: Addiction, Disease, Death

This should be taken seriously. There are horror stories and tragedies, of what has happened because children spent too much time staring at the screen.

A child left alone, unsupervised, to play any game for as long as they want, will very often play over 40 hours a week. These are games designed to consume people's time. Some of them even consume money. Finance, time, energy, attention, masculinity... they will suck it all, as much as they can get.

Tragic teen gamer dies after playing computer for 22 days in a row

Doctors believe he could have died from second class syndrome, thrombosis from not moving around, as on a cramped long haul flight.
The boy collapsed as his virtual online persona was also killed in the game.

Taiwanese Teenager Found Dead in Internet Cafe After Playing Diablo 3 for 40 Hours Straight

15 People Who Have Died Playing Video Games

Blizzard's World of Warcraft MMORPG is known to be highly addictive. A 26-year-old man from China named Zhang was extremely addicted. He had gained over 320 pounds and had become extremely unhealthy. He had time off during the Lunar New Year holiday and decided to use that time to play his favorite MMORPG as much as possible. He played World of Warcraft for seven days straight. He was found twitching and slumping over his computer screen. Paramedics tried to revive Zhang, but it was too late. He passed away from heart failure. The death was caused by his weight, poor blood circulation, and oxygen deprivation from sitting for too long. Zhang's binge marathon also inspired the South Park episode "Make Love, Not Warcraft".

There are numerous stories of people dying while playing video games. Which is about what you'd expect to hear, since that's all these people did with their lives, and they were very unhealthy. But you can take one look at these games and see overall how evil they are. There is clearly a lot of messed-up stuff going on here. And it's not just one or two messed-up, demonic games in these examples, but rather a majority of them!

What kind of outcome do you expect from an impressionable young person playing 100+ hours a week as a murderous demon, or even simply as a soldier killing other soldiers?

And, think about it. We're in the real world, even in a war scenario. There are nations that want to destroy America and the free world. We need strong men who can fight and defend it. Not fat, immature adult boys who play video games all the time.

Imagine you were trying to train an army. You set a division at a training ground, appoint some leaders, and give them a training program. You expect them to train and become strong.
Then, you come back to that place for an inspection. You go to the gym and it's empty. "Where did everyone go?" "They're at the barracks, sir." So you go to the barracks and see a bunch of fat boys sitting in bed, playing video games and watching shows about anime girls with big boobies (which, to a casual observer, resembles porn).
"How long has this been going on?" No one answers. So you court-martial the commander who was supposed to train soldiers and everyone who was supposed to report this, confiscate the video games and destroy them, and make all the fat boys do push-ups and work their butts off.
If you lose the war, millions of people die. It's not a game. And whoever was responsible for corrupting those boys deserves the punishment of a war criminal, because it's that dangerous to corrupt an army.

How is that scenario any different than what we're actually dealing with? All these boys separated from mature male leaders, making video game clans and gangs and winding up immature and effeminate even despite their efforts to grow up?

Video Games, Part 4: Gamer Culture and Its Problems

Table of Contents

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