Is there a real explanation for the video game phenomenon?
Behind the phenomenon of "gaming" and the excessive use of video games there are complex social dynamics.
How many times have we heard that video games generate dopamine in the brain and are therefore addictive!
Similarly, we have all heard about risk factors and protective factors for addictive symptoms. If I have friends who encourage me to use, they are a risk factor, whereas if I have social circles that do not use, they prevent it. But beyond these patterns in describing a problem of this kind, it is necessary to to understand the tendency to play video games too much as a product of a certain way of confrontation with the world..
Beyond the reductionist perspective on video game overuse
With risk and protective factors we can make a list, from hereditary elements to the psychological integrity of the person (with all its repertoire of attributes such as self-esteem, resilience, impulsivity, etc.), family, friendships, affective-sexual relationships and the academic work context, among others.
But... What if our young people's perception of reward for participating in this world was a factor that led them to play video games? And this does not justify it, nor does it seem right to me if this were the case, but to some extent it can put on the table one more factor that explains the problematic use, which we have to visualize along with the others already exposed.
- You may be interested in, "Brain reward system: what is it and how does it work?"
The effects of uncertainty on dependence
Thus, the way in which we narrate reality can influence the perception of reward. We are all familiar with Skinner's pigeon experiment, but perhaps not many know that, a posteriori, when the reward of hitting the lever and receiving food was very delayed in time, so distant and insignificant, in this situation, even giving a variable reward, it was so insignificant that the animals stopped hitting the lever.
This may well be happening with our young people during their passage through the educational system; a phenomenon that, in recent years, may well have been driven by the uncertainty that is spreading around the world. In 2020 Victoria Fugariu and collaborators published an experiment in which they subjected four groups of rats to four degrees of uncertainty respectively, while the members of a fifth group were addicted to amphetamine.
The researchers observed that the brains of the higher uncertainty group and the methamphetamine-addicted rats showed the same craving for methamphetamine, the same degree of risk-taking in decision making (impulsivity), and similar amounts of dopamine receptors. In other words, it seemed to be observed that uncertainty makes individuals more susceptible to addictive stimuli..
Understanding the dynamics of gaming to understand part of the world
In this line, the book "Video Games: The Ultimate Black Mirror" talks about all the concerns that an adolescent may have in his confrontation with the world, validates them and focuses them towards the right path, thus achieving a better and healthier perspective to face reality.
The content of this book is a mixture of deep reflections and personal experiences as a psychologist and gamer, all based on scientific references.
Whether you like to play video games or not, the phenomenon of gaming is becoming more and more social and it is important to know its foundations; we all have a close friend who plays video games.We all have a close friend who plays a lot of games. And as psychologists, it is essential to understand these game dynamics in order to understand this new generation of gaming and content creation. This book brings a different approach to what you already know (dopamine, variable reward systems, social validation of gaming by big star content creators...).
It is obvious that this generation comes from a comfort zone of well-being and compared to others has not had to overcome much adversity; however, if there is no longer a comfort zone or well-being, we will have to change that point in the narrative of reality to generate resilience.
It bears repeating that the act of validating confrontation with the world in an appropriate way is going to be far more beneficial than pointing the carrot in front of the donkey for the sake of it. Let's go into this world, get some reflections and fundamentals, and we will see how to really awaken the motivation of this generation by feeling much more emotionally validated.
(Updated at Mar 28 / 2023)