Video games are amazing. Especially with today’s ever advancing technology, it has become a true art form. The beauty of landscapes and the unbelievable amount of detail put into games is staggering. The fantastic story lines and cut scenes make it feel like you’re controlling a movie. But there’s a price to pay for all that awesomeness.
This cultural staple has become a major obstacle for young people, but for men in particular.
A study was done in 2020 by Sarah Coyne, a human development professor at BYU. She followed 385 teens over 6 years and tracked their development in relation to gaming. About 10% (38.5) of teens showed pathological gaming symptoms. (Pathological basically means something is not normal, indicating a mental disease, and or obsessive/compulsive behavior.) So, if we extrapolate that to 1000 teens, about 100 of them will be video game addicts.
Young men are more likely to game, which consequently makes them more likely to be addicts. A study by WHO, shows the average age of an addict is 24, with 94% of addicts being male. Extremely disproportionately male.
The negative effects of this are higher levels of depression, anxiety, aggression; lower immune function, levels of social activity and can ultimately be destructive to personal relationships. There are many more negative effects: Unhealthy diet and weight, sleep deprivation and difficulty paying attention and controlling impulses.This is why video game addicts are more likely to be substance abusers, be on their phone for unhealthy amounts of time and be addicted to pornography and or gambling (We’ll discuss gambling later on).
The flashing lights and loud noises from video games also put your body into a state of overstimulation and hyper arousal, which causes your body to constantly produce cortisol, the stress hormone. So your brain is telling your body to go into fight or flight mode, for hours and hours.
Let’s add all of that together. You’re more depressed and anxious (partly because of the overstimulation, partly because gaming is being used to cover up life problems you don’t want to confront), your immune system isn’t working properly so you’re more likely to get sick, you don’t have many friends because you’d rather stay in and game than go out, you eat junk food and don’t workout enough, and you’re not sleeping enough.
There are too many negative consequences.
Not only are there adverse psychological results that come with constant gaming, but there can be a terrible financial toll as well. The companies that make these games understand this, and they’re pursuing the profits. (Excuse the following digression)
Many of these shooter games now have in-game purchases. It used to be that the game had its own currency, or xp, that you acquired by completing missions or goals, and you’d use that game money to buy new weapons or upgrades or whatever. That doesn’t make these companies any extra money. Nowadays, if a guy wants to keep up on the newest content, he’ll have to buy the Season Battle Pass. 100 tiers of free content that you unlock by upgrading through the tiers. He climbs the tier system, each level unlocking new toys and whatnot. Now, the Battle Pass only costs around $10. Not a big deal, but these ‘Seasons’ only last around 2 months, then they start over. So, let’s say he plays Modern Warfare and Fortnite, and gets the new season’s Battle Pass for each game. A year goes by and you’ve spent about $120 on a couple of video games. Let’s not even get into all the bundles for new skins and weapon packs that can be bought. You could spend hundreds of dollars on these games.
I know a dude who spent over $1000 in 2019 playing Modern Warfare. I have no idea how he spent that much. I don’t know how that’s even possible. $1000 on a video game. $1000 that gets syphoned into gaming corporations, who use that money to exploit human psychology, which is used to get gamers to spend more money on in-game purchases, which further entrenches men into their addiction.
What follows is an instance where I realized I was playing too much: My brothers and I got into a habit of playing Rocket League whenever we got the chance. One day, this urge to play Rocket League overtook me, a compulsive feeling that I needed to play; but a vague feeling of discomfort came along with it. Something was nagging at me. I played Rocket league anyway, but I couldn’t really enjoy it. Even when I would win rounds, it was just not as gratifying as I thought it would be. And after I was done, I felt kind of empty and unsatisfied.
The realization struck me that something needed to get done, a task that I had been putting off or was scared to get started on. The reason I played the game anyway, is because I was trying to repress that instinct to be productive with Rocket League, a form of escapism that had become addictive. That was enough for me to take a break.
This isn’t to say I never play video games or I think they’re evil. I just know how easily it is to get sucked into them. I still enjoy playing a game of Madden or Rocket League, but they don’t dictate my life.
So where does this leave us? Video games can be beneficial. A little escape from the grind of work or the heaviness of life is a good thing, but in moderation. I’m not saying that it’s time to smash your PS5 with a baseball bat and give up gaming forever, but we should reflect on what our relationship to gaming is at this moment.