Can Video Game Addiction be compared to a “Substance” Addiction? (by Ryan Woloshyn)

I believe we all can agree that at some point in our lives we have become somewhat addicted to a video game. This doesn’t mean that we have dropped everything else in our life and only focused on the game, but it can be something as simple as skipping class or an invite out with friends to play games instead. As a person who strongly agrees that video games help make people smarter, think differently, and have quicker reaction times in real life, I don’t deny that video games can be addictive. Now, can this addiction be related to a substance addiction, such as someone who “feens” for their certain fix? And how can this be treated as video games are not considered a literal drug?

In an article written by Megan Erickson “Are Video Games a Drug?” ( it goes in depth about this topic. She covers the main ideas around addiction and how addicts usually have three main needs; Competence, Autonomy and Relatedness. These are beliefs that you can do something well, the idea that you have say in how you live your life and the belief that you matter to others, and others matter to you.

She also covers that with those three basic needs that Video Games are fulfilled in those by having Immediacy; you can log on and play at any time. Consistency; Video Games give us a clear path to success in the game world, and we are rewarded for competition. Density; games give us a opportunity to fulfil, challenge and undertake a challenge. The article closes by talking about how maintaining and achieving those points will determine if you are addicted to a video game or not.

In comparing Video Game addiction to a substance addiction, there are a few main topics you need to consider first. And those are – Do you have satisfaction in gaming? Do you miss deadlines or real world experiences? Do you feel pleasure, shame or guilt? Are you spending many hours a week getting your video game fix? And are these isolating others from your personal life?

Although this topic can be pinned at many different angles, I stand on my point when saying Video Game addiction is a real thing.  As an example, from my personal life, I would say I was addicted to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 when it was in its prime (2010-2012). After reading the article by Erickson, I would agree that I had felt all those topics. There were many weeks where I would get home from school, and play all the way until I had to sleep, and then repeat this every day. I spent a total of 30 Days of playing time within the first year of launch. I always strived for feeling satisfied in the game, whether that was winning a game and being competitive, to trying to complete challenges many hours into the night (often until 4am – 5am on weekends) or playing against friends and trying to always be a higher level then them in the game. When I wasn’t playing the game, and was at school, out at hockey practice, or with friends, I was always thinking about this game. I was addicted to unlocking achievements and in-game valuables.

Looking back at this many years later I would agree that my Video Game addiction could easily be compared to a substance addiction as I strived for pleasure, satisfaction, and acceptance in the game. It was a fix that I was rewarded by being good at the game. What is your opinion on Video Games being compared to a Substance Addiction? Do you agree that these two topics can be related or are relatable?


3 thoughts on “Can Video Game Addiction be compared to a “Substance” Addiction? (by Ryan Woloshyn)

  1. I come at video game addiction from the angle that in life most people are addicted to various things whether its sex , drugs, porn, gambling, alcohol, food, music etc. Most people can’t admit to having an addiction, as a activity releasing dopamine feels so good that they want to keep doing it and not acknowledge the risks associated with most artificial “feel good” activities. While eating is a healthy and necessary activity for the body and video games can improve hand eye coordination and concentration, if you eat too much you can get overweight and cause diseases and constantly playing too much video games can make you overweight and miss out on opportunities.

    With stating this though I don’t think everyone who enjoys doing a “feel good” activity often is an addict, as I would say as long as the activity the person is engaging in is not hurting anyone else or themselves and they can step back and consider their activities from an objective lens and still have control generally they’re not an addict. If I was to stand back right now and look at my addictions/vices I would say I’m verging on addiction to alcohol, addicted to listening to music for pleasure, and addicted to watching you tube videos and I should probably stop drinking and relaxing and get some more exercise. Saying all this though, I have no diseases or bodily harm yet from doing these activities, however if I drink anymore heavily or keep not exercising I could end up more overweight than I already am and eventually have liver damage or disease.

    So in conclusion I think video games and other addictions/substances can be directly compared as most addictions and substances share the same qualities that video games have, that is a sense of pleasure, reward, and a dopamine hit and as long as people don’t lose control of their lives, video games, recreational drug use, and other “pleasure” activities are just fine by me.



  2. I want to say that video game addiction is definitely a thing, so as many others addictions around the society. I probably would not compare with “substance addiction”, since I feel that there is a very important component missing: “Instant gratification”
    Most studies towards substance abuse point out the fact that drugs have almost an immediate effect on the user, which is induced by the absorption of external substances. Therefore, it is this the chemical reactions of this relation that guides most feelings and behaviors of users. This point of view complete ignores social or cultural factors that may have lead the person to try those substances in the first place.
    For video-games, and other addictive behaviors such watch TV, go to the gym, have sex, read books and so on, there is no instant gratification. Off course, there is always a good feeling in engaging in the activity that one is addicted on, but the outcome is not certain or, in most cases, not instantaneous. Just to illustrate what I mean, one might start a soccer match game. It will take something around 20 minutes until the game is done, and one might even loose it. In substance abuse, the high of hitting that bowl happens just when one does it and the outcome is predictable.
    The other difference is that when we engage in addictive behavior that does not require taking another substance, the chemical reactions that happens inside our bodies are all natural and therefore considered psychological. In these case, if there is any self-destructive behavior such as slacking in school, not showing up to work, not making new friends, there can not be blame in outside factors. It is a strong sign that this person is in fact with problems in some of the social or cultural aspects of their life.
    In conclusion, although in my understanding the causes and affects are very different, substance abuse and video game addiction have their roots in social and cultural aspects.


  3. I agree with the author of the article that video games can be addictive. The mechanic behind video games is very time consuming and attempting. You get to become a part of video games when you play because you are the one in control. As a child, I had friends who made it a priority to go by the game shop/ arcade to spend their money to play video games daily. They would skip school to play games because they couldn’t get enough of it. Many people step into the magic circle and love the escape of reality; they enjoy the utopic effect of it all. I have seen adults play video games daily. This might sound cliché but they do lock themselves in a room or basement playing games and being that active shooter shooter/ player behind the screen.
    Video games can be like a drug it keeps pulling you in and you go back to get that fix, that high you are looking for. The game play gives a player a feeling of authoritative stability and it feeds them a joyful experience.
    I believe that substance and addiction can be related and relatable. A video game can be compared to a substance addiction because there are players who cannot function without playing a game daily. The game is incorporated in their lives and it can leave someone feeling incomplete. Games for some people can be like coffee drinkers who are grumpy without having to consume it first thing in the morning or if they haven’t had any all day.
    The virtual world offers fantasy and full blown gaming experience for those who are fully addicted to the substance of a game.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s