Video game addiction: When “virtual” becomes “reality”

By Melissa Platero, CCNN Writer

You can still enjoy your favorite video game in the real world with some “cosplay” costume play. Band together with other awesome geeks at the next comic book or video game convention!

Recently, Flappy Bird creator Dong Nguyen removed his super popular app from stores, despite raking in a reported $50,000 a day. While it seemed like an odd choice, considering the cash flow he was getting, it turns out he did it for a surprisingly selfless reason. Dong realized the game was very addictive, meaning it was hooking people psychologically in a way that made them play it way too often.

That might sound over the top, especially since the game was just a silly little app with a bird flying through green pipes. However, in Asia, there are major issues with video game addiction, where people become too absorbed in their favorite game of choice. They’ll lose sleep, jobs, friends, families, and even their lives.

This isn’t just an issue in Asia, either, as video games become increasingly popular throughout the world.

While unhealthy substances like cigarettes have more obviously physical addictive chemicals (like nicotine), video games do trigger pleasing chemicals in our brains. After all, we’re hard-wired to enjoy solving challenges, accomplishing goals, and gaining respect from our peers, which are all possible in games. This is especially true in online gaming, where staying at home on a Friday night can still feel like hanging with your buddies, by hooking up some headphones, talking into your microphone, and taking on virtual bad guys in epic adventures.

While that’s fine to do every now and then, it becomes an addiction when other areas of your life begin to suffer because of how much time and energy you’re spending on games. Are your grades falling? Are friends asking why you don’t go out as often? Are family members saddened that you’re too focused on gadgets to have a conversation? These are signs that games might be hooking your mind. Especially… if you spend most of your non-gaming time thinking about your next gaming fix.

Fortunately, video game addiction can be overcome more easily than regular drug addictions, since it’s more psychological than physical. With a combination of personal discipline and support from your loved ones, take a break now and then from your World of Warcraft, League of Legends, or smartphone gaming session. There’s incredible fresh air outside, people to meet (of the non-virtual variety), and so much to learn from books. So, while Dong’s decision to remove his app might seem dramatic, he’s sending a powerful message to the gaming community – just because something is fun and addicting, doesn’t make it healthy. Even when it’s bringing $50,000 in advertising money to your wallet!

Featured image courtesy of pinguino on Flickr. Image of cosplay courtesy of Omarukai on Flickr.