Many people do not understand the nature of addiction. Not from a personal struggle point of view, but a scientific perspective. As a result when the World Health Organization in 2019 ruled video games were now addictive after pressure from Asian Governments to do so it was met with little public skepticism.
Regardless of American psychologists pointing out the obvious — that addiction requires a chemical component in the brain, and while certain mechanics can be addictive like loot boxes and Microtransactions — merely playing video games in excess was not addictive. Dangerously habitual perhaps, but that was an entirely separate clinical diagnosis involving vastly different psychological mechanisms compared to drug addictions or substance abuse.
According to Video Games Chronicles, Nastasia Griffoen, a neuroscientist at Games for Emotional and Mental Health, has stated at Ubisoft’s Keys to Learn event in London that calling video games addictive is both erroneous as there is little scientific evidence to back this up, but potentially dangerous to those using gaming as a coping mechanism.
“I think we can all agree that there are certain instances in which anything can become problematic. It’s like if you say, ‘eating food is bad for you’. Sometimes food might be bad for you, but other times it isn’t.
“There may be instances of problematic gaming out there in society, but really we’re talking about one or two percent of all people who play games.
“Absolutely there’s the possibility that those people are there, but overall there is very little evidence to show that video games are addictive, certainly compared to any other hobby.
“Of course video games are something that people like to play and if there is something you like to do, like reading books… nobody is going to say you’re addicted to reading books.”
“It’s a very specific attitude that we have towards digital media, whether it’s games or social media. We need to be really careful about how we do that, because if we do stigmatize people basically as being addicted to video games, we might take away those video games when they might be a coping mechanism for a deeper, underlying problem like depression or anxiety.
“And we really have no evidence to show that video games lead to depression or anxiety, but it may be in fact that people go to video games to cope with their problems.”
Sadly Ubisoft’s intentions with this presentation are likely the conflation of “playing video games” being addictive with “addictive mechanics such as loot boxes.”
Merely because playing video games for hours is about as addictive as going for 6 hour nature hikes, doesn’t equate to loot boxes and gambling mechanics as not being addictive. This is especially true as the scientific and legislative evidence mounts against the practices. As their previous tactic of surprise mechanics has failed conflating playing games with specific mechanics will likely be the industries next avenue to keep their monetization practices alive.