Gaming addiction is a real struggle for some, a topic that counselor Eric Andrews discussed at PAX East 2014 when asking “How much is too much” The appeal of interactive entertainment is obvious to those attending the show: the unique experiences and entertainment combine with opportunities to safely problem solve and socialize are immensely rewarding. The challenge becomes avoiding and/or controlling the conditioning effects of focusing on reward based behaviors and triggering of those behaviors from environmental cues.
Andrews notes that as a passionate gamer himself (which clearly shows in his presentation and style), the pleasure derived from both the achievement of and the anticipation for a reward can create a sense of need that can also lead to a negative dopamine reaction if neither happens.
Finding a balance with techniques such as creating personal goals, exploring interests and re-assessing every few years can help us fully determine the impact of our gaming habits. As Andrews challenges us to do, we should ask ourselves “What would I be doing if I wasn’t doing this?”
By creating structure, limiting temptations and recognizing the challenges of the pervasive availability of gaming entertainment, we can avoid developing an unhealthy attachment to both the inherent and designed reward systems in gaming.