Wendy Kays: The best solution to game addiction? Maturity and strategy

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The Independent Online

While it's tempting to use the "addiction" label to explain the rude behavior of Alec Baldwin after being refused a plane seat because he wouldn't turn off his phone game "Words with Friends," there is a less simple and more sobering explanation.

Game addiction is real. It's a behavioral addiction like gambling, thrill seeking, or sex addiction. It happens when instead of taking a drug like cocaine into your body, you abuse the naturally existing chemicals in your glands and brain by repeatedly cutting straight to the most exciting part of an experience. When you stop artificially inflating your adrenaline and internal reward drug, dopamine, you feel depressed. This is because your body has put up a fight to save you from the stress you've put on yourself by adding dopamine receptors in your brain to deal with the overload and calm you down. So when you go back to a normal level, you feel terrible. You want to feel good again. You want to play again, just like wanting another hit of a drug.

However, there is another reason Mr. Baldwin may have reacted the way he did. Rich Vogel, a veteran and respected game designer, has called the design features in a game that keep us interested as "sticky" factors. Games, both complex and simple, are designed to keep us involved. The inflated sense of achievement, ownership, and the immersion we feel while gaming gives us pleasure and distracts us from our surroundings.

It gives the player a sense of urgency and importance that doesn't match the mood of what's actually going on in the larger world. When pulled suddenly from the small world into the larger one, the typical response of a gamer is to react with annoyance and rage.

The best solution? Maturity and strategy. Schedule your gaming, and try to show a little compassion to those who don't have the controls.

Wendy Kays who is the author of 'Game Widow'