Games have three large risk factors that can keep players tied to a game, researchers say.
New research on videogames argues that games with reward systems can create addictive behavior to games and that the “problematic behavior” is not an effect of the time spent on the game but the reasons for playing.
“It’s not a question of just how many hours you’re playing,” Joseph Hilgard, University of Missouri psychology professor, said in a MU News Bureau video. “We’re actually measuring, ‘Are you having problems because of how much you’re playing?’ Just like in alcoholism, if you’re drinking to forget about how bad you feel, if you’re gaming to forget about how bad you feel, you may be more likely to have a game problem.”
According to Hilgard and research partners Christopher R. Engelhardt and Bruce D. Bartholow, escapism, social interaction, and rewards in games can cause players to allow their gaming time impact school or work performance. Hilgard says MMORPGs like World of Warcraft have “all three risk factors.”
“Most players join teams or guilds,” Hilgard said. “If some teammates want to play for four hours on a Saturday night, the other players feel obligated to play or else they may be cut from the team.”
Hilgard, Engelhardt, and Bartholow note that a common drawback to games research is the tendency to treat all games as homogenous. The research concludes, “Players are motivated to play games insofar as those games can provide the fulfillment of psychological needs, but different players will seek to fulfill those needs through different ways.”