Kerryn Boogaard Kerryn Boogaard
Beverly Goldsmith Beverly Goldsmith
Zoe Bingley-Pullin Zoe Bingley-Pullin

“I smell a rat!”:

Sue is given some computer games as a gift & discovers how children get 'hooked'.
By Sue Evans
Date: February 05 2015
Editor Rating:

I really hate to say this but, at my mature stage in life, I appear to have developed a bit of a fondness for computer games. 

I blame my grandchildren. 

They’ve always tried to get me to play computer games with them but, being a good grandma, whenever they asked I would always shoo them outside and tell them to run around till exhausted.

However, at Christmas, two of my grandson's put in their own pocket money (that’s impressive by itself) and bought me some computer games via the App Store. Now that I'm retired, I have time to try new things and I thought the least I could do is try these games they had carefully selected for me and have a sensible discussion with them about the games once I had tried them. 

I’m beginning to see the attraction. If my husband offers to cook dinner, ‘yes please’ I say – because that gives me more time on my iPad playing Ticket to Ride. A quiet night in front of the TV at home? ‘No problem,’ I think as I sink into the sofa with Words with Friends ready to go.

Last week I realised that it may all be getting a bit out of hand when I took the iPad to the bathroom and spent four times as long in there as I needed to because I was so consumed with the online version of an oldie-but-a-goodie, Monopoly.

So now I get it. I understand why children, once they get ‘in’ to a computer game want to keep going with it. There’s something in these games which makes you want to keep playing and playing.

Fascinated by my own behaviour, I found a bit of free time to do some quick research and found reference to a BBC Panorama program of a few years ago which showed that the technique used to ‘hook’ people into computer games is the same that was used on rats in laboratory techniques to train them to feed themselves. The study showed that rats could feed themselves by learning to press a lever and, once they realised that there was always food there for them, they would then press the lever obsessively.

Games creators say the same technique is used in games – give people a random reward (the next level or bonus points or time) and they want to continue. This has been honed to the extent that sometimes rewards come quickly, or they may take a long time, which encourages more frequent engagement.

While there are some benefits to playing computer games for children (such as relieving tension, overcoming fears, developing motor skills), the experts say if they’re playing more than 15 hours per week, then it may be too much. Like anything, it’s a question of whether you can control the time playing games.

The warning signs for being truly ‘addicted’ include:

  • playing for increasing amounts of time;
  • thinking about computer games while you’re doing other things;
  • playing to escape real-life problems or anxiety;
  • lying to family and friends to conceal how much you’re playing;
  • feeling irritable if you’re not gaming (or if trying to cut down); and
  • becoming isolated from other activities. 

For example, if I suddenly gave up my quilting, then my family would – and should – worry. Similarly, if your child gives up a favourite activity, such as dancing or a sport, to play more computer games then you’ve got an issue to deal with.

On the basis of these factors, I’m fine. Really!

I’m restricting my times to my morning coffee, and in front of the TV when my husband watches one of those endless British police dramas. Considering we all know that the police officer or detective – increasingly in killer stilettos – in these shows will eventually solve the crime, but will leave you on the edge of your seat for at least five episodes while they take you to the inevitable conclusion, I reckon that’s more of a pointless addiction than a bit of fun gaming. 

Now, I'm off to try Tetris .... 

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4 Total Comments
Darrance says: 2018 10 06

My prlbeom was a wall until I read this, then I smashed it.

Geraldine says: 2018 10 26

I lilalerty jumped out of my chair and danced after reading this! vyxllnzxrsh [link=]diihfepxhft[/link]

Kelli says: 2018 10 26

This arctlie is a home run, pure and simple!

Tallin says: 2018 10 27

Created the greatest areiclts, you have.

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