The straight-shooters over at Vice interviewed the co-founder of Washington State’s ReStart facility, which treats people for gaming, Internet and texting addictions.
Dr. Hilarie Cash was asked whether or not she believes games are becoming more addictive:
All games focus on the idea of unpredictable reinforcement – you don’t know what’s going to happen when you reach the next stage, but you get “rewards” or “treats” at random points. And people who develop successful games have figured this out. In fact, many games companies hire professional psychologists these days to help them develop the best unpredictable reward payoff structures.
Dr. Cash on the potentially violent side of the addicts she treats:
There was a young man who ended up having to have an intervention. When the parents tried to take the computer out of his room, he tried to attack them with a knife. They just backed down, gave him his computer, went away. A teenager whose parents just take the computer away cold turkey – it’ll send them into a rage, and that rage can be quite dangerous.
How about Dr. Cash’s thoughts on whether gaming addiction or porn addiction will be more hazardous to society over the next ten years?
I think they’re equally hazardous. Pornography taps into anyone’s sex drive or need for sex. I’m sure the numbers of sex addicts far outnumber game addicts. That will probably continue, but I know that the internet-based games are typically highly addictive.