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Online Games: Addictive By Design


Ranjana Kushwaha - Policy Research Associate, her interest lies in social dimensions of the digital ecosystem.

Episode Summary:  

The episode explores the addictive elements of modern online games, such as the use of behavioural psychology techniques, rewards systems,sound effects, colours and timing to keep players engaged. It also discusses the social aspect of gaming, which can provide a sense of belonging but can also lead to addiction.


Host: Welcome to UnwiringTech, this podcast is a platform where we understand ever-evolving world of digital ecosystems. Join us as we explore the intricate relationship between technology and society. I’m your host Ranjana and today we’ll explore how game design, psychology, and social dynamics contribute to gaming addiction and why it seems impossible to step out of the infamous loop of “just this one more level”.

Host: While it might seem like almost everyone you know is playing online games, it’s important to note that the majority of gamers do not have an addiction. A gaming addict typically experiences a impaired control over gaming and prioritise gaming in other important aspects of their life.

Now, let’s put some numbers to this. According to the World Health Organization, the estimated number of people with a gaming addiction is roughly 3-4%.

Host: According to data published in the Indian Journal of Community Medicine and Public Health in 2020, approximately 3.5 percent of Indian adolescents are affected by Internet Gaming Disorder. This rate is 0.5 percent higher than the global average, indicating a significant concern within the country.

Host: Indian studies have further revealed gender differences in IGD. Approximately 8 percent of boys and 3 percent of girls in India are reported to suffer from Internet Gaming Disorder. These statistics shed light on how the issue affects different segments of the population.

 Host: To gain a better understanding of the situation, a notable study conducted by LocalCircles in December 2022 involved 65,000 parents from 287 districts across India. The results showed that around 40 per cent of the parents admitted that their children of age group 9-17 years are addicted to videos, gaming and other social media.

So, what’s the defining line between a healthy, fun gaming hobby and a full-blown addiction? It all boils down to the impact the activity has on your life.

Online games are a ubiquitous form of entertainment enjoyed by millions worldwide. But are they designed to be addictive? To answer this, let’s break down some of the key elements that make certain games so hard to put down.

Host: In the early days, games were simple and meant for casual enjoyment. You bought a game, and it offered a complete experience. But today’s games are designed to keep players engaged, rather than relying on sequels for revenue.Game developers are taking it to the next level by collaborating with behavioural psychologists and leveraging cutting-edge research to make users hook on to their platforms.

Host: They craft intricate systems within games with combination specific colours, sound effects and interface all are purposefully designed to elicit specific behaviours from players and force them to come back again and again. For example, Candy Crush, as you match lines of candies more candies come cascading down to create more matches. You’re rewarded with fun sounds, bright colours, and increasing amounts of points. Even these seemingly small animations, trigger a response in your brain. The concept of controlling behaviour through stimuli and rewards, famously explored by psychologist B.F. Skinner, is central to gaming. Actions lead to rewards, making gameplay more enticing.

Host: Timing is critical in game design. Rewards are perfectly balanced to keep players engaged. Too many rewards can lead to boredom, while excessive difficulty can cause frustration. The randomness of rewards, known as the variable reinforcement ratio, is the most effective way to keep players engaged but carefully adjusted to feel fair.

Host: Modern games offer an array of features like daily quests, avatar accessories, and in-game purchases. The more time and money players invest in their in-game characters, the more likely they are to remain hooked, contributing to the addictive nature of these games.

Host: Hooks play another crucial role in making games addictive. Achieving high scores or levelling up are examples of hooks that keep players engaged and emotionally attached to their in-game personas.

Host: The social element of gaming is a primary factor in many game addictions. It can provide a sense of belonging and friendship, especially for those who may be feeling lonely or struggling with social connections in the real world.

Host: Dr. Sandeep Vohra, a senior consultant psychiatrist, explains that the virtual gaming world is designed to pull players in. Early levels are typically easier, providing a sense of achievement. But as players progress, the challenges become tougher, compelling them to continue playing and experiencing that sense of accomplishment.

Host: However, it’s essential to recognize that excessive gaming can have severe consequences, affecting individuals physically, emotionally, and mentally. It can impact social skills, isolate players, and ultimately lead to gaming addiction or internet gaming disorder.

 Host: That wraps up today’s episode of UnwiringTech. We’ve delved into the world of online game addiction, exploring how game design, psychology, and social dynamics contribute to this complex issue. Remember, moderation is key when it comes to gaming, and if you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, seek professional help. Thanks for tuning in, and we’ll catch you in the next episod.


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