Saturday, October 20, 2012

Chapter 4 from my Teen Video Game Addiction Treatment Manual

Chapter 4: Am I a gaming addict?

Coming to terms with whether you have an addiction to gaming will not be easy. Chances are if you have a serious problem controlling the amount of time and energy you invest in gaming, you don't see your behavior as a problem.

As you may already know, addiction is fueled by the false belief that a person can control their behavior despite obvious signs that they are out of control. For example, the alcoholic believes he can have a single drink and then ends up having 10 drinks in three hours. Likewise, the cocaine addict thinks he can have a line or two at a party -- and then ends up spending the weekend binging.

Addiction is fueled by self-deception or what is commonly referred to as DENIAL. Are you in denial? Or, do you have an accurate picture of your behavior when it comes to video gaming?

Let’s start with a questionnaire that focuses on your gaming behavior.
You may think that completing this questionnaire is a waste of time because you already know you do not have a problem.

However, you may have an inner voice that is concerned. There certainly is no harm in completing this questionnaire -- so, why not take the time to answer the questions honestly and see where you stand.

 Here is a self-test adapted from a questionnaire created by Dr. Brent Conrad:

1)The type of game I play is:

a) MMORPG / MMO (e.g., World of Warcraft, Lineage, Runescape, Everquest) (3)

b) Real Time Strategy (e.g., Company of Heroes, Age of Empires, Command & Conquer, Warhammer) (3)

c) First Person Shooter (e.g., Team Fortress, Halo, Killzone, Unreal Tournament, Call of Duty) (2)

d) Action (e.g., Grand Theft Auto, Devil May Cry, Metal Gear Solid, Uncharted, Fallout, Assassin's Creed) (2)

e) Sports (e.g., Madden NFL, NHL, FIFA Soccer, NBA Street, Fight Night) (1)

f) Fighter (e.g., Tekken, Street Fighter, Soulcalibur, Mortal Kombat, Dead or Alive, Virtual Fighter) (1)

g) Music (e.g., Guitar Hero, Rock Band) (1)

h) Racing (e.g., Forza Motorsport, Need for Speed, Burnout, Gran Turismo) (1)

I) Puzzle (e.g., Bejeweled, Peggle, World of Goo) (0)

j) Platformer (e.g., Super Mario, MegaMan, LittleBigPlanet, Ratchet & Clank) (0)

2) On an average weekday I play video games for:

a) 0 – 1 hour. (0)
b) 2 hours. (1)
c) 3 hours. (2)
d) 4 hours. (3)
e) 5 or more hours. (4)

3) On an average day on the weekend I play video games for:

a) 0 – 1 hour. (0)
b) 2 hours. (1)
c) 3 – 4 hours. (2)
d) 5 – 6 hours. (3)
e) 7 or more hours. (4)

4) I have unsuccessfully been able to decrease the amount of time I play video games:

a) Never. (0)
b) One time. (1)
c) Two times. (1)
d) Three times. (2)
e) Four or more times. (3)

5) If my parents did not set limits on video game time, I would play:

a) About the same amount as I play now. (0)
b) Somewhat more than I play now. (1)
c) Significantly more than I play now. (2)
d) Far more than I play now. (2)

 6) I am allowed to play video games in my room:

a) Yes. (2)
b) No. (0)

7) I stay up late gaming and I am often tired the next day:

a) Never or rarely. (0)
b) Occasionally. (1)
c) Frequently. (2)
d) Almost always. (3)

8) I am allowed to play video games before my homework is completed:

a) Never or rarely. (-1)
b) Occasionally. (0)
c) Frequently. (1)
d) Almost always. (2)

9) I would prefer to play video games alone rather than go out with friends:

a) Never or rarely. (0)
b) Occasionally. (1)
c) Frequently. (2)
d) Always. (3)

10) I have very few friends outside of  my gaming community:

a) Not at all true. (0)
b) Somewhat true. (1.5)
c) Definitely true. (3)

 11) My grades have suffered as a result of playing video games:

a) Not at all true. (0)
b) Somewhat true. (1.5)
c) Definitely true. (3)

12) I lie about how much time I spend playing video games:

a) Not at all true. (0)
b) Probably true. (1)
c) Definitely true. (2)

13) I am an active member in school activities and clubs:

a) No, none at all. (2)
b) Yes, one activity or club. (0)
c) Yes, two activities or clubs. (-1)
d) Yes, three or more activities or clubs. (-2)

14) I have interests other than video gaming:

a) No, none at all. (3)
b) Yes, one other significant interest. (1)
c) Yes, two other significant interests. (-1)
d) Yes, three or more significant interests. (-2)

15) I neglect my hygiene because of video game play (showering, shaving, changing clothes, etc.):

a) Never or rarely. (0)
b) Occasionally. (1)
c) Often. (2)
d) Always. (3)

 16) I spend my own money buying video games or subscribing to online gaming services:

a) Never – I do not spend money on gaming. (0)
b) Rarely – I spend only a small portion of my money on games. (0)
c) Often – I spend a significant portion of my money on games. (1.5)
d) Always – I spend every all of my money on video games. (3)

17) I currently have a part-time job:

a) No, I’m too young to work. (0)
b) No, I’m too involved in other activities (not including video games). (-1)
c) No, I don’t want to work (2)
d) Yes, but I have difficulty holding onto jobs. (2)
e) Yes, and I have successfully held onto jobs. (-2)

18) Other family members are concerned about how much time I play video games:

a) No. my family knows how much I play and they are not worried about it. (-1)
b) No. Others do not know how I play. (0)
c) Yes, other family members are concerned about my gaming. (2)

19) I become irritable and anxious when I cannot play video games:

a) Never. (0)
b) Rarely. (0.5)
c) Often. (2)
d) Always. (3)

 20) When I’m not playing video games, I spend my time reading about games  and discussing games online with other players:

a) Never. (0)
b) Rarely. (0)
c) Occasionally. (1)
d) Often. (2)

21) I become angry and defensive when my parents ask about my gaming habits:

a) Never. (0)
b) Yes, occasionally. (1)
c) Yes, often. (2)
d) Yes, almost always. (2)

22) My parents decide what games I am allowed to play:

a) Yes, always. (-1)
b) Usually. My parents screen most games and do not allow certain games into the house. (0)
c) Rarely. I generally choose which games I buy or install. (2)
d) Never. I always buy and install any game I want. (2)

23)I play online when my friends, team, guild, or clan will also be playing – even if this is at odd or inconvenient hours:

a) Never. (0)
b) Rarely. (1)
c) Sometimes. (2)
d) Often. (3)

24) I would have difficulty giving up all video games for one week:

a) No, not at all (-2)
b) I wouldn’t like it, but I could do it without too many complaints. (1)
c) I would have great difficulty giving up video games for one week. (2)
d) It would be virtually impossible for me to give up video games for one week. (3)

25) I eat meals while playing video games:

a) Never, just a snack now and then. (0)
b) Sometimes.(1)
c) Often. (2)
d) Always. (3)

26) I know I spend too much time playing video games:

a) No. (0)
b) Yes. (3)

27) I get headaches, red eyes, sore fingers, and wrist pains from playing video games:

a) Never or very rarely. (0)
b) Sometimes. (1)
c) Often. (2)

28) I play video games at the first available opportunity (for example, as soon as arriving home from school, immediately after dinner, etc.):

a) Never. (0)
b) Rarely. (0)
c) Sometimes. (1)
d) Often. (2) 

29) I have gaming sessions that last 7 or more hours nonstop:

a) Never. (0)
b) Rarely. (2)
c) Sometimes. (3)
d) Often. (4)

30) I am performing well academically in school:

a) Never. (2)
b) Rarely. (1)
c) Usually. (-1)
d) Always. (-2)

What does my score mean?

0 – 20 points
Likelihood of Video Game Addiction: 

Based on your answers, you are not engaging in excessive gaming.

21 – 40 points
Likelihood of Video Game Addiction:

Based on your answers, it is possible you are developing a problem controlling your gaming. While you are not addicted, you may be having difficulty with school performance, you may be fatigue due to late night gaming, and you may be losing interest in hobbies and friends. At this point you are in a good position to make  changes to 
prevent your gaming from becoming an addiction.

41 – 60 points
Likelihood of Video Game Addiction

Based on your answers, it is very likely you are showing multiple symptoms of video game addiction. More than likely you now respond with defensiveness and anger when any limit is set on gaming. More than likely your grades are suffering, you are disconnected from friends and family, and have lost interest in activities other than gaming. You are likely eating meals while gaming and have little interest in your appearance and hygiene. You also may be experiencing cravings, tolerance, and withdrawal.

61 – 80 points
Likelihood of Video Game Addiction:

Based on your answers, you are addicted to video gaming and gaming is therefore negatively affecting multiple areas of your life. At this point, video gaming is the center of your life. More than likely you have little or no interest in school -- and may no longer be attending school. You are likely gaming until late at night and may be sleeping during the day. You are very likely depressed and/or anxious when gaming is unavailable, you are neglecting your hygiene, and you are spending all of your money on gaming. You may be explosive/aggressive when limits are set by your parents. Despite these consequences, efforts to get you to cut back have been unsuccessful. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Chapter 3 from my Teen Video Game Addiction Workbook

Chapter 3: Are all games equally addictive?

According to experts in video game addiction, there are many games that present little or no risk for developing addiction. According to Dr. Brent Conrad, a psychologists who specialize in videogame addiction, it is the massive multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG) that are the most likely to result in addiction.

What is it about these games that make it so difficult for teens (and adults) to control their level of game playing?

Dr. Conrad explains that the process of earning rewards during the game through a leveling system creates strong motivation, interest, and excitement. As you gamers know, at the very beginning of the game it could take minutes to reach the next level and gain new skills. However, moving through higher levels almost always takes more playing time – which then results in a commitment of weeks or months to a level up.

By the way, video game companies understand that by creating a game where a small commitment of time allows the gamer to succeed creates investment in the game and then allows for the customer to commit greater amounts of time, money, and energy into their product. Imagine if you started a game and the first level took three weeks to achieve? Chances are you would move on to another game.

MMORPG are more likely to result in addiction because there is no end to the game. One of the unique features of MMORPG’s is that there is no final “game over” scenario. As a result, gamers keep trying to level up and play until a new expansion pack is released -- which creates new levels and a new investment of time and energy and money.

Another part of the appeal of the MMORPG’s is the social interaction that happens during game play. As you gamers know, MMORPGs allow for players to interact with each other -- which creates an experience of having friends and being part of a community. Unfortunately, as was noted above, most video game addicts establish and maintain these social connections at the expense of real-world friendships and community connections.

MMORPGs also tend to produce addiction because they encourage collaboration and teamwork with other gamers across the world. The fact that multiple players, on different sides of the world, can interact and come together to overcome a common challenge adds to the excitement and interest -- which in turn motivates teens to continue to play.

Another unique part of the MMORPG experience is earning in-game currency. The creators of MMORPGs understand that accumulating wealth is very motivating (just as it is in 3D life). As you earn more game currency, you also achieve control, power, respect, influence, and status within the virtual world of the game.

As described in Chapter 2, video games are similar to slot machines in that they both use intermittent or variable ratio schedules to encourage maximum playtime. The “hook” for the gamer within the MMORPGs  is the gamer never knows how long it will take before a reward is earned -  he only knows that if he logs enough hours the reward will eventually come. Video game companies have figured out that this type of reward schedule encourages longer periods of play and encourages continued financial investment in the game.

MMORPGs are also addictive because they require team play in order to level up and advance. As the gamer joins a team, and experiences success as team member, the gamer feels a connection and feels responsible for advancing the goals with his comrades. The gamer wants his character to succeed so that he can make a greater contribution to the success of the team. Due to the fact that most tasks/goals in games can only be accomplished in a group, gamers want to be online whenever his teammates are also online -- and this generates a greater commitment and more total hours invested in the game.

MMORPGs also offer an incentive to continue to play because taking a break from the game can result in losing status or power. In order to prevent a loss of power and status, gamers make every attempt to stay online as much as possible.

Another part of what makes MMORPGs addictive is that short and unscheduled play is rarely rewarded. These games demand long-term commitment – which can last months or even years. Due to the enormous investment in developing a character, gamers obviously are committed to maintaining their character and advancing their standing within the game.

Perhaps what is most interesting and exciting to gamers is that the virtual world of the MMORPG allows players to create avatars that have qualities they wish they had in real life. Gamers can form relationships, develop talents and careers, and accomplish goals that would be difficult or impossible to accomplish in three-dimensional reality. As such, more than any other type game, MMORPGs offer teens a fool-proof escape from the complicated realities of school, family and friends.

Compared to other types of video games, MMORPGs allow gamers to experience a wide variation of feelings and powerful emotions. In the context of playing, the gamer can experience romance, marriage, friendship, power, and loyalty.  Unfortunately, the variety and intensity of emotions experienced during gaming are more interesting and satisfying than the emotions experienced off-line.

Would you trade your off line life for your online life? Yes/No/Unsure

What do you like the most about the avatars/characters that you have created?
Circle all that apply:
attractive to females/ sexually experienced/leadership/heroic/secretive/funny/ handsome.

How are you similar to your avatar/online character(s)?
Circle all that apply:
smart/creative/brave/powerful/strong/popular/aggressive/ruthless/kind/good looking/attractive to females /leader/heroic/secretive/funny/ sexually experienced.

What would be the worst part about giving up your avatar? Circle all that apply:
Loss of online friends/loss of time and money invested in the game/loss of excitement/loss of opportunities to problem solve and strategize/ loss of inter-game power and skills/loss of respect from the gaming community/loss of opportunities for teamwork and collaboration/ loss of feeling smart/ loss of the opportunity to be a hero/ loss of the virtual lover-girlfriend/ a sense of responsibility to the gaming guild-team.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Here is chapter 2 from my new teen video game addiction workbook

Chapter 2: Why are video games addictive?

Did you know the brains of addicted video gamers look similar to the brains of drug addicts -- as both have enlarged “reward centers”? The reward center in your brains releases a "feel good" chemical called dopamine. Gaming causes dopamine production in the brain to increase dramatically - creating a drug like high.

Developing an addiction to gaming also happens because the process of gaming is similar to gambling. All gamers, no matter how skilled, go through a process of winning and losing --which is just like playing a slot machine in Vegas! This lose/win/lose/win dynamic -- called an intermittent reward system --  keeps gamers highly motivated to play.
So, the combination of the gambling like nature of gaming and the drug-like high produced by dopamine can escalate quickly into marathon gaming sessions and the eventual loss of interest and off-line activities and experiences.
How do you feel when you are gaming? Circle all the feelings that apply to your gaming experience:
Excited/Creative/Challenged/Alert/Happy/Energized/Social/Motivated Frustrated/Angry/Sad/Disappointed/Tired/Confused/Irritable/Anxious