Just one more level. Just one more match. Just one more turn. This thought process is by no means uncommon among people who spend their leisure time playing video games, and it is a symptom of just how enveloping gaming can be at times.
A mark of success for many video games is their potential to bring people back time and time again to experience what they have to offer, and in some cases, they never let go in the first place! This is something that many gamers are quite familiar with: settling in to spend a few hours gaming, only to find that the entire day has flow by by the time that they’re done.
With this phenomenon taken into consideration, video games definitely have a certain addictive edge to them, and one that can run rampant with some people if it is left unchecked.
To understand just how video games achieve this addictive effect, one has to understand the extent to which video games differ from one another and how they manage to snag peoples’ attention in a variety of ways.
Sometimes, this manifests as somewhat of a snowball effect, a small commitment that gradually becomes larger and larger. In Sid Meier’s Civilization V, a very slow-paced game, the snowball effect demonstrates its fullest potential; what begins as a small investment of a few turns—moving around units, building improvements, and managing your empire—becomes a massive time sink that ends up stretching gaming sessions that being in the stone age all the way to the modern era. At the time, taking just one more turn seems like nothing, as the typical turn normally takes up perhaps a minute or two. But these small investments quickly stack up and take up entire afternoons as a result.
In other scenarios, the addictive edge of video games takes the form of a continuous rate of activity that never lets up on the tempo. An example of this sort of gameplay can be found in Bethesda’s The Elder Scrolls series. In these styles of games, the sheer amount of things in the game that can be experienced is immense, and quite frequently, one objective will lead to another, which will lead to another, and so on and so forth. Maybe as you set out on specific quest you stumble upon a cave that serves as a hideout for bandits. Maybe while fighting your way through the cave, you find a key item that begins a brand new quest line, and before you know it, you’ve completely forgotten about the quest that you originally set out to do.
Perhaps the most interesting incarnation of this addictive aspect of video games is one that is a result of online interactivity. In games such as Blizzard’s World of Warcraft, the potential for connection and cooperation among different players is massive, and it leads to this game’s own breed of addictive gameplay. In World of Warcraft, there are special quests that numerous players can group together to take on as a cohesive group—these quests are called raids. The reason that raids tend to keep people at their computers longer than they may originally intend is because of the group dynamic that goes along with them. When there is a group of people who are all looking to work together to fulfill a common goal, it discourages players from ducking out on their teammates before the task is finished, and as a result, are more likely to end up sticking out the raid until the very end, rather than drop out only partway through. This effect is further compounded by the fact that many players will frequently group up with others that they are already familiar with and have played with before, making the people involved even less likely to dodge out of a raid as they would be letting down their friends.
Video games have a variety of ways of holding a players attention, and they have proven themselves to be nothing if not effective.