Why are Video Games Addictive

Published by Internet Addiction Center on

Do you, your child, or someone you know have a problem with excessive gaming? If so, you are not alone. Millions of gamers have a hard time putting down the controller. Video games can suck you in, preventing you from performing tasks, going to or doing well at work or school, socializing, caring for yourself and others, and forming healthy real-life relationships. A video game addiction can even damage or destroy your life. Why does this happen? Well, there are many reasons why video games are addictive – some of which are highlighted here.

They Are Designed To Be Addictive

Most video games are designed to keep you playing for longer, and keep coming back more often. This makes sense because the way that game companies make money is to engage more users for more time. So, how do they do it? Some games start out as “free to play” then after enough time to get players really engaged and committed to continuing to want to play, they often ask require you to pay keep playing, buy special tools/skills/features/advantages, or advance to the next level. Most gaming companies now engage consulting firms who use combinations of psychology and marketing to increase engagement and willingness to pay for these things.

They Trigger Strong Emotions

Have you ever gotten worked up over a video game? That is because video games can trigger strong emotions. Playing these games is fun because often the characters actually mean something to you and the game means something to you too. These characters can become, at least psychologically, like real friends and enemies. You get to know them, understand them, you begin to care about them.

Often, these games are played alongside real-life friends or acquaintances, and the emotions can be re-lived when discussing a particular game with these friends and this also makes the stakes feel more real. Games also often use music and sound effects to enhance emotional reponses and create memories and experiences.

They Allow You to Escape Reality

One of the reasons people become addicted to video games is because gaming allows them to escape reality. This can be especially true for children who are bullied, abused, lonely, socially-awkward, neglected, or going through a hard time in some part of their life. Adults also use gaming as a way to escape life situations, such as bad relationships, job and life stresses, chronic conditions and disabilities, depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and social anxiety.

Most video games encourage players to immerse themselves in their virtual worlds. Some games even allow you to create your own character with your characteristics or the ones you’d like to have. In this world, you can be who you want to be and accomplish unimaginable things. Some people continue to play video games because they like the way the game makes them feel.

You Can Make Friends and Even Play with your Real-Life Friends

You can make new virtual friends by playing interactive multi-player video games. Many times, these video game developers hone in on a need to feel connected to others so they offer opportunities to play with or against other real-life people. Some games even allow you to play on teams with your real-life friends or acquaintances. This means that there is increased pressure to play more to help your team, particularly if you know you will be seeing them in person at work or school.

In Summary

Video games are addictive by design. It can be particularly difficult as a parent or friend of someone who plays excessively to understand why it is so difficult to stop. This doesn’t mean that everyone who plays has an addiction, but there are certainly warning signs that regular gaming is becoming a problem.


  1. Vitelli, R. (2013). Are video games addictive? Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/media-spotlight/201308/are-video-games-addictive