Craving Candy Crush

There is a lesser-known addiction becoming increasingly common in teens and according to the World Health Organization (WHO), known as “gaming disorder.” If not checked and treated early on, it can cause damage to grades, social life, and personal relationships.

Smartphones have led to an increase in gaming among teens, with the app store available 24/7 and new games coming out all the time. According to Statista.com, 95% of U.S teens have access to a smartphone. By having this significant percentage of teens who own a phone, it increases the likelihood of them playing mobile games and developing an addiction. In fact, FinancesOnline.com found that 79% of Generation Z and Alpha, are active mobile game users. With over more than half of both the younger generations participate in mobile gaming. As a result of the convenience the app store provides, downloading games is quick and simple for users. This availability fuels the high rate at which games are downloaded.

With so many people using mobile games daily, it has led to an increase in popularity with games like Candy Crush, Gardenscapes, Cookie Jam, and Best Fiends. What these games all have in common is that they are all classified as “match three” games. Match three games are based on a main algorithm, where the algorithm creates various combinations and levels that are repeated over time. This repetition is also known as a Gameplay loop, which is a repetition of patterns in each level that can create a calming effect and become a source of comfort for players. Developers design gameplay loops to keep players immersed in the game for hours, despite the lack of novelty.

Aside from the soothing repetition of the game, other factors as to why these games are so enticing to players are the interesting graphics, notifications, and illusion of control. Eye catching graphics is one of the main decisions in deciding on whether to play the game or not. If the design is not colorful, stylized, or appeals to a person’s aesthetics and senses, it will not do well in the market. Mobile games often have a notification feature, which reminds users to play the game daily to earn rewards and advance levels faster. These constant notifications can encourage the player to visit the game regularly and establish a gameplay routine. Most of these match three games are won based on a player’s luck, rather than skill. As a result of the algorithm, that creates a different gameplay every time. Thus, tricking the player into thinking that they have control over each level and the outcome, a similar mindset to the people with a gambling addiction. Betsy Reed, an editor for the Guardian Newspaper, states the reason why people come back to play these games is because they effectively put the user in a “time out” after five losses. This time out means that one can never be completely satiated when playing and always leaves the user wanting more.

One of the biggest motivations behind this “gaming disorder” is the increased production of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a chemical that is released to stimulate the feeling of pleasure or satisfaction. By completing levels in these repetitive games, it causes a dopamine release and the player feels a sense of accomplishment. The more the player plays the game, the more dopamine hits occur, until it becomes part of the players everyday life. Eventually, this dependency on the mobile games to distribute dopamine creates an addiction.

Although these games offer a calming, gratifying experience, this disorder can lead to a lack of motivation for other daily activities, isolation from the outside world, a dependency on a game to create satisfaction, and common withdrawal symptoms such as, anxiety or irritation.

Teenagers who depend on these mobile games to provide satisfaction in their day often skip school and disregard their classwork, in favor of playing these games. This prioritization of games over homework contributes to a fall in grades, which can hurt their overall GPA and class rank. This dedication to gaming can also lead to a lack of sleep which hurts a students attention span and ability to engage in class.

These mobile games are designed to suck in the player and make them play on end for hours at a time. Teens and students who play these games can lose track of time and become detached from reality and think that the only thing that matters is beating the next level or completing the game. By distorting the teens sense of time, it disorients them and makes them lose touch with the happenings of the world around them. It also contributes to a decline in personal relationships with others, as less attention is paid to friends and family.

Gaming disorders have simple solutions that can help ease the addiction. One of the things a person can do is delete the game or turn off the game’s notifications. Once the game is uninstalled, it will not be a temptation on the home screen anymore. There is also the choice to limit screen time in settings, so only a certain amount of time on an app is permitted. With decreasing the amount of time spent playing the game, the need to play will slowly go away. By acknowledging that the desire to play a game is taking over a large part of someone’s daily life, one can follow these solutions and use their time productively.