With the news this week that Chinese authorities are cracking down on gaming time for under 18s, gaming addiction is the topic of our weekly wonder. We take a look at some gaming stats from Southeast Asia, find out what the most addictive video game is, and ask “Has gaming become more intentionally addictive?”
Note: The figures above reflect consoles only, not smartphones.
Facts and figures:
- The World Health Organization (WHO) recognized Gaming Disorder as a mental health condition in 2019. It’s defined as: “a pattern of gaming behavior (“digital-gaming” or “video-gaming”) characterized by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.”
- China is the second-largest gaming market in the world, after the US.
- A 2017 study from Hong Kong revealed that 13.9% of male students who responded spent over 20 hours a week playing video games.
- In South Korea, gaming disorder has been declared a public health crisis, with over 600,000 children struggling to battle addiction to video games.
- It’s estimated that 10% of children in Singapore are addicted to the internet and gaming.
- This video explains more about the geographical breakdown of video game addiction, though it might surprise you that Iran has the highest prevalence of addiction to video games in the world, according to Dr. Alok Kanojia, the world’s expert in video game addiction psychiatry.
- But, according to Vladimir Poznyak, a WHO researcher who focuses on gaming disorder, geographical location has little to no impact on your likelihood of becoming addicted to gaming.
- It’s thought that greater access to technology could be behind the rise in gaming addiction in parts of Asia including China, Japan, and South Korea — as well as Europe and the US.
- According to a 2020 study by the Radio and Media Association for Children and Youth of 3,065 Thais aged 15 to 18, 32.6% of those surveyed spent three to five hours a day playing online games on the weekend and during holidays.
What’s the most addictive game?
Honor of Kings, one of China’s most popular multiplayer online battle games from Tencent, has already come under fire from parents who feel its minimum age of 12 is far too low due to its “violent, vulgar content.”
In 2020, HoK had over 100 million daily active users.
Has gaming become more intentionally addictive?
Our own Joe Hindy weighs in with his thoughts on mobile gaming and addiction:
“I started covering mobile games roughly eight years ago. Back then, what people considered to be a good mobile game was vastly different than it is today. We had simple arcade games like Doodle Jump, Flappy Bird, Fruit Ninja, and Angry Birds. Sure, there were occasionally more complex games like Bard’s Tale, but generally, people gravitated toward the arcade games for their shorter play sessions and consistent success when you cleared relatively short levels.
“Today, things haven’t changed as much as many might think. The most popular mobile games include Genshin Impact, Pokemon Go, PUBG Mobile, Garena Free Fire, and other such games. The graphics, mechanics, and gameplay execution are much better than older mobile games. In those categories, huge strides have been made. However, newer mobile games use most of the same addictive triggers to encourage more player engagement.
“Mobile games do an excellent job of stimulating the reward pathways in the brain. Multiple studies have confirmed this; in fact, the World Health Organization classifies gaming disorder as a real psychological disorder because psychology has shown that games can cause addiction to such an extent that it affects a person’s ability to function in society.
“There is also evidence to suggest that people with depression, social anxiety, and loneliness are at higher risk of developing gaming addiction. Men tend to be more likely to develop gaming disorders overall, but women tend to suffer more negative physical side effects. Studies are still ongoing, of course, because this is a newer phenomenon and there is no long-term data to view yet.
“Early mobile games were addictive, but it was through the simple, but entertaining game mechanics. Modern mobile games have learned to stack addictive mechanics multiple times for maximum effect. Some mobile games have made the practice an art form, like Pokemon Go, with its almost constant supply of rewards that make you want to play more, the egg hatching mechanic that triggers excitement, and the walking aspect of the game that releases addictive exercise endorphins.
“It’s no small wonder Pokemon Go still boasts roughly 150 million monthly active users — and despite being five years old, the numbers are still going up. Compare that to early games like Angry Birds where the addiction loop was much simpler, and you can see how far mobile games have progressed in a relatively short period of time.”