If you have a smart phone or use Facebook, you probably have run across or played Candy Crush Saga as well as other popular games. Playing them is innocent and fun, but when you can’t stop playing them and you begin avoiding real life because you’d much rather spend time lining up candy in a row to score points, there’s a problem. Although that may sound funny, it’s very serious. More than 93 million people play more than 1 billion times a day according to the game’s maker, “King Digital Entertainment.”
Dr. Natasha Dow Schull, an Anthropologist and associate professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, studies addiction and games and reports that what hooks people onto games such as Candy Crush is called “Ludic Loop.” The idea is it’s between you and the machine and your job is to do the task again and again. You never know what the reward will be or whether you get the reward, but the repetitive task and intermittent reward keeps you trying. It removes you from the real world and soon you lose time spent involved in the game. She likens Candy Crush and other games as gambling on steroids.
These games provide a way to escape the real world. You enter a world of “Machine Zone;” just you and the machine and no time limits. Games have other addictive components. Things like:
- Feedback is quick.
- They are nice to you…they make you feel like a winner even when you’re not.
- There’s always more. The game goes as long as you do.
- It taps into your inner child.
- Games can be played socially.
Although the game seems innocent enough, if you are playing non-stop or using it to replace loneliness, relationships or feelings you are unable to deal with in real life, it could suggest you have a deeper issue. Here are suggestions that can help you set boundaries to maintain balance in your life and still enjoy your game time.
- Since you lose track of time in a game begin documenting how much time you are playing the game.
- Limit games to times you are off work. Playing over the lunch hour may prevent you from getting that much needed walk or catch up time with your co-workers.
- Never let your game time replace time with family or friends. Kids need attention and being there means being engaged with them, not Candy Crush or some other game.
- Keep track of data used on your smart phone. Game apps can become expensive if played hours each day.
When a game becomes more important to you than relationships it’s time to become reinvested in your real life. That means taking a break from all gaming for at least 30 days. This will help you re-discover the life you’ve replaced with games and afford you insight into why you felt the need to escape in the first place.