| dove l'informazione diventa benessere
May 2017
Print this
You are here: / Psychology / Various articles / Addictions / To video games



Using technology as a leisure time activity involves very important psychological, educational and social aspects as it stimulates the creation of our personalities, learning rules and social integration.
It allows the mind to learn and perfect mental skills, such as imagination, sensory perception, the ability to distinguish reality from fiction, the ability to compare oneself, communicate and take on roles, and technology is put forward as an instrument that is even able to motivate pupils at school. Today, and increasingly more often, gaming consists of a video game which can respond to everyone’s need to play, including adults.
By doing this and responding to a healthy and natural passion, modern technology has become a part of the gaming world, but not always as an educational or social need as, sometimes, it can be abused or become a source of negative, and in extreme pathological cases, social role models.


Playing, a natural and fundamental activity for children, also has an irreplaceable role in adulthood, where it takes on different forms but remains a need and necessary skill which remains present for one’s entire life. There are various types of leisure activities which gradually develop during our lives and these sometimes have neighbouring or overlapping functions which are all very important in terms of health and psycho-social development.
Initially, playing is strongly fuelled by movement and exploration needs during childhood, which are satisfied by sensorimotor games, that is, games called ‘exercise games’ which are continual forms of learning and perfecting gestures, movements, motor patterns and other types of skills. One of the more important types of games is imitating which, through auditory and visual experiences and hearing/seeing sounds, words and facial expressions, allow children to learn to recognise and express their emotions.
Following this, and with a push from creative impulses, a symbolic game begins, through which children make and perfect continual distinctions between fiction and reality, testing real and imaginary barriers. Children play ‘make believe’ so that, by violating reality, they can acknowledge, recognise and strengthen their awareness of reality and its rules. 
‘Make believe’ games also include role playing and playing by the rules, which are very important instruments for the development and perfecting of social skills, one’s personality, standards of human conduct and the ability to master the endless possibilities of communication and human interaction. It is for this reason that children who play more role play games develop better social skills as these skills are often linked to a precocious development of the empathy, or in other words, the ability to put oneself in another person’s position, which is acquired through games where one empathises with another person’s needs, problems and possibilities. The time we spend playing reduces with age and commitments but this allows us to appreciate another very important function of leisure time activities, which is very common amongst adults: the function of abreaction, that is, getting rid of tension, stress and tiredness and getting one’s energy back up after using it to work.
The need to play remains in adulthood in different forms and amounts and symbolic ‘games’ are turned into creative writing, sporting, musical and artistic activities. Adults also respond to their desire to compare and test themselves despite the consequences of the actions through a so called ‘moratorium on playing’. 


For some years now, a large part of people’s free time has been won over by the new technological possibilities of videogames, which have become one of the most popular past times and which are able to engage people of all ages and both sexes. However, together with a passion for videogames, psycho-physical health risks have also appeared which are related to overuse or inappropriate and harmful types of videogames. However, it is important to highlight the fact that videogames can also have positive effects on the people who play them, and these are listed below:

  • videogames are a type of sensorimotor game since they stimulate eyesight and some hand movements;
  • they can stimulate comprehension of tasks which need to be done and supporting inductive thinking;
  • they can get the player used to managing objectives and help them identify sub-objectives;
  • videogames can help people to learn self-control and deal with emotions related to the performance of a task;
  • videogames can help with the development of some aspects of people’s personalities, their ability to make decisions quickly, deal with problems and take the initiative;
  • they can encourage learning about certain subjects, technical terminology and procedure methods related to what happens in the videogame.

An example of using videogames for educational ends is a certain type of software developed by specialised companies which have created programmes to help learners who suffer from learning disorders, such as dyslexia, dyscalculia and sensory deficits. Videogames have a very strong motivating power and they also have the ability to capture and keep people’s attention by using more than one sensory stimulation channel. The potential videogames have shows that it is not the game itself that is dangerous to us, but rather using it too much.

Referring once again the risks proposed by videogames, we can draw up a list of possible harmful and negative effects they have. One of the first negative consequences related to playing videogames for a long period of time is videogame mania (or videogame abuse) which consists of not being able to control how much one plays videogames and which usually leads on to other harmful effects of videogames.
Together with videogame abuse, as is the case for television addiction (these two addictions have many similar elements), there are signs of disturbing behaviour, such as a sedentary lifestyle which can lead to health problems like being overweight.
Another negative type of behaviour seen in those who play videogames excessively is called video fixation, that is, a prolonged exposure to a videogame, without stopping, and being completely absorbed in the game, sitting in silence, often in a dark room. This behaviour, which is similar to telefixation, can make rational barriers, which help to filter the content of videogames, become blurred and victims begin to judge virtual behaviour in comparison to real behaviour. 
Playing videogames excessively also means that less time is given to other activities, but not just physical ones: activities related to learning at school start to be carried out quickly too, with little attention paid to them, causing mental (and often visual) fatigue which results in bad marks and a poor academic performance.
Excessive gaming can also take over all other activities, including socialising, which leads onto a state of isolation and solitude which subsequently leads onto introversion which limits people’s learning capabilities of social skills, often creating problems with family members.
Children and teenagers who suffer from video mania or addictions to videogames often end up arguing repeatedly with brothers, sisters and friends so they can spend more time playing videogames. Adults who are addicted to videogames, the number of which is increasing, spend their time playing because of problems in their relationships or families, and the problems are related to partners claiming they are being neglected or that the addict is not upholding their responsibilities. 
Psychological activation and obsession with videogames can even cause states of agitation when the addict cannot play and they can cause insomnia or interrupted sleep as the addict dreams about things related to the content of videogames.
The problem is clinical when a videogame addict can no longer control their behaviour towards playing videogames and this usually results in compulsive searches for new and fashionable videogames too, which, in adults, can result in shopping syndrome, whereas for teenagers, this results in them continually asking their parents to purchase new videogames.

One of the key points of videogame abuse and videogame addiction is the challenge established between the addict and the machine, which is rooted in the person’s need to show him/herself and the virtual antagonist his/her worth and ability. It is this need that always backs virtual gaming; victory reinforces one’s beliefs and good performances strengthen the ego, whilst defeat results in an attempt to rescue one’s self-esteem which has been threatened with failure.

Addiction to electronic videogames affects the two sexes differently because the games, and their content, are mainly aimed at a male audience. Recently, videogame companies have developed new games which are aimed at a female audience, which has of course resulted in an increase in the number of females addicted to videogames.


Many of the effects described so far that are related to videogame addiction are mainly linked to excessive and inappropriate use. However, a worrying phenomenon related to this electronic past time derives from the subjects of the videogame.
Recently, the themes of videogames have been discussed at large. The biggest problem is the violence and morally deplorable behaviour featured in videogames, like showing aggression towards people or things, stealing and even rape. Sometimes, the violent behaviour witnessed on a videogame even inspires people to carry out episodes of violence which have similar characteristics to what they saw whilst playing. In other cases, emotional reactions provoked by what was witnessed when playing have been discussed, such as emotional problems caused by the loss of a virtual person or animal the addict cared for.


With the aim of controlling one’s use of videogames, it is possible to follow some rules regarding one’s behaviour so as to keep this type of leisure activity under control. 

  1. The first rule is quantitative and regards the time spent using the videogame, which should never be more than one hour a day. For children, the amount of time dedicated to play videogames should be a habit which is supervised by adults, with few exceptions, for example, holidays, when it is easy to lose track of the time spent playing virtual games.
  2. The second rule concerns the quality of the consumption, or in other words, the need to get into the habit of taking short and frequent breaks approximately every ten minutes. During these breaks, it is recommended that you try to focus on objects that are far away (at least six metres away) to relax the eye muscles that will have been contracted whilst playing.
  3. The third rule regards the need to spend only some of one’s free time playing videogames and leaving more time for other ‘real’ and ‘social’ activities like sports or meeting up with friends. By doing this, problems relating to physical inactivity and social isolation can be prevented.

What is extremely important is not renouncing normal, daily activities like sleeping, eating, washing, studying or working. Videogames must never take priority over these activities.

What us also useful is playing videogames with other people so there is an element of socialising, rather than complete isolation.

In any case, it is always important that parents do not let their children become affected by the time spent, methods used and themes of videogames. With regards to the themes of videogames, it is best to check the content of the videogame before purchasing it, steering clear of violent or excessively competitive games. The best rule remains prevention which is based on good habits and not going overboard on control so you do not get addicted as it then becomes hard to give up the addiction.

  • News of the month
    Discover all the latest news this month on

Copyright © 1999-2017 A.E.C. srl - ABOUT US