Why Video Games Are Addicting

This generation and the past few generations have all played video games. Whether it was a 2D Tetris game focused on beating a high score or a 3D world focused on leveling up the player’s character, video games have been in the lives of many. But how did this come to be, and how did they get to be so popular?

The simplest answer to this question is that all video games are designed to be addicting.  All game developers want to make money, and the best way of ensuring that people buy their game is to get good reviews, and good reviews lead to addiction.

This still leaves the questions of how the video games create addiction, which is still quite simple. The underlying hook of addiction lies in progression. For example, Tetris, a very simple game, is focused on beating a high score, a common form of video-game progression. Beating high scores is one of the most common ways in the video-game industry to make a game addicting. In these types of games there is usually no way to “beat” the game, so these types of games are endless and usually take a long time to grow tired of. A personal example of mine is a simple and fun mobile game called Chameleon. It was a fast-paced game focused on completing levels as fast as one could, and it would reward fast times with achievements.

Achievements and end-goal objectives are the second common way that video-game producers make their games addicting. Obtaining achievements or checkpoints in a game is very rewarding if the process of getting it was difficult. End-goal objectives, or completing the game, work the same as achievements and checkpoints. It is usually a difficult objective to reach but is very rewarding once reached. A classic example of these types of games are Mario games, which are usually beaten once the player has saved the princess.

The third way of creating addiction, and recently the most common, is personal character progression. This type of addiction hook is centered around creating an attachment to a character so that the player feels rewarded when equipped with better gear or the player levels up that character. Another personal example of mine with a character progression game is Destiny. Destiny is focused on obtaining better armor and weapons, and the game takes an average of the “score,” or “light level” of that gear and will give a player an overall “light level.” I personally believe that character progression games can be the most addicting, as an older character progression game called Skyrim was all I could play for two entire years.

Keep in mind that video game producers will often blend these methods together. Chameleon uses high scores and achievements. Destiny has a mix of all three addiction methods. Skyrim, the game I mentioned earlier, was focused on leveling up your character enough to defeat the boss(es). This means that Skryim used end-game objectives and character progression. So the next time you play a video-game, I challenge you to recognize what types of addiction hooks the producers put in place. It can often help you understand what makes a game so good.