Causes of Excessive Playing

Why does someone become an excessive player?

Many models have attempted to explain why someone might use video games or the Internet excessively. A combination of factors related to the person, the context and the availability of video games or the Internet can explain excessive use. The individual may be interested in a specific type of use (e.g. cyber-sex, online video games, etc.) or general use of many Internet-based activities*.

Excessive Internet use can be linked to unhelpful cognitions*, which may maintain or increase inadaptive responses. The cognitions revolve around two themes: thoughts about oneself or thoughts about the world. A player is likely to ruminate over thoughts about themselves. These often include thoughts related to low self-esteem and negative self perception, for example "I am only good at the Internet" or "I am nobody, but I am someone on the Internet". Consequently, the person uses video games or the Internet more frequently, in order to obtain a positive response. Thoughts relating to the world might include "WoW is the only place where I am respected"; "The members of my guild are my only friends". These thoughts are triggered automatically when the person has an Internet based experience.

On the other hand, video games can be considered as a means of learning*. After using new technology, the individual`s behaviour is reinforced by the responses they receive. If the response is positive the behaviour will be reinforced. Positive responses include having fun, gaining a sense of satisfaction or receiving recognition or admiration from others. In such situations, the person is likely to continue with the activity. Moreover, the individual is likely to undertake the activity more often, in order to obtain the original outcome that they gained from their first experience.

Research conducted with gamblers and substance abusers has shown that there is a biological basis which underlies the player`s behaviour. Deregulation within a cerebral system called the "reward circuit" has been found within this population. Specifically, there is a deregulation of dopamine levels and other neurotransmitters involved with reward. Currently, there are no studies that examine the link between excessive Internet and video game use and the reward circuit. However it appears that a relationship is likely and should be considered.

Finally, certain authors (e.g. Tisseron, 2006) highlight a link between adolescence and excessive video game and Internet use. According to Tisseron, young people seek these activities in order to "fill a gap" in their lives. Similarly, they may play to gain recognition or a sense of existence within the world. More specifically, this may be driven by a need to experience feelings such as excitement and capability (of manipulating objects or avatars). Young people are also interested in new technologies, which develop their knowledge. This prepares them for the real world and also enables them to meet others (Tisseron, 2006)

*Davis, 2001

bandeau bottom CJE - Centre du jeu excessif UNIGE - Université de Genève IMSP - Institut de Médecine Sociale et Préventive CHUV - Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois

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