Addictive Games

I found myself with some time to spare. I tried a number of game apps and ended up deleting because I found they were very addictive. I started with Candy Crush because it’s so well known. Once I was unable to get past levels, I found that I was prompted to buy more moves. Some of the dollar increments are small but they don’t get you very far. It’s also so easy to tap Google Play and almost immediately purchase moves, hints, or whatever is on offer.

Why am I writing about this? I am an adult and I deleted the app. But I teach teens and I’m concerned about impulse control. Even adults have difficulty with cutting those ties. It’s not an obvious problem like drugs or alcohol but you could consider it a form of gambling. Getting past a challenging level is like a shot of dopamine, just like you get when you infrequently win at gambling.

Some people only play when they’re waiting in line, killing time. But then it can start taking over time when you should be productive, like writing blog posts! It is not something you can complete and once you finish a level, you’re prompted to go on to another level. The end goal is not attainable. I’m not sure how many levels there are but I suspect that if anyone actually comes close, the makers of a game will just add more levels. The payoff for them is when people spend money to keep going.

Since this is primarily an education blog, I’m going to suggest that parents check out the apps that their kids have installed on a smartphone. See what level they are at in a game and that will give you a clue to how long or how much their child has been playing. Note that depending on the age of your child and the contract that you have with them (kids will often have a verbal understanding that parents will check their phones), please be sensitive to their privacy needs as well. That’s why it’s good to iron out an understanding in advance when you let your child have a smartphone or other technology that hooks up to the web.

According to an article in The Observer that cites the author Adam Alter, author of Irresistible, there are 4 warning sites to look out for:

  • Is the game hurting someone financially or productively?
  • Is the game causing social problems when the person should be with friends or family?
  • Does the game make the person anxious?
  • Or is the game hurting physiologically (spending too long without moving)?

So are there any games that are preferable?

I like the following because of the educational value and it doesn’t require money to move ahead:

FreeRice – http://freerice.com/category – Donate rice to the World Food Program by answering trivia questions

Please let me know in the comments whatever games you like!

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