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September 21st, 2011, 17:50
The 5 points are only about the same thing in the sense that they are all methods to get players addicted, but there are important differences and I doubt they all abuse the very same psychological mechanism. For example getting recognition online from having certain "achievements" has a social component just levelling up in a singleplayer RPG does not have.
Sure, you can boil down everything in life to "it's just about the rewards", but that simplifies a lot of issues and is not very helpful.
I agree that some of the mentioned mechanics were already in place and used in arcade machines in the 80s, but arcade halls are now age-restricted throughout most of the civilized world and even illegal in some countries. So I don't see why video games should be held up to a different standards, just because they might not (yet) have the same financially devastating effect as a "normal" gambling addiction.
I see video gaming as one of the most detrimental factors for the generation composed of today's 15-25 year olds. And the issue is further complicated by an older generation of gamers who don't suffer from the same consequence and who subsequently reject the idea that gaming is a very dangerous influence for children.
But the situation today is very different from what it used to be. Gaming has less social stigma attached to it and has permeated various social groups and not just geeks, who tend to be more academically focused and therefore more educated and qualified. In the globalized economy of today the necessary degree of qualification for a high-wage job has risen while the actual wages are decreasing in every segment in first-world countries, without most people realizing this, so that there is an expectation of a wealthy life that is in reality unattainable for most youths today. The modern youth culture also values the idea of appearing autonomous while being academically ignorant higher and indirectly (for example through nihilistic tendencies in metal/goth/emo subcultures) or directly (for example in hip-hop) encourages slacking off to an extent that is not paralleled by previous anti-establishment youth cultures.
While all these influences and factors can be considered detrimental, I argue that gaming is unique and can be considered the most important for the people that are affected by it, because it actively rewires the brain's structure for rewards and potentially scars a gamer for life, since rewiring the brain and changing established patterns is exceptionally hard in later stages of one's life.
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