ReStart Co-Founder on Game Addiction as Vice

January 5, 2010 -

The straight-shooters over at Vice interviewed the co-founder of Washington State’s ReStart facility, which treats people for gaming, Internet and texting addictions.

Dr. Hilarie Cash was asked whether or not she believes games are becoming more addictive:

All games focus on the idea of unpredictable reinforcement – you don’t know what’s going to happen when you reach the next stage, but you get “rewards” or “treats” at random points. And people who develop successful games have figured this out. In fact, many games companies hire professional psychologists these days to help them develop the best unpredictable reward payoff structures.

Dr. Cash on the potentially violent side of the addicts she treats:

There was a young man who ended up having to have an intervention. When the parents tried to take the computer out of his room, he tried to attack them with a knife. They just backed down, gave him his computer, went away. A teenager whose parents just take the computer away cold turkey – it’ll send them into a rage, and that rage can be quite dangerous.

How about Dr. Cash’s thoughts on whether gaming addiction or porn addiction will be more hazardous to society over the next ten years?

I think they’re equally hazardous. Pornography taps into anyone’s sex drive or need for sex. I’m sure the numbers of sex addicts far outnumber game addicts. That will probably continue, but I know that the internet-based games are typically highly addictive.


Comments

Re: ReStart Co-Founder on Game Addiction as Vice

"In fact, many games companies hire professional psychologists these days to help them develop the best unpredictable reward payoff structures."

First I've heard of it and I've been in the business for 10 years.

"There was a young man who ended up having to have an intervention. When the parents tried to take the computer out of his room, he tried to attack them with a knife. They just backed down, gave him his computer, went away. A teenager whose parents just take the computer away cold turkey – it’ll send them into a rage, and that rage can be quite dangerous."

Ah, unverifiable anecdotes. Gotta love them. Of course this story is protected by doctor patient confidentiality and the fact he is probably a minor, so the truth of this statement cannot be validated.

Re: ReStart Co-Founder on Game Addiction as Vice

Why video games?

How many years have people been just OBSESSING over sports - and you never hear anything about that, do you?

How many gamers are making their way into the news like sports personalities do or celebrities do?

Shoot - I mean, if you bash my choice in games; I'll just think 'whatever'. If you bash some of these sports zealot's game of choice, then "thems is fightin' words".

So why doesn't Washington State study 'Sports Obsession' - or would it impact the 'bottom line' on Alumni donations from sports fanatics too much?

So...  "whatever" (I don't have anything against sports, I just HATE the hypocrisy).

:)

Re: ReStart Co-Founder on Game Addiction as Vice

Im sorry lady, but Im not a nemphomaniac. But I do love playing games a lot! :) I agree w/TBoneTony on this......it doesn't sound like she has played video games. & she did waste paper on this subject matter.

There was a young man who ended up having to have an intervention. When the parents tried to take the computer out of his room, he tried to attack them with a knife. They just backed down, gave him his computer, went away. A teenager whose parents just take the computer away cold turkey – it’ll send them into a rage, and that rage can be quite dangerous.

I don't think the kid has a problem aka addiction to his computer, but maybe b/c he does his homework on it, he of course plays games on it too & surfs the web & lots of more sites to look at like networking sites......If my parents took away my computer when I was a teenager, I would of asked them why? & they had better give me a better reason than me being a game addict. It sounds like this kid also plays his computer to get away from the outside world & his parents.

I think they’re equally hazardous. Pornography taps into anyone’s sex drive or need for sex. I’m sure the numbers of sex addicts far outnumber game addicts. That will probably continue, but I know that the internet-based games are typically highly addictive.

Yes she is right about the second sentence b/c of course it is fullfilling our desires, but so can a live human being of the opposite or same sex. Whatever that person prefers......but also I highly doubt this woman knkows that a healthy sex life is very healthy whether the male/female has someone or is by themselves using toys. But on another note, how would she know that internet-based games are highly addictive? Why didn't she say console games being addictive? Right now, as far as I'm concerned my xbox360 for me & my handhelds are highly addictive, not my computer. She is wrong.

"It's better to be hated for who you are, then be loved for who you are not." - Montgomery Gentry

"It's better to be hated for who you are, then be loved for who you are not." - Montgomery Gentry

Re: ReStart Co-Founder on Game Addiction as Vice

Next time a family member tries to rob you, have a serious talk! Pulling a knife isso not cool!  

 

Parents should, at least, respect their kids privacy. In this day and age, any laptop, cell or desktop computer, and even their gaming devices -- if you start collecting your kids gadgets, it's more than just taking away your good old bicycle or having a month with no telephone. Give them some dignity. Not that I defend the pulling a knife move, but that kid must've been either mental or desperate.

 

These devices store the most intimate and private moments. Pictures. Messages. Do you want someone snooping around yours? No? Than, if you absolutely must confiscate some piece of electronic equipment from your son or daughter to punish them for something, - give them a few minutes of time to either remove, move, backup or delete their private data from it.

 

Believe me, you haven't seen the half of it. And you shouldn't, in most cases.

 

Re: ReStart Co-Founder on Game Addiction as Vice

All games focus on the idea of unpredictable reinforcement – you don’t know what’s going to happen when you reach the next stage, but you get “rewards” or “treats” at random points.

Screw games, books are the real entertainment crack, you don't know what's going to happen next but they taunt you into reading more because what happens next is right there on the next page over and you can't help it but you catch a word or two of whats coming up and you've just got to keep on going and they keep rewarding you with new stuff happening, there's no grinding with having to read the same sentance over and over (except in some kids books cus they've got to make em easy for the noobs) and then there treats like things popping up or if it's a really fancy book you get a little pictures and you have to press the button with the same picture on the side of the book and it makes a moo or a woof or something and you just want to keep pressing those buttons but you can't because then the story makes no sense and some of them have more buttons than on a games controller! It's crazy!!! Last book I read was totally addictive, I couldn't stop until I found out how that mouse escaped the gruffalow

Re: ReStart Co-Founder on Game Addiction as Vice

Waste of good money and paper in my view.

Trying to talk about videogames without even being able to play them.

She is right about the person attacking his parents when they tried to take his computer away from him, but I would feel the same way if someone took my Videogames, my Anime, my Manga, my TV, my Football collection of cards...

In my view, she is only focusing on what she sees and what she thinks are the problem, but the real problem is starting at her right in the face.

It is not videogames that are the problem, it is because of stupid people on the news making parents fear videogames being harmful for their kids and parents getting parinoid that they take away things from their kids and the kids don't know how to react except for trying to fight to keep something that is special to them.

To be honest, allot of mental stress is wasted on things that should not be worried about in the first place, THAT is where the REAL problem lies.

 

TBoneTony

Re: ReStart Co-Founder on Game Addiction as Vice

"All games focus on the idea of unpredictable reinforcement – you don’t know what’s going to happen when you reach the next stage, but you get “rewards” or “treats” at random points. And people who develop successful games have figured this out. In fact, many games companies hire professional psychologists these days to help them develop the best unpredictable reward payoff structures."

This couldn't be further from the truth of the matter if she tried.

If rewards in gaming were unpredictable players would hate the game. They may seem random to someone who doesn't understand games, but developing a predictable reward system (when I level up I get better, when I beat a boss I get better, when I win X times I get better, when I block I do better, when I save items for hard fights I do better, etc.) is key to making a game enjoyable. It's why games have learning curves, it's why games can become grouped into genres. In fact, one of a game developers hardest challenges is to develope a UNIQUE reward system that players will still be able to pick up on and enjoy quickly. And this isn't just videogames either, EVERY game be it card, board, word, or videogame requires a predictable reward system to be enjoyed.

Psychology fail.

Re: ReStart Co-Founder on Game Addiction as Vice

I agree with you 100% on this one. When I read "Unpredictable Reinforcement", I completely lost what she was trying to talk about.

Psychology for the stupid if you ask me.

Games are addictive because I ENJOY THEM... and enjoyment can be done in different ways.

Some people like videogames with lots of action, some like strategy.

I know a person who loves Videogames but hates the ones I like because he wants all action and I love games with a slow pace and strategy with a good storyline.

Also when I click on a desirable option in a Japanese Dating Sim, the reward I get is not unpredictable, it is a really simple reward for being able to help a girl out.

This Psychologist does not know what he/she is talking about.

TBoneTony

Re: ReStart Co-Founder on Game Addiction as Vice

Actually, she's not at all wrong on that front. You say they're addictive because you enjoy them, but why do you enjoy them?

It's pretty common understand in game design theory that the essesence of what entrances people when playing games is the proper balance of challenge -- when a game has too much challenge it's frustrating, and when there's too little it's boring. one of the biggest problems of addressing a diverse market of gamers is trying to find an appropriate level of challenge for all/many tastes and skill levels.

Of course, challenge is relative for each gamer, and (generally) decreases over time as you play a game and gain mastery of it. It's very well described in a Theory of Fun for Game Design when the author discusses 'Grokking'. The concept is that to grok a system is to understand it completely, in an intuitive way. This means that we unconciously predict the system and how it behaves. Because our brains are built with a desire to learn, we find grokking, the act of uncovering a system's mechanics, to be very pleasurable. Once you've grokked a game, you're done with it, as there's nothing left to learn.

This, of course, leads to the value of unpredictable systems in games, like random drops, loot, and player opponents, as we can't really percieve random events subconciously. Our grokking instincts kick in and try to make us examine the seemingly random system some more to find a pattern so that we can predict it in the future. And if you're rewarded regularly enough, but not too regularly, you'll keep coming back to the game and it's random systems because you feel like you're gaining mastery over it when really you're making very little or no progress at all.


In sum; random elements are addictive because we cannot predict them, and our brains are hardwired to try and assign a pattern to observed events.

All that said, this lady is still full of crap. There's no evidence that gaming (or sex) is addictive, or at least, any more addictive than any activity. It's understood that people can develop addictive tendencies in complex situations -- it's a cop out to blame games when people have very difficult problems to work out. Treating 'game addiction' is to ignore the nuanced reality of a person's life in order to advance an agenda demonizing entertainment.

Re: ReStart Co-Founder on Game Addiction as Vice

"How about Dr. Cash’s thoughts on whether gaming addiction or porn addiction will be more hazardous to society over the next ten years?"

Whichever will make her the most money, I'm sure.

Re: ReStart Co-Founder on Game Addiction as Vice

We're compared to sex addiction now?

actually, i have a question regarding sex addiction, when exactly does someone become considered addicted to sex? i mean, yeah if that's all they do, or sit in front of a computer for 10 hours looking at porn, then that's bad (which doesn't take a genius to figure out). But otherwise my view is that if your body naturally desires it and it doesn't cause health issues then whats the problem? It's always confused me exactly why (at the very least our american culture) society puts such a negative...outlook (can't really think of a better word) on things like sex and masturbation. They aren't things I like to think about, but i don't view them as "bad" per se.

I'm starting to think people like to throw the word "addiction" around a little to easily these days.

As for unpredicatable rewards...well that's why games like Diablo, Borderlands, and Torchlight are so fun, constant rewards of the same nature gets boring.

Re: ReStart Co-Founder on Game Addiction as Vice

Classicly, 'sex addiction' kicks in when it is no longer controlable behavior and prevents one from doing things like holding down a job.

Granted the is the US we are talking about,.. a very sex-negative culture, so people often use it to describe anything more then 'once per month with your one and only opposte sex soul mate after getting married'

Re: ReStart Co-Founder on Game Addiction as Vice

Well that makes perfect sense.

Although to be honest, i can't imagine how someone would be able to desire, or be physically able to engage in sex (by themselves or with another) to the point they can't hold jobs or anything else.

...guess that means i don't have that problem then.

Re: ReStart Co-Founder on Game Addiction as Vice

I should have checked earlier, but now I checked the GP links to past stories, I am NOT surprised to find this unfounded bullshit spouting quack is the same person that runs that piece of shit "pay me lots of money to bake cookies and do my house chores for me" woman.

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I LIKE the fence. I get 2 groups to laugh at then.

-------------------------------------------------- I LIKE the fence. I get 2 groups to laugh at then.

Re: ReStart Co-Founder on Game Addiction as Vice

So, videogames are addictive because of unpredictable rewards? Lets not forget that games also have unpredictable "punishments". In fact, so does life. Is life addicting? I mean if you're going to give some sort plausible addiction claim, like that a game's challenge is addicting or something similar. Can this person even name a game company that hired psychologists, much less show evidence of such.

The thing about addiction is, that there are many types of addiction, some of which are perfectly normal otherwise. Such addictions include shopping, work, excercise, you name it. The kid willing to use a knife to "defend" his computer did it because of the effects of an addiction, not because this particular addiction happened to be his computer.

Lastly, how can sex addiction, an addiction linked to a physical feeling and desire, be as dangerous as videogame addiction.

"The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits." -Albert Einstein

Re: ReStart Co-Founder on Game Addiction as Vice

Is life addicting?

Well, I know I couldn't live without it. :-)

Re: ReStart Co-Founder on Game Addiction as Vice

Because the lady with the mail-order degree says so of course.

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I LIKE the fence. I get 2 groups to laugh at then.

-------------------------------------------------- I LIKE the fence. I get 2 groups to laugh at then.

Re: ReStart Co-Founder on Game Addiction as Vice

In fact, many games companies hire professional psychologists these days to help them develop the best unpredictable reward payoff structures.

I wonder what her proof is for this statement. I read the gaming news daily and have not seen anything to back this claim.

E. Zachary Knight
Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA
http://www.theeca.com/chapters_oklahoma

Re: ReStart Co-Founder on Game Addiction as Vice

Last I checked, game companies tend to be rather mono-culture, following the same trends they have been for years or 'whatever sounds good'.  I highly doubt anyone outside the field of serious games bothers hiring psychologists.

Last game company I worked for was big on the 'we are a bunch of dumpy white guys, but we know exactly how to think like our entire market!' with group think kicking in pretty quickly.  They had been producting games for over 30 years.. if THEY had not grown up yet, I doubt many of the newer companies have.

Re: ReStart Co-Founder on Game Addiction as Vice

She sounds like she's more suited to a Fox News "specialist" then someone who should be treating actual people.

--------------------------------------------------

I LIKE the fence. I get 2 groups to laugh at then.

-------------------------------------------------- I LIKE the fence. I get 2 groups to laugh at then.
 
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