A disturbing news story out of China has placed the spotlight squarely on one of our biggest modern addictions: gaming. A couple in China are going on trial for allegedly trying to sell their children. They ran out of money for buying in-app purchases for tablet and smartphone games. The event illustrates an extreme example of how such gaming habits can get out of control. Most of us have experienced the pull of games like Farmville and Candy Crush Saga. The truth is that the designers of these games have addiction and profit in mind.
App Games and Addiction
Many of the games that you find on your tablet or smartphone are offered for free. Sounds great, right? Most are really simple in theory and a round can be played in a minute or less. That’s just enough time for you to take a quick break from work or to play while waiting in line at the grocery store checkout lane. But before you know it you find yourself playing several rounds in a row. You stop working to play one round and find 30 minutes have passed. You just need to get to the next level, but the game has gotten so difficult. Losing makes you irritable. When you finally pass that level you feel ecstatic. You fingers itch to play another round. What’s going on here? These symptoms are strikingly similar to an addiction. The designers of these free app games want you to get addicted. The first thing they did was create a simple game that anyone could play, even a preschooler. Then, they designed the game to be easy at first. Initially, you can pass the levels easily and quickly, and it feels good. As with an addictive chemical substance, these little wins are rewards to your brain. Then, the designers made higher levels more difficult and winning more intermittent. You end up chasing that winning high, desperate to get it back, just like a drug addict.
Selling Babies for a Game
Once you’re hooked on a free app game, the designers have you right where they want you. They can charge you, small amounts really, to buy codes to get to the next level or for bonus points. The next thing you know, you’ve spent hundreds searching the ever more elusive high of winning and going on to the next level. You can even show off your wins by posting on Facebook or Twitter. If you have found yourself the victim of this masterful game design, you may be able to understand, even if only a tiny bit, why the Chinese couple felt so desperate. The couple in question didn’t plan their pregnancies and were already hooked on gaming. They sold the first baby to traffickers and then found themselves with another unplanned pregnancy. They planned to sell that one as well, in order to fund their habits. They claim that selling the children was necessary, as they didn’t have the means to support them. The two were caught when the grandfather of the infants reported the parents to the police. They are now awaiting trial. Gaming can be a real problem for some people, and the fact that app games are free and designed to lead to addictive behaviors means that many of us are susceptible to getting hooked. If you feel like you can’t stop using your games and it’s interfering with your life, seek professional help before the problem gets worse.