Everybody knows of the stereotypical image of a lazy gamer. Even though that is an exaggeration, there is a valid concern underneath it all. Parents love to quote it, and children love to argue against it: “Do Video Games Make You Lazy?”
Video games do not make people lazy. However, video game addiction does lead to a loss of motivation, undefined life purpose, and stagnation. Gaming responsibly is excellent and can be a fantastic recreational activity. But video game addiction makes us lazy.
To stop being lazy and addicted to video games, we need to understand:
If you want to learn more about video game addiction, its signs, symptoms, causes, the effect on a gamer’s life, how to stop playing video games, how to wean your child off video games, whether games cause violence or make you smarter, then the Comprehensive Guide to Video Game Addiction might be of use to you. Click here to read the complete guide on video game addiction.
Video games provide us with an escape and are very effective coping mechanisms.
Usually, people start playing video games because they are fun. They also serve as a form of escapism. The ability to escape to another world when your life issues don’t stop plaguing you is unparalleled. While many people game responsibly, others use it as a coping mechanism. That can be both good and bad.
Many gamers become addicted to gaming at a young age because they suffer a lot of emotional pain at home or school. Some come from abusive households, while others get bullied at school. A common theme among most gamers is that they feel like nobody understands them. As a result, they turn to a community of like-minded people who support each other. At a young age, we cannot understand and process these emotions, and more often than not, we don’t have anyone to help us navigate this process. In such situations, gaming can be a godsend — it can allow you to escape terrifying situations that make us feel powerless.
However, this comes at a cost. If a person spends too much time gaming and cannot find the help and guidance that they need to navigate their emotions, they can quickly get addicted to video games. While gaming is a decent way to cope with stress, overreliance on any coping mechanism can be harmful. Moreover, due to how video games affect our brains, we must be conscious of how much time we spend playing video games and our motivations for doing so.
Video games allow us to overcome challenges and activate the triumph circuit.
Many studies have shown that children crave challenge and mastery. In evolutionary psychology, there is a strong narrative of going out into the unknown and gaining something new. In our hunter-gatherer days, this drive was necessary to ensure our survival. Evolution favored those humans who ventured out into the wilderness and returned with new and useful resources for their tribe.
As a result, our brains evolved a psychological pattern called the Triumph circuit. This circuit is not as merely mappable to the brain as the learning circuitry since it is more of a mental model than a physical one. However, it is observable in human behavior. The problem with video games is that they have learned to hack into the Triumph circuit. They have found ways to deliver us a sense of challenge and mastery without working for things in real life. That is one of the reasons video games are appealing to children.
Video games are also more appealing to a certain kind of personality. Children who are smart or gifted don’t feel challenged at school, and as a result, get bored quickly. These children turn to video games to feel tested and engaged. Moreover, a child can play video games at their own pace. Unlike school, they don’t need to wait for other students to catch up to progress. They can rapidly complete levels and win the game without getting bored. Over time, they start to rely on video games to feel challenged and master, and they end up getting addicted.
Click here to learn about the signs of video game addiction.
As a result, their academic performance suffers. Neither they nor the people around them understand the need that video games satisfy for them. Therefore, everyone in that equation starts to believe that they are just a lazy gamer.
To understand if video games make us lazy, we need to know how video games affect our brains. One of the most significant impacts of video game addiction is that your learning circuitry becomes compromised.
The amygdala is the part of the brain that governs negative emotions. It becomes active when we experience fear, anger, sadness, frustration, or any other negative emotion. fMRI studies have shown that when we start gaming while the amygdala is active, it calms down. These studies concluded that gaming suppresses negative emotions.
Negative emotion is a central player in our learning circuitry. When we get hurt, feel pain, or experience fear and sadness, the amygdala lights up and makes connections with the hippocampus, which governs learning. That is how we learn from painful lessons. For example, if a child touches a hot stove, they learn never to touch it again.
However, when gaming suppresses the amygdala’s function, it becomes harder to create connections to our hippocampus. Thus, our learning capability becomes somewhat impaired because we aren’t able to learn lessons from painful or unpleasant situations. That is one of the biggest reasons that gamers get stuck in life. Even though they logically realize that their gaming habit is preventing them from moving forward, they feel powerless to create change. Their drive to stop gaming and work on other parts of their life becomes diminished, and they get branded as “lazy” by the people around them.
Check out this video on how gaming affects learning circuitry
We already know how gaming affects learning circuitry. However, the impact of video game addiction goes beyond it. Every gamer wants to change, but it is a dauntingly difficult task. The urge to create change isn’t strong enough because there isn’t a reason to create it. Video games suppress their negative emotions, engage their triumph circuit, and provide them with bursts of dopamine. It meets their need for a challenge, albeit in a superficial way. Therefore, despite gaming seemingly fulfilling their needs, they feel hollow.
Paradoxically, human beings are designed to be lazy. We don’t do things until we need to. This mechanism prevents us from spending energy (which is extremely valuable due to evolution) on activities that are considered unnecessary.
Video games present us with intricate puzzles, and we have to solve them efficiently. As a result, gamers’ minds become hyper-efficient — they will only do the things that think is necessary. That is why gamers complain about having a bad habit of procrastination. Procrastination is the result of our brain being too efficient. It will only want to complete a task when necessary. That gets mistaken for laziness since, in practice, it looks like gamers are too lazy to complete their work until the last minute. As a result, people think that video games make you lazy.
Check out this video on how video games affect motivation and willpower:
If we think about it, procrastination is not a problem; it is a solution. It means that gamers can finish something that takes three months and complete it within 24 hours. That is why gamers start to excel when they take on multiple tasks and try to complete it within the same three months. Their mind realizes that it is too much to do at once, and that forces it into action. They end up completing five different assignments instead of barely finishing one.
We have an in-depth webinar about motivation psychology. Check it out here!
Being labeled “lazy” is the worst thing that can happen to a gamer. It is a personality trait, not an issue that has a solution. Therefore, when people tell gamers to “just do it,” that leads to frustration on the gamers’ part. Moreover, their self-esteem also takes a hit. They feel like a failure for not being a functional member of society, which lowers their self-confidence. Their gaming habit gets worse because gaming is the only way they know to suppress feelings of insufficiency.
The antidote to this problem lies in cultivating motivation. Motivation is different from willpower — you don’t have to force yourself to do something that you don’t want to. The drive to do starts to come naturally. Most gamers have an issue with motivation. That is because we don’t understand the origins of motivation.
Most people’s approach to gain motivation is by seeking the satisfaction of desires. However, this strategy inevitably fails. For example, if you feel motivated to eat a burger, that urge will go away once you satisfy it. When you sate a desire, it no longer drives you to engage in a behavior. Therefore, desire satisfaction is a bad strategy because desires eventually fizzle out.
Dr. K talks about motivation and desire satisfaction in this video:
The solution to this is to draw motivation from your values. Values are what push us to do hard things in life. They are our guiding compass — they enable us to move forward despite the difficulties involved. That is Dharma, the Sanskrit word for duty or responsibility.
If you feel that your gaming habit is affecting your life, we can help. Sign up to work with a Healthy Gamer Coach, trained by Dr. Alok Kanojia himself. Healthy Gamer Coaches are gamers who have taken control of their life, and know exactly what you’re going through.
If you’re a parent seeking help with your child’s video game addiction, check out our Family Programs.