As a final assignment for my game design class I had the students write an essay on a serious social topic connected to gaming. Many of them chose to write about game addiction, so I have been reading and thinking a lot about the topic recently. And it seems to me that we are taking the wrong perspective on it.
Most of my students tried to compare game addiction to drug addiction, arguing with various degrees of success that the two were either similar or different, and drawing from this a further argument to say whether ‘addictive’ games were good or bad. However I think the comparison itself is invalid. Drugs operate directly on chemical pathways in the brain and create physiological dependencies with quantifiable withdrawal symptoms. The case with games is a lot less cut-and-dry. I would instead compare games with food.