What is it about video games that are so attractive to young men? What is it about gaming that draws them in like a moth to a flame?
At Forte Strong, we get asked these questions on a weekly basis. Video games by nature are meant to be enticing, exhilarating, and yes, addictive. Why? Well, let’s think of it from a business perspective: if a video game can draw you in and captivate your attention, you will be much more likely to buy the next installment of the same game of that series when it gets released. You see, video games are like any professional team franchise. They have fans! Baseball, football, basketball, hockey… they all have raving fans who want to be entertained and are more than willing to give away their money to do so. These team franchises want loyal fans who will indoctrinate their friends into loving their team, much like I have done with my children (go Clippers!).
For example, the successful video game franchise HALO, has made well over $5 Billion dollars (and that was as of 2015!). And as of January this year, the infamous World of Warcraft has produced more than $10 Billion in revenue. Video game designer Jane McGonigal said in her 2010 Ted talk,
“Hundreds of millions of people around the globe are already devoting larger and larger chunks of time to this alternate reality. Collectively, we spend three billion hours a week gaming. In the United States, where there are 183 million active gamers, video games took in about $15.5 billion last year. And though a typical gamer plays for just an hour or two a day, there are now more that five million “extreme” gamers in the U.S. who play an average of 45 hours a week. To put this in perspective, the number of hours that gamers worldwide have spent playing World of Warcraft alone adds up to 5.93 million years.” (And that was seven years ago!)
John Eldredge, author of the book Wild At Heart perhaps put it best when he said, “Deep in his heart, every man longs for a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to be won.” You see, the male entity has an innate desire for challenge deep in his soul. EVERY man. This starts at a young age and can be manifested in a young boys desire to build and create structures and vehicles out of legos, destroy the tall tower he made out of blocks, and discover all of the bugs and other creatures that may be residing in his backyard. Most mothers we talk to say something to the effect of, “My son doesn’t like to be challenged. All he does is isolate in his room, and play video games nonstop. He doesn’t socialize much with friends and wants to spend every hour of his free-time gaming.”
But you see, video games stimulate this need in a big way. In every new level there is discovery happening. Most video games are created with puzzles, plot twist and turns, innocents to rescue and bosses to battle. Every hour played allows these young men to find new, more powerful armor and weapons, upgrade their character and become more mighty. Even in role playing games, the decisions you make will actually increase your in-game reputation, affecting the outcome of the other characters you interact with as you progress. This is something that takes a lot of energy and effort to do in the real world.
Lets not forget about the social aspect as well. What do video games achieve as far as peer-interaction? Well, you can easily converse with someone halfway across the world with a head mic and lead a team of allied world war II soldiers in recapturing a french town from Nazi soldiers. I can “socialize” with a group of comrades from all over and strategically maneuver and lead them around the virtual battlefield. Although fleeting, this “friendship”, created when all are fighting towards a common goal, can make a young man feel like he’s meeting or exceeding the social need to interact with others. The problem with all of this is that when the power button is pressed, and the game console is turned off, that social group disappears. All of the excitement and action is momentary, so young men become addicted to playing and socializing virtually, to meet that need.
So you can see that video games are becoming more accessible, more interactive, and more challenging than ever before, and that is why they have become so enticing. Now that you understand why video games are so attractive, what can you do about it? There is a simple answer, but that doesn’t make it easy. Half of the battle will be to change the environment. With a change of environment, we introduce an element of “psychological disruption” where your son will be challenged to create new thought patterns, routines, and interactions. This involves parents learning to set healthy boundaries and sticking to them. That boundary might look something like this, “Son, I know you like playing video games. But, we’re not going to support that lifestyle. You are more than welcome to support that lifestyle in your place. We’re giving you 30 days to move out and find your place so you can live how you want to live, without feeling like we’re breathing down your neck. We love and support your need for independence and we know you can do it. Let us know when you have it figured out.”
For parents who struggle when setting boundaries or have a hard time following through with them when they do, might I suggest you call us for advice? We’ve helped thousands of parents find the courage they needed to set boundaries with their children and keep them. You can do it too!
If you’re worried that a video game addiction is causing your son, your loved one, or even yourself to miss out on life, be unable to succeed in college or hold down a job, you may also be suffering from failure to launch syndrome. Our failure to launch a treatment program is geared to help young men learn important life skills while overcoming barriers such as a video game addiction. Get help today.
About the Author
Matthew Arrington grew up in Southern California and has a deep fondness for the ocean and water in general. He’s lived in most of the western united states and attended school in Oregon, where he earned a few degrees in business including, marketing, leadership and organizational management and a Masters in Business. Matt has a huge passion for working with young men to increase their chances of success and credits his current success to the many positive male role models that helped him grow into manhood.