Overcoming a Pokemon GO Addiction
After the game took the entire world by storm in the summer of 2016 the number of players has been on a steady incline ever since. Pokemon GO has an active player base of 80 million with roughly 800,000 monthly players opening the app to catch em’ all!
The game has been no stranger to making news headlines with fanatical players getting themselves into trouble. So, in this article, we are going to break down the best ways to identify and overcome your Pokemon GO addiction.
Symptoms of Pokemon GO Addiction
For those who aren’t aware, Pokemon GO is an augmented reality game for mobile, released by Nintendo and Niantic. Players use an in-game map to travel to real-life locations and track down where their virtual Pokemon are hiding. For a Pokemon fan, this game model is all that eager trainers have been waiting for. But we’ll get onto this later. For now, let’s take a look at some of the most common symptoms of Pokemon GO addiction.
Obsessive Thinking About Pokemon GO
It’s safe to say that any gamer that loves a video game thinks about it at a few given points in the day. However when the game starts to become all that you can think about then that’s when it starts to become obsessive. If you find yourself constantly distracted at work or school by thoughts of playing Pokemon GO so much that you begin to see a decline in your performance or grades, then this is a symptom of video game addiction.
Furthermore, if you are tuning out of conversations or situations that require your attention because of the game then these are obsessive thoughts about Pokemon GO.
Feeling Irritable and Agitated When not Playing
When a person starts to develop an addiction to video games they start to form a chemical dependence on the dopamine hit they get from gaming. When this happens, gamers have to get their fix through playing or they will likely begin to feel very agitated.
If you find yourself short-tempered, uncomfortable and snappy during the day it could very well be down to missing your fix of dopamine. Of course, video games come with a myriad of negative effects that contribute to these feelings like sleep problems, a decline in general mood and concentration. But the desensitization to dopamine built up through long hours of playing Pokemon GO could be to blame.
We liken this to caffeine addiction. When we drank our first cup of coffee we felt highly stimulated and energized. However, for seasoned coffee drinkers, their dependence is so high that they need multiple cups a day just to feel normal again. Hence without it, they are not so fun to be around.
Neglecting Other Responsibilities for Pokemon GO
One of the primary symptoms of video game addiction is neglecting our important responsibilities in order to keep playing. Addiction to playing Pokemon GO falls into the category of behavioural addiction. By definition, it is a behaviour that has negative effects on us but is persistently carried out. Hence when things that should be our priority start to slip in order to continue playing Pokemon GO then we know it is likely that we are dealing with an addiction.
As some of us might have seen in news articles, addiction to the game has caused detrimental effects like damaged relationships, losing jobs, money and much more. These are the end result of negligence to important aspects of their life. Thus if you feel like your addiction to Pokemon GO is getting in the way of parenting, work, studies or even previous hobbies that you once enjoyed then it might be time to seek help.
Although awareness of video game addiction has grown considerably in the last few years many people are still unsure of what to look for when trying to identify their addiction. Users on the Pokemon GO Reddit find themselves asking questions like “how many hours constitutes an addiction?” Our answer to this is that the number of hours should not be the focus.
Every person is different and therefore have different tolerances. For some, 4 hours a day might seem like the perfect amount to play while others lives could be falling apart by playing this amount. We should typically characterise the addiction by the detrimental impacts it’s having on the different aspects of your life.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recognises this as their definition of video game addiction that explains “There must be significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning” over a 12 month period. This criterion has been used to diagnose video game addiction all over the world as it has been included in psychological diagnostic manuals such as the DSM-5.
If you are unsure about your gaming habits here are some more symptoms of video game addiction to be aware of:
- Neglecting physical health and hygiene
- Decline in mental health
- Poor sleep quality
- Loss of interest in previous hobbies
- Headaches and eye strain
- Lying to conceal gaming habits
These symptoms are not here to scare you but we should be more vigilant about the signs of video game addiction.
What Makes Pokemon GO So Addictive?
Every popular game has its quirks and takes on addictive features that make them so appealing to its users. So let’s break down what Pokemon GO does so well to keep players coming back for more.
One thing is for sure that the fan base for Pokemon GO goes as far back as early as the 90’s when the first games and shows were released. The games and TV shows were such an integral part of so many people’s childhoods that rumours of the game stirred so much excitement alone. For many players, this is the game that they had been waiting for. A game where you can become a Pokemon trainer yourself and capture Pokemon in the world around you.
Internet celebrities like Logan Paul are also a big part of Pokemon’s resurgence with their first edition pack openings and Shiny Charizard hunting. Ultimately, for the older generation, it gets them in a place of childhood joy and happiness that they attempt to relive through the game and make it so hard to resist when in this emotional state.
Form of Escapism
Video games and escapism have gone hand in hand for a very long time and Pokemon GO is no exception. The game immerses the players by bombarding them with opportunities to catch pokemon all around them. While sitting on the underground and waiting for your train, you can look through the app to see a Slowpoke dancing on the tracks, which adds a layer of comic relief and enjoyment to the mundane parts of life.
Being able to tap into this virtual world all around you at any moment attracts players to use it to get away from negative things they might be experiencing. One doctor has mentioned that Pokemon GO has been used by people with depression in order to make themselves feel better and decrease their symptoms.
The interesting part about Pokemon GO that sets it apart from most other games is the social side of things. Most video games are not based in the world that we live in and hence it rarely allows for players to engage with each other face to face. However, with Pokemon GO, crowds of people meet up and communicate where to catch the best Pokemon in the area, fight in gyms together and battle each other.
Usually, video game addiction places those who play at risk of social isolation however the Pokemon GO community provides a unique place to meet up and enjoy a similar interest together. One downside to this is that it makes it slightly harder to identify video game addiction and friends made through the game can often serve as a trigger for those attempting to cut down.
Rewards and Measurable Growth
The concept of catching all of the Pokemon and completing the Pokedex is the aspiration of most people who have played the previous games. With Pokemon GO, players can live this dream! But if that’s not your style you can work on making your Pokemon as strong as they can be for future battles. Regardless of your goals, they’ve got you covered.
The problem is by creating these achievable goals through the game, it skews our motivation to achieve other things outside of gaming. We can be hit with instant gratification when we need to by loading up the game and it gives us something to work towards. Hence many addicts find it difficult to accomplish things or stay committed to other achievements that require long term hard work and investment.
Mobile game addiction is often influenced by its ease of access as everyone has a smartphone nowadays.
The Dangers of Pokemon GO Addiction
Every video game presents problems when addiction is involved. However, there have been rather more sinister situations caused by the nature of the augmented reality game. Danger lurks in the real world more so for players addicted to this game than to most others. Here are a few reasons why.
There have been many stories and complaint’s explaining how the game is leading people into private and restricted property. Being deeply immersed in the game and distracted by the Pokemon they need for their collection, bouncing on the other side of a gate, players can often forget to read the sign saying “keep out”
Homeowners took legal action against Niantic resulting in a $4 lawsuit stating that the game has encouraged players to wander into property without permission to catch Pokemon in their backyard.
With the game forcing people to enter secluded locations in search of their Pokemon, it has been used by those with rather ill intentions to ambush innocent players. Criminals would target Pokestops and areas where desired Pokemon are located to rob pedestrians not paying attention.
Distracted Pedestrians & Drivers
With your head down in your phone, it can be difficult to stay aware of your surroundings and has sadly led to reports of many injuries and traffic incidents. Although reckless and illegal, drivers have been attempting to access Pokestops on their way to stock up on Pokeballs and other supplies for their adventures.
In spite of this Niantic placed a speed limit on the GPS that does not track the movements of someone going faster than 20mph.
No video game should be dangerous to its users so remember to be responsible, play in moderation and be aware of your surroundings when you do decide to.
How to Treat Pokemon GO Addiction
For those that have been concerned about their relationship with the game, and wish to quit or cut down, here are the best gaming addiction treatment methods to overcome your Pokemon GO addiction in the long run.
When it comes to treating behavioural addictions, mindfulness is one of the most effective tools. Mindfulness is a technique used to bring our attention to the present moment, including our thoughts, feelings and environment. The aim is to bring our attention to these things in the moment without making harsh judgments about them.
The relevance of developing this skill to treat video game addiction is it gives us more mental flexibility to experience negative emotions or thoughts that lead to us playing video games. As we mentioned previously many gamers developed their addiction from trying to run from difficult emotions so the best alternative we can do is find a way to healthily engage with them.
Mindfulness can be effectively practised through guided meditations or on your own, once you are confident enough. They will help us to ground ourselves whenever we feel negative thoughts start to creep in. Some of them will guide our attention towards our breath. Every time our mind wanders or starts to move away from our breath we gently guide it back. Focusing on the air entering our nose or the soft rise and fall of our chest.
Some exercises teach us to be more mindful of our environment and become aware of the sensations we are feeling. Like the steps we take when walking, the weather on our skin or even the process of eating.
Developing mindfulness skills are so essential for long term recovery from video game addiction as they have been proven to reduce addictive symptoms
This stands for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and is one of the main forms of treatment for video game addiction. When people enter video game addiction rehabilitation centres or therapy they will be guided through a catered course of CBT to help build healthier behaviours.
CBT is based on the principle that our thoughts, feelings and interaction with the world around us are all interlinked. By changing one aspect we can influence the others. The goal of CBT in video game addiction is to identify self-defeating thoughts that drive people’s addictions and change them into healthier and more sustainable thinking patterns.
For instance, someone who struggles to make friends may have the thought “I’m lonely so I might as well play video games and be with the community that accepts me” While this is a reassuring thought in the short term, in the long term it can further fuel their disconnect with others around them. This damage to their existing relationships can feed into their negative thoughts and before they know it they are trapped in a cycle of addiction.
However, with CBT we use various meditations, exercises and thought experiments to change the way we interact with these thoughts, and take power away from them. Again CBT can be practised through guided meditations and exercises which we can do in our spare time.
By improving our mindset and relationship with our thoughts we can grant ourselves the skills to overcome our addiction for good. Often attempts to quit are met with overwhelming withdrawal symptoms, temptation and relapse. With the correct approach to cutting down on gaming, we can help all the aspects of our life that gaming may have compromised.
If you feel like you have been gaming too much and want to cut down, The Mindful Gamer is always here to help.