Gaming industry 'uses device to get fans hooked'

John Fahey

The computer gaming industry uses a powerful psychological device that could lead some fans to become addicted.

An investigation by the BBC's Panorama programme spoke to children who believe they are addicted and hear from industry experts calling for more research into the issue.

Games designer Adrian Hon said producers use a simple technique based on a 1950s study of rats feeding themselves by pressing a lever.


The "variable ratio of reinforcement" sees people acting a certain way because they are rewarded for that behaviour.

"I think people don't necessarily understand how powerful some game mechanics can be," Mr Hon said.

"It's one thing to think 'okay, I'm playing too much', but it's another to just stop playing, because some games are designed in a manner that you just don't want to leave.

"I think the industry need to be thinking about this a lot more. Because games are becoming so much more widespread and because they're becoming so much more powerful."

Teenager Joe Staley told the programme makers he was hooked on the massively popular Call of Duty 'shoot-em-up'.

He said: "I wouldn't move from my bed.

"My controller would be at my side table, I would turn it on, play, and then I would realise it was about three o'clock in the afternoon."