Games kids play- Your first time?

My first game that I remember playing was Carmen Sandiego followed by Oregon Trail. I’ll tell you a secret if you won’t tell anyone. Promise? Okay, I still enjoy playing both of those games as an adult. I keep playing because I want to beat the games and I want to make it to Oregon faster and with more money than I did the last time. I’m competing with the game myself.


Photo of person dressed as Carmen Sandiego

copyright (c) 2012 by tr.robinson (flickr)
available by Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 license

What made you keep playing? This refers to the “stickiness” of the game. Some people play games for a sense of distraction, to make the time pass in a more entertaining way like when they play punch buggy or I spy in a car. While others play to make a period of time more interesting, to up the stimulation ante such as those they playing drinking games during Walking Dead shows or while reading a silly blog post on gamification. However stickiness refers to qualities that make you pick the game controllers back up to keep playing.

So what keeps you playing, player? Were you trying to beat your own high score, to level up or white-knuckled to beat the game? Exploring imaginary worlds or role-playing as a unique character on an epic adventure? Connecting with friends or making new ones? These are some qualities that make games addictive and games are designed to be addictive.

In fact, there’s an app for that- well maybe not an app but at least a website to address video game & Internet addiction. The website is not an exaggeration of conservative folks going off the deep end. From the addiction website, it states that scientist conducted a study in 2005 that found dopamine levels in players’ brains doubled when playing. Dopamine as a mood-regulating hormone is associated with feelings of pleasure, which indicate that gaming could be chemically addictive. If you want to learn more about your brain on games, check out this great article referencing studies by James Gee.

On another note, what makes you stop playing a game you enjoy (or once enjoyed)?

In the next few blog posts, we’ll address WHY games and game elements are important, to identify the importance they play in gamification. Remember that a game does not make gamification make. For example in the reading of the previous blog post (task) that was gamified with a drinking game (game element), you were encouraged to drink more water (behavior change). Think of it this simplified way: Game Elements + Tasks/Activity =Behavior Change.


Posted on September 30, 2013, in Gamification, Pedagogy and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. This article is quite interesting because I never associated games with addiction. I guess that personally addiction seemed something far-fetched with drugs or negative behaviors usually involved. But now I can slowly see the truth behind it. I would consider myself an avid gamer who happens to be on a hiatus from gaming to focus on my academics. During summers as a kid I would generally sleep over friends’ houses and play video games for hours on end, whether it was attempting to beat them or just trying to find a secret level. They would engulf my daily activities, on many occasions my friends and I wouldn’t move from a certain spot for more than five hours. I understand now that those activities were not the healthiest choice I could’ve taken but they certainly kept me out of mischief with the law, like many others my age at the time. I feel as if I’ve outgrown that stage, I still play video games when I have time. But for the most part it will only be around an hour or two a sitting and no more than two times a week, but the fun and excitement are always there. I feel that the addiction that may come with these games are on set by activities during early childhood and the pattern does not change when shifting into adulthood if not properly identified, causing the habit to worsen until it becomes a cemented fixture in one’s daily routines. As for the most part, like every else, the real world hit me and I must focus on other things if I choose to strive to victory in my future endeavors. I must say I still reminisce on the old days from time to time.

  2. It is so easy to become addicted to games. I once had a terrible addition to The Sims game when it first came out. I thought it was so cool to be able to control whole cities and the people. I wanted all of my people to be rich so I would play and play and play and then I would continue to move them into bigger and better houses. I would ignore my homework and completely lose track of time. I couldn’t wait to get home and start building. Each time the Sim character came home with more money I would buy something else for the home. It was terrible. Eventually I lost interest in the game because I realized that it literally sucked time out of me. I would sit there thinking it was only a half an hour and realize that 3 hours had gone by!

    Another game I became incredibly addicted to was Grand Theft Auto – San Andres when I had playstation (the original one). I wanted to beat every level to move on up. Eventually, I suffered far too many back problems from sitting hunched over with my controllers that I stopped playing. Since then there have been 2 other Playstation releases and I feel no need to continue purchasing game consoles.

    • Althea,
      I have an addiction issue with Sims too, but just wanted money so I could build awesome houses or rooms. The ice in my iced tea would melt and I’d think it was hot but hours had passed.

  3. Although the fist video game I ever played was not Carmen Sandiego I must admit that I agree with what you say, I loved and enjoyed playing Mario Brothers and Pacman and I’d still enjoy playing them now. And what made me come back and keep playing them was the satisfaction (or frustration) of achieving (or not) the challenges that you faced in each level.
    What I didn’t know is that while you play your dopamine levels were increased- knowing that I shall go and play more often; however, now that I think about it, it’s true that every time that you play games you get lost in the game and you don’t think about the rest of the world – which I sometimes enjoy- and we are happy therefore we are addicted and we can’t stop playing them and this happiness we feel makes it even harder.
    We should find other activities that increase the dopamine level as well so that we can have a back-up plan just in case these games are not available.
    Florencia Pendola

  4. This is a very interesting post, as I had never put gaming and addiction in the same sentence but after reading this post it kind of makes sense in a way. But now that I think about it pretty much every kid has had an addiction so to speak with a certain game or games, I remember being younger the biggest addiction was video games, I remember playing them on weekends for hours on end I mean from the time I would wake up to late hours at night. I remember my sports video games causing the most “addiction” if one can call a 10-13 year old playing video games as a form of distraction and the goal was to always score higher and beat the other teams in the league especially in basketball which was the one I really remember the most. I think as long as parents are aware of what’s going on in their child’s life there really isn’t a problem with the use of certain video games because many can be positive while others can be of wars, shooting and self destruction. Being involved in the users life is key and with proper supervision there really should exist no extra problems, look at me now Im a totally normal adult now so I really cant vouch for an addiction. Good post and great points were brought up in this.

  5. Wow! The increase of dopamine levels is incredibly interesting! I had no idea. This shows that there is not only empirical evidence to support the power of gamification and gaming, but also scientific evidence. The combination of both forms of evidence surely eliminates any doubt as to the importance of gamification. The addictive qualities of games can be exploited in marketing and in fact I can already see ways to tie this in to my own marketing endeavors. For example, as a musician and writer of a blog for musicians and marketing, I can already think of fun ways to incorporate gaming qualities into the way musicians can advertise themselves and their music in order to get people more addicted to their music and content! Surely the listening of music also increases dopamine levels, and furthermore, musicians can do a “double whammy” or “kill two birds with one stone,” so to speak, by incorporating their music into actual games, such as video games, whether commercial or not. This is a great venue to advertise their music and get people actually hooked on it!

  6. OH WOW! I relate to you so much! I though I was the only person who was still addicted to games at my age. My current addiction includes playing countless hours of Super Mario 64 as well as Saints Row. I believe I am actually pretty good when it comes to stop when “bed times” come haha! I feel like a kid again!

    I think I enjoy Mario so much because it brings many childhood memories. I do never truly plan on playing for hours, however an hour really feels like 20 minutes. I do think we can take a thing or two about gaming and apply it to marketing and advertising.

    I believe it is a great idea for companies (or brands) to endorse games. Product placement is key! Gamers are still a market that is yet to tap. It is in a sort a “free for all” market.

  7. I completely agree. Video games are addicted. Specially in this society games are a huge scape or way to spend “free time”. We have games like Super Mario, Battle field, GTA, Halo, and many others. All of these have become huge for kids teens and adults over the years. I was playing GTA V the other night and as I was playing I realized that many kids from lower income families who don’t have the same opportunities as many might be influenced in the wrong way by these games. For example, the game knock out that has sparked controversy all over the US has proven how games could have a negative effect on the kids and younger generations who’s lives don’t differ from a game like GTA. Ratings have been introduced and it is very important we stand by them. In real life society can be impacted in many ways by these games. We should pay more attention to the dangers and protect our kids by teaching them the difference between a game and real life as well as morals and good values.

  8. I’m not much a game player and I didn’t think I would be “addicted” to a certain game but after I had to play Sims one time for one of my business classes, I was hooked. I’d be playing for hours and wouldn’t even notice how time flew by. I liked being in control of my Sims life and family since I basically based it on what I would like to have in the future and controlled my own business in Sims: Open for Business. I guess the satisfaction of playing is a little different though than when I used to play Mario Brothers as a child. For Sims I just wanted to control and for Mario Bros, I just wanted to beat the game but couldn’t and many remote controls were slammed on the floor through this process. . (RIP Remote. I have no patience. )

  9. I feel so identified myself with this post. First of all I’m a big fan of classics. I don’t really enjoy the new generation of game consoles. As a matter of fact, today in the App Store was released a version for iphone an ipad of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.
    This game is my favorite one, I would spend literally 6 hours a day playing it. And today I felt the urge to buy it and start to play with it right away. The sensation and the excitement that I felt when the game started was the same one as 10 years ago, I felt like a teenager.
    By the way, It is 12 am and I’m still playing while I’m writing this comment.

    Good games, good memories!

  10. This information is really interesting because it applies to the daily lives of many people who play video games. My brother plays video games during most if not all of his free time, I have never been much of a gamer myself and have a hard time understanding how he can stay in his room playing for hours. It is interesting to think that building relationships within a game could keep you coming back. That is comparable to going to a given bar time and again because you are friends with the bartender. I did not think the same logic could be applied to virtual friends made from within a game.

  11. LOL, I completely understand this concern. I used to play Sims, when I was younger, and I know I would play today if I actually got to buying the game. I remember that at a point I knew how to cheat the game, but I would still like to play but got bored a lot easier.

    In regards to addiction, it definitely is. I could play for hours, and I mean long hours. In relation to why people stop playing is two reasons: you win the game, or you give up because you simply can’t win it.

  12. This is a really interesting read, because I am not one that has ever been “addicted” or that has liked playing video games. Although I have not played actual video games or games on my cell phone, I have played drinking games with my friends to make the time spent together more interesting. The game is called ring of fire, I’m sure most of you have heard of it because it is quite popular. I guess what makes this game so fun and interesting is that it is spontaneous, it makes people laugh and it is just plain funny. It is interesting to hear about the study that was conducted in 2005, who knew that playing a game would increase levels of dopamine? Although I am not addicted to any games I could see how it can happen to others especially since it gives them feelings of pleasure and happiness.

  13. I have never even heard of Carmen Sandiego before, but when taking the poll I was part of the 50% whose first game was Mario Brothers. When I was a child I believe my motivation was to pass the time in an entertaining way, but now I do not play games because I do not have the time to waste. I find it very interesting that games cause dopamine levels to double and could be considered chemically addictive. Although I have not heard about this, I do consider it to be true because a lot of people, specifically males, tend to spend hours at a time competing on interactive games such as Call of Duty, which could explain all the time spent playing. I also can understand how more addictive games will probably last longer and be more competitive in the market versus games that do not create or create less of this addictive behavior or chemical.

  14. I loved this post. I could really relate to this article, since I was a regular teenager with the normal addiction to some video games. Some of the most popular at my time were Super Mario, Carmen San Diego, and the first game I ever played was Oregon Trail.

    It was very interesting learning that games can be a real addictions as there is scientific evidence that our bodies release dopamine, which is a very strong neurotransmitter also referred as the “feel good” chemical of the brain, which leads to a feeling of wellbeing when playing the games.

    Evidence shows that playing video games makes us release dopamine, which in turn makes us feel better. So our true addiction is to the feeling we are getting from playing the video game.

  15. I always knew about the relationship about addiction and gaming because my grandparents always mentioned that to me since I was little. Every time my older cousins introduced me to computer games, my grandparents thought it was “malignant” for me. For example, I really liked The Sims since I was 8 years old but I never became addicted to it because I always knew how to control myself. I think boys are more likely to become addicted to games, especially the ones that are simulation or racing. I think addiction is the result of satisfaction for winning and passing the levels.

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