Is Fortnite as Addictive as Cocaine?
It’s 3am. You have dry eyes, a rumbling stomach and a full bladder but you are just… So close. One more attempt at winning the ‘Battle Royale’… Just one.
Heard of Fortnite? I’m sure you have. It’s the incredibly addictive, online multiplayer video game sensation that has recorded a high of 78.3 million players online at one time. What does this have to do with science? It’s simple, those late nights, missed showers and burning eyes spell one thing- Addiction.
From 11333328 via Pixabay
“As addictive as cocaine”
Recently, a nine-year old in the UK was sent to rehabilitation after playing for 10 hours a day, refusing to use the bathroom and attacking her parents when the game was taken from her. Following this, CBC reported a court case in Montreal filed on behalf of the parents of two minors, who likened the effects of Fornite’s constant encouragement of dopamine release to “cocaine”. Is there truth to this? Can we compare video games to hard drugs?
The science of a Fortnite Addiction
Epic Games, the creator company of Fortnite has been criticized for such an inherently addictive platform. Alessandra Chartrand, an attorney with the Montreal Calex Légal Team stated that “when they created Fortnite, for years and years, hired psychologists — they really dug into the human brain and they really made the effort to make it as addictive as possible”. Which is where the brain science comes in.
Believe it or not, having a ‘Gaming Disorder’ is a legitimate ‘Internationally Classified Disease’ according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). This affects a small population of those who engage in video-gaming activities, as it is described as physiological, social and behavioural changes as a result of repeated and excessive engagement with gaming.
But, as Cleveland Clinic psychologist Scott Bea, PsyD describes, it is not comparable to alcohol and drug use for this reason: Alcohol and drug use allows the brain to feel reinforcement every time these substances are used, but gaming withholds itself.
Dr Bea states– “In gambling and gaming addictions, the reward occurs on-and-off and it’s unpredictable,” he explains. “This keeps players actively seeking the good feeling that’s produced in the brain when they reach a new goal or successfully complete an objective.”
I’m playing Russian Roulette with my gaming habits!
The process of this addiction is therefore more parallel to gambling practices. Dopamine release is unpredictable as the nature of gaming means that users are actively seeking goals and new objectives. However, games are marketed to adolescents when brain functioning has not reached full development, and therefore judgement is clouded as companies entice players to beat their score, their friends, and seek new achievements.
The hardest part about this addiction is that it is not a substance, but a behaviour. Eating and sex addictions are parallel to this diagnosis and can only be treated through extensive psychiatry and counselling. And even in the science world, this is contentious.
Some scientists argue that video game addiction is a symptom of a new disorder or just simply “excessive game play,” as Andrew Prxybylski, director of research at the Oxford Internet Institute recounted.
“It’s absolutely not an addiction… This whole thing is an epistemic dumpster fire… People enjoy things all the time”. (Prxybylski)
So regardless of what idea of the scientific fence you sit on in regards to the dawn of ‘Gaming Disease’, one thing remains- Fortnite may be the next large scale epidemic.