Games Addictive
© Press Association
The computer gaming industry uses a powerful psychological device that could make some fans play compulsively, a Panorama investigation has found.

In the BBC show, entitled Addicted To Games and being aired on Monday night, investigators speak to children who believe they are addicted and hear from industry experts calling for more research into the issue.

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

The "variable ratio of reinforcement" (or operant conditioning) basically sees people acting a certain way because they are rewarded for that behaviour.

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

"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."

He added: "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."

Professor Mark Griffiths, from Nottingham Trent University's International Gaming Research Unit, said: "It's a neat little psychological trick and for most people this will not be something that's bad, but if you've got... that vulnerability or susceptibility to addiction that will keep you in the game probably far in excess of what the normal person would do."

Prof Griffiths, who also told the programme insufficient research has been done, added: "The good news is that for the vast majority of people video games is something that is very positive in their lives. But we have to take on board that there is a growing literature that suggests that for a small but significant minority, things like gaming can be potentially problematic."

Teenager Joe Staley, from Nottingham, 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."

Source: Press Association