Video games are fun and engaging tools people of all ages can use to escape boredom. They have been around for over fifty years and have been serving as an appealing source of entertainment to many ever since. When it was first introduced, players only had to buy the gaming console, and they got the complete package. At this time, gaming addiction wasn’t a hot topic, as players had to reduce screen time just to make sure they don’t complete the levels too early or end up getting bored easily, which is a total diversion from its initial purpose.

However, modern video games seem to have changed course. These games have downloadable content, loot games, and cosmetic items that keep users glued to their screens for hours, engaging in what appears to be a never-ending source of entertainment. While these additional contents were the developers’ idea to get creative and eliminate boredom for the longest time possible, many gamers have shown zero control over their screen time, especially for games with in-purchase. Also, lots of gamers now stream their games on platforms like Twitch, find new strategies on how to get followers on Twitch and platforms alike to increase their audience base. And, of course, nowadays, gamers even earn money, and lots of new gamers find the idea of earning quite addictive.

In this post, we’ll be discussing how the design of modern games enforces addiction in players.

1. Virtual goods and the illusion of it

Many times, players forget that virtual reality isn’t actual reality. The more time a gamer spends on their screen, the more engrossed they are in that form of reality. Gamers tend to take these virtual goods and achievements as actual ones, which fosters addiction.

They love the idea of being wealthy, so when they have a lot of tokens virtually, they liken it to reality and feel a lot more comfortable playing and earning more to buy whatever item that video game has to offer.

For some, engaging in video games that help them do the things they’re not normally good at gives them a befitting experience. For instance, a player could be a terrible swimmer, pianist, or soccer player in real life, but an exceptionally great one online. Just for their love for these activities, they could end up playing that video game for hours, as it is the closest thing to the reality they wish they had. The little improvements they see from their frequent practice are also a good reason to keep them playing.

2. Beating the high scores

Gamers love to win. The high score or completion package drives them to keep playing. Today, online games now have a global scoreboard where players from around the world challenge each other and crown the top scorers as leaders. Video games bring out the competitive side of players and they sometimes won’t stop playing until they make substantial progress or beat the highest score on the leaderboard.

Competitions are sometimes hosted to have other game enthusiasts watch players compete against each other. These players stream their live battles on various video streaming platforms, and they strive to win desperately.

3. Roleplaying

Developers have also come up with a game design that lets gamers create characters as desired. These characters come in different skin tones, ages, hair colors, clothes, and many more. Gamers are fascinated by this idea, as they get to embark on a game journey that is unique to the character they’ve created. Some gamers also get emotionally attached to these characters as they’ve taken care of it during the course of the game. So, letting go of all their efforts and virtual token spending might be another level of difficulty.

4. The near-miss effect (checkpoints)

When players get close to their accomplishment but miss it, they keep trying until they finally get it. Usually, gamers get bored easily when they get so far and have to start from the beginning when they miss. So, developers have created what we all know as checkpoints. This way, gamers get to start off from a close, yet distant location from where they stopped. Gamers will not give up until they get to the next checkpoint, and some of these games are pretty challenging, making them spend more time on their screen trying to level up.

5. Variable-rate of reinforcement

Our brains react differently to unexpected gifts and rewards. Developers understand this concept and have programmed rewards for gamers every time they level up, but with a little twist. They extend the time it takes for gamers to level up for the same rewards, which directly influences the number of times gamers spend trying to get to the next level.

To make it more challenging, developers also adopted the variable reward rate where they get rewards at random and unexpected levels. So, instead of having rewards every time they level up, they only get these rewards at random intervals.

6. Streaks and daily rewards

Many video games also offer rewards for daily visits and streaks. Gamers who know how difficult these gifts are to come by, always make sure they seize the opportunity to get them, just by logging into their game profile every day.


Video games are designed to be addictive. While this might not be the intention of many developers, their upgrades and inclusions make it difficult to turn off the video game.

If you find yourself being unproductive and struggling to engage in other activities outside your virtual reality, you must seek professional help. I hope this article has given you insights into different gaming designs and their addictive influences.

About the Author

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Mirko Humbert

Mirko Humbert is the editor-in-chief and main author of Designer Daily and Typography Daily. He is also a graphic designer and the founder of WP Expert.