Back in 2007, a study of gamers appeared in the journal CyberPsychology and Behavior. The study, "Experiences of time loss among videogame players: An empirical study," asked gamers to report how often they got sucked in to games: for better or worse, when they lost track of time while gaming, and how much time they lost. Included was this quote, which probably hit way too close to home for some:
Don't worry about it, Female Age 25. We've all been there. You're sitting there, thinking, "Well, I'll just pop Fallout 3 in here for about 30 minutes," then you wake up three days later with empty bags of Cheetos scattered across the floor and no recollection of what happened.
But, also, the study highlights a big reason gamers have a love-hate relationship toward some games. (Not because of the quitting-smoking thing, although a scientist should work out a follow-up study with FA25.) Certain games are just really, really hard to kick. Science says.
The study, by Richard T.A. Wood and colleagues at the International Gaming Research Unit Division of Psychology, Nottingham Trent University, noted that 99 percent of the study's 280 participants experienced the time-warping properties of gaming. Some thought that effect was only a good thing (24.3 percent), some only a bad thing (29.3 percent), and others a mix (38.2 percent). About two-thirds of the participants lost track of time the most from the evening to the wee hours of the morning; only 1.4 percent of the participants said they lost track after getting up in the morning. (Sidenote: Who are you well-adjusted people playing games for, like, a single hour after coffee and before work? Teach me your ways!)
A little deeper inside the study is a compilation of what cements gamers' butts to chairs. The survey maybe skews a little young, so some of the games mentioned might be biased toward relatively new (or circa mid-decade) releases. But let's break those down and see if there's a game that uses all of the features of addictive games to effectively destroy your retinas. Here are some of those characteristics:
Wood et al. report that most gamers wanted "complex and immersive" games. We can probably use that to eliminate some smaller games (sorry, Angry Birds), but that could still include a lot of genres and titles. In the study, Grand Theft Auto, Everquest, and Quake III--all pretty different games in different genres--get mentioned as examples of this.
THEY HAVE LEVELS
Or missions, or high scores, or something that can result in being able to give yourself just one more checkpoint to reach. After that, you can reach the next level, and the next, and the next, until the firefighters bust through your door because you've missed rent and won't answer your phone and everyone is just generally really concerned.
YOU CAN PLAY THEM WITH OTHER PEOPLE
Ah, yes. I was wondering when we'd get to the anecdotally most time-heisting game genre: The Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game. An online, usually dungeons-and-dragons-style game with a big world to explore. This includes games like the mind-explodingly popular World of Warcraft, which had more than 10 million players as of November and which gets mentioned by name in the study more than other game. Online first-person shooters like the Halo and Call of Duty franchises are popular games that meet this criterion, too.
THEY HAVE A PLOT
Gamers in the study said they couldn't wait to figure out what would happen next in the story, so they wouldn't put it down. So that eliminates popular choices like Tetris unless someone can convince me it has a plot. (You are trying to ruin someone's plan for a very blocky building, maybe?) But actually this can still include ... oh, I don't know, probably most post-'80s games, really.
So what is the The Most Addictive Videogame Of All Time?
Well, let's start with the most obvious choice: World of Warcraft. There's a reason those 10-million-ish people are playing it (and forking over monthly subscription fees to do so). It meets all of those characteristics here, and some in surprising ways. Not only does it have a plot; it, and other games in the MMORPG genre, pretty much let you do whatever you want, giving you an inexhaustible amount of ways to play, and plots to make your way through.
Looking for a dark horse? Maybe something like The Sims, which meets most of these requirements but also in unexpected ways. It doesn't exactly have a plot but anyone who's played it can tell you what it's like waiting out your avatar's next task--"I have to drive my car to work now," "I have to cook dinner now"--with anticipation. It's not broken up into levels but can definitely be broken down by the player into artificial times ("Just one more virtual day!"), is plenty complex, and is fun with friends, even if it's just over-the-shoulder.
But there's obviously an amount of personal bias in picking this, too. My own drug is probably the Portal games, where you work your way through "complex" "levels" on your way to meeting who's putting you through those levels ("plot"). The games are minimalistic and short but heavy on complexity and compulsively re-playable.
Oh, and by the way: If you're looking to tear yourself away from a certain game, some of the study's participants shared their tactics, like:
Good luck with your habit!
I'd have to agree, although I never got into WOW I know a lot of people who have played that game since its inception. It wasn't the first MMO, but it definitely changed the genre, and has influenced many other genres as well.
The Sims were fun, but you can only play that game for a while before it gets to be annoying, or maybe that's just me.
If there's one game franchise that probably out does all the others it would be Mario. Since the first game debuted in 1983, then on console in 1985 it has been a world wide success.
WoW helped me lose about 15 lbs :D Now my current addiction is Guild Wars 2.. I find that if I don't group I can keep track of time better. (not that it really makes that much of a difference, if you're playing and you look at the clock and it's late you're still going to play until whatever you are doing is done.. drawback of non-pause)
I used Civilization 5 to help me lose weight (specifically, to help me ignore my hunger, since step #1 was to lower portion sizes). I've done it twice, and both times it worked. It helped that I am self employed though, so I could literally site there for 14 hours a day over a 2 or 3 week period.
The Civ francise has been my #1 game addiction, ever since Civ 1 came out. In fact, when Civ 5 first came out I didn't buy it right away, knowing that I wouldn't be able to stop. That's called WILL POWER :)
I happen to enjoy games from all genres, and have found that for me personally, Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas have been the most addicting. I have lost so track of time so easily, that I have missed out on sleep for nights on several occasions. I have read that the new Fallout game will be introducing an MMO aspect, so I can just imagine how hard it will be to stop playing that at times.
Turn based strategy games were the worst for me....."just one more turn".
Female (Age 25) - so you played FF7 with your BF when it came out? It came out in 1997, if you are 25 you would have been 9 or 10. You had a boyfriend at 9 years old?
Smells like a liar to me.
I've never played WOW, but I agree that mmos are the most addicting, especially sandbox mmos. I heard about how crazy it can get in those games on a youtube video called "TUN: Un-Ruining The MMO", which talks about all the WOW spinoffs and how sandbox games are the most immersive type of mmo. I like how the MrBtongue mentions Eve: Online and the power each player has in the game, where they create their own wars and take over parts of the universe. Sandbox mmos out there.
Wizardry Online is a pretty neat mmo so far. I hope I don't spend too much time playing that like I did Realm of the Mad God though.
the only two(actually three) games to ever get me to lose my sense of hygiene and any/all concept of a sleep pattern were Deux Ex: Human Revolution & the Batman Arkham Series(asylum & city) .. and when they finished.. i was actually kind sad/angry/disapointed.
Fallout 3 + expansions, never had the effect, Halo: CE didn't, Civ I,II,III,IV,V didn't, sims 1,2,3 didin't, Simcity or any of it's sequals, Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon/Rainbow 6 & sequals didn't, Exclusive monsters like Geras of war and Uncharted got played through but not life stealing, ... WoW i hated the GUI and never played past the freebie trial, Guildwars was always casual, Flyff was captivating but nothing serious, Startrek online had a few late nights but not many, Ultima online the same...
the only other game i can remember that had captured me indefinitly was Ultima 7: the blackgate, I skipped school a friday or two to finish that one summer of 1992.
Good article. I'm not a WOW player but the picture from the story looks like Kung Fu Panda to me.
dongsweep--> they were quoting a study from 2007, so that player was 15. Seems plausible to me that they played for 3 days, what else was there to do before kids had smartphones?
My first game where hours had passed and I had no clue, was with Wing Commander. It blew me away that I had no clue so much time had passed. I think this can happen with any immersive screen activity. I've experienced the same mental time dilation effect when programming. It happens at work as often as anywhere. It's always bad when you're in the zone and the wife calls and says, um, you coming home? And you look at the clock and you're 2 or 3 hours overdue and you had no idea...
Those RPGs are all fine but the casual market should get some props as well. The upcoming game H2FLOW by HaptixGames is promising addiction.
Enough hours are wasted by people playing Evony that I have at times wondered if it is a plot by the Chinese to reduce American productivity.
Number 6- That's the new expansion to WoW where a Panda is a playable charactor. And of course it's racial specialties include martial arts type skills.
Everquest was one of the top MMORPGs at one time, but the complexity of having to research intricate quests for gear and to get epic weapons, AND a huge amount of research for recipes to create needed items made it a game that older players were typically the only ones that could excel. WoW changed that by making it increasingly easier and continuing to allow more accessibility to younger player and player that didn't want to devote 2 hours of research to be able to run a quest and thereby pulled many players from EQ. EQ saw what was happening, but SOE was just a bit too late with catching up and also fell behind in expansion gameplay. I had a number of high level charators in a high level guild and found that because of my work schedule, wasn't able to participate in all of the raids where the best gear was which could make the toon twice as strong as what normally quested gear could. SO I fell behind and wasn't able to really catch up. This is what game makers need to remember is to provide a good group content, but don't make it necessary to continue leveling in the game.
I would say lately it has been Skyrim and its story telling. Though not perfect that game has kept me coming back to it again and again. And with the DLC and Modding community, killing those Thalmor has never tasted so sweet.
Not sure I am excited about the online stuff, though it can be fun sometimes playing with others has never been my forte mostly with the whole game by comity.
Sudoku. what did it rank? I can't quit!
I've never been much of a "gamer" because of the addictive nature, but when I do play an interactive game I set a time, or when I feel that I have been "sucked in" I gracefully complete the segment and escape ! I've also never been much into never-ending games which defy my attention span : )
Just thinking of computer games here:
A very subjective idea, though I think it's fair to say some games are inherently more addictive by either the feel-good factor, built-in reward system, or more recently the social factor. If you can combine all 3 then you may as well blow your brains out cos your life as you know it just ended.
The games that proved most addictive for me were:
- Asteroids arcade game circa 1980
- Tyrann circa 1985 on the Oric Atmos(yeah I wanted a spectrum - got an Oric - thanks Dad)
- Duke Nukem 3D on Playstation circa 1998
- Driver on Playstation circa 1999
- GTA Vice City on PC circa 2002
- Left for Dead 1(& less so 2) on PC circa 2010.
I think the definition of an addictive computer game is when you cross the magic line into interminable joyless guilt-laden playing for hours on end until you feel mentally and physically ill.
Kind of calls the whole thing into question.
Sometimes I wonder if I had spent all the game time on, say, learning to play piano, maybe I'd be a world-renowned concert pianist by now.
Fallout 3 was the game that sucked me in. I love a game that can do that. They are rare indeed!!
Everquest also called evercrack and the widowmaker game and the game most MMO are modeled and and was even banned in brazil however after sonly took over tile to it from it sub company 989 studios they started rushing expansions causing down time and up to a week long reset along with a serious downgrade in customer service as under the 989 banner I usaly could be helped for an issue fell threw the world and stuck with less then an hour but one time I got stuck for 2 weeks.
and after playing this game for almost 7 years I will not even think of buying a sony product ever again
The only game I ever played for hours on end was Tetris.
This is stupid. Addiction does not mean something that you CHOOSE to sit there and play. I get wrapped up in different games as well, but I also know how to put a controller down and have a life. Anyone who tries to say they are addicted to a video game is just trying to justify their laziness and total lack of self motivation. If you are addicted to something, you can't just set it down and walk away with no consequence. This is a dumb and NOT scientific study at all.
And you're still following the Halo series, why? If you think the multiplayer is going downhill, just stop playing. Please. I've seriously heard enough complaining elsewhere already.
Jeez, you don't expect 3.14159 all the time from a science site, do you? I think it was pretty obvious what the author meant by this. You're taking this way too seriously.
You guys are older gamers. The number one for younger teens is Minecraft. Trust me.
"When (Final Fantasy 7) first came out, my boyfriend and I took turns playing and ended up playing for pretty much three days straight. We hadn't realized that two extra nights had passed and felt absolutely horrible physically afterwards. On a good note, playing videogames helped me quit smoking. I'd play instead and then huge chunks of time would go by with no nicotine cravings at all (Female, age 25)."
WHEN.CAN.WE.GET.MARRIED.BEAUTIFUL.LADY.OUT.THERE.....:3 <3 Zen. Namaste. SCIENNCEE.:3 <3
I wish someone would do a study on those of us who do not play these games or find them particularly interesting. I'm in the IT field and have been for years. I spend all day in front of computer screens and to come home and do it for hours more is not high on my list.
I played some game with my nephews that involved me piloting a helicopter. Not bragging, but my nephews were amazed I was so good piloting the helicopter. But, as a private pilot, anyway, I will give the game designers credit - the darn thing flew pretty much like the real thing, as far as performance goes. Still, interesting, but not something I'd spend endless hours doing. I have no problem with any of it. I just don't see what the addictive, endorphin-producing, attraction is all about. Kind of "meh."
It is a very attractive game. A part of it reminded me Kungfu Panda.
Interesting article! One which we should all take note of whether we play and or are addicted to or not. First off, to answer the question we would have to know the definition of Scientifically, because its meaning is diverse in and of it self.
Now, with that said there is no real scientifically most addictive game. Problem is people are addicted to their own kind of game, in their own way. Some play games for hours they may be long in-depth games like Dark ages of Camelot, The best mmorpg ever made for real gamers. Or it may be as simple as solitaire on windows, and trust me when I say, there are more millions addicted to that game than even the author would imagine.
We can talk about WOW but let’s face it, they may have millions that play but most don’t want to admit it for some reason. It seems your real computer gamer’s ones who have been around, not the kids but the adults generally do not care for a game like wow. It’s dummied down and does not fulfill what a real gamer needs.
I think wow is the kind of game parents put their kids on to get them out of the way so they pay for it. It keeps the subscriptions up.
Shooters like call of duty, doom, and some others mentioned are highly addictive as well. The older generation of computer gamers got involved with might and magic games. Now days it’s sad, most mmorpgs have a shelf life, they last a few years then fade away, people swap from game to game trying to find the one that keeps their time occupied and is enjoyable for them. Some play mmorpg and also buy stand alones when they release so they can play them out as a break to the MMORP they play daily.
So really its simple there is no one scientifically most addictive game. People are addicted to all sorts of games and will be for many years to come. If there was a possibility I would stake my money on the mmorpgs as being most addictive. It’s the whole genre of games.
Life is but a game! Might as well play one!