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Published on May 30, 2023

Inside the Player’s Mind: Unveiling the Psychology of Online Gaming

The human being is a rather complex entity with a set of basic needs interacting with the universe. These needs were described within Maslow’s hierarchy: physiological needs, safety, love/belonging, esteem, and self-actualization, categorized as “deficiency needs” and “growth needs.”

Although the modern world may fulfill most of these needs, individuals are often left without a sense of belonging or self-actualization. To cope in the information age, humans have resorted to technology to escape the vacant scene of muse and social interactions. Online gaming has grown to a population of 3.09 billion in 2023 and is predicted to reach 3.32 billion by 2024.

With many gaming genres and platforms available, people can immerse themselves in virtual worlds catering to their needs. From massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) that allow players to create virtual characters to competitive eSports titles that bring together millions of players worldwide. And how about online casino games, which have gained significant popularity, providing an exciting blend of entertainment and gambling for those seeking a thrilling experience? Spending some time navigating Thunderpick’s blog, a crypto esports betting, and online gambling platform, at https://thunderpick.io/blog/ is enough to reveal how much interest people have generated around online gaming, with countless topics about different games, news, trends, and much more.

These online gaming experiences fulfill the need for social interaction and a sense of belonging and offer a platform for personal growth and self-expression. Whether players collaborate with teammates in a virtual battle or test their strategic thinking in casino games, online gaming has become a fundamental part of modern society. To understand the impact of transitioning from the physical world into cyberspace, we must delve into the brain and examine the psychological aspects of online gaming.

Motivations for Online Gaming

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), escapism is the tendency to escape the real world and seek refuge in the metaverse. Some individuals may engage in harmless forms of escapism, such as daydreaming, while others may exhibit more serious symptoms, such as mental pathology and neurosis.

Games affect the mind and the mood, and online gamers, as they delve into gaming, experience a sense of satisfaction and happiness due to the release of dopamine, which increases as players continue to play. Unfortunately, prolonged exposure to such games can result in behavioral changes.

When the body responds to winning in games, it releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of pleasure. The brain then conditions itself to inhibit these releases to maintain balance. However, gamers seek continuous thrills and gratification through gaming, causing the brain to restrict dopamine production further, leading to a dopamine-deficient condition. Pursuing achievements and competition in gaming can create a semi-addictive state, causing individuals to withdraw from social interactions and immerse themselves in the metaverse for instant gratification.

From a neurological perspective, as gamers continue to play, the brain enters a cycle of dopamine deficiency, which can result in anxiety and depression. Studies have confirmed that gaming can lead to an addictive state, as it releases excessive amounts of dopamine, similar to the effects of taking illicit drugs.

Cognitive Processes in Online Gaming

As games continue to develop, immersive gaming has risen; such conditions largely affect the brain as players become dopamine-deficient and exhibit signs of withdrawal. Fatigue, irritability, and low attention span are a few among many. The addictive condition of gaming leads to a biological condition of tolerance, requiring players to excessively game to get a higher dopamine fix. On the other hand, gaming has an upside to it; as it reduces stress due to dopamine release, it will gratify the nucleus accumbens, a part of the brain related to the reward system.

More so, gaming has resulted in higher cognitive abilities and decision-making; as gaming challenges appear, gamers must adapt and find solutions quickly, leading to better multitasking and navigation skills.

Excitement and Arousal

The joy of gaming can alter the state of individuals from sad to happy and vice versa; gaming has so many bodily influences, so much so triggering the flight or fight response by an elevated release of cortisol due to stimulation.

Such conditions can be beneficial as gamers experience eustress, a short period of exciting stress, just like an adrenaline rush. Such positive stress encourages individuals to pursue their goals, become resilient, and improve their performance and happiness. With multiple players and headsets, gamers can communicate with fellow gamers, increasing their social, cooperative, and literacy skills while providing a space where individuals with social anxiety can develop their skills until they’re ready to do it in person.

Individual Differences and Gaming Preferences

Similar to different fields, gaming has several genres and types; some games are action-based, some include first-person or third-person shooting, and others are strategic. Nevertheless, genres may be several, and likewise, there are different types of game players; here are a few:

  • The Achiever is a player whose main goal is to collect high scores, badges, and status, and these players are competitive and focused.
  • The Explorer is about the game line and exploring the adventure, looking for hidden secrets and an “easter egg” They are not so much bothered with competition as much as goal-oriented.
  • The Socializer is all about team players and interaction; these players don’t mind sharing wins and beneficial inactions; they are cooperative.
  • The Killer is very competitive and wishes to see other players lose.

Ethical Considerations and Responsible Gaming

Too much of a good thing is, at times, bad; However, gaming may be alluring, but it still can be time-consuming and immersive to the point whereby we lose ourselves. Therefore, some boundaries seem crucial for a healthy balance. Setting a time limit is a healthy way to go about gaming, as a minimum of 2 hours of playing has been shown to help with cognitive abilities. Play for fun, not for the win, and keep humble and cooperative behavior. 

Lastly, gaming is what an individual makes of it; as the old saying goes, don’t hate the player, hate the game, and don’t let the game control you; you control it.

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