Why mobile games are addictive

By M.Farouk Radwan, MSc.

Ease of access and laziness

Why are mobile games very addictive?
Why do we waste a lot of time playing silly mini-games?
And why are those games much more addictive than full games with better graphics?

I am sure you won't be surprised to know that some games are as addictive as drugs. While you can control drug addiction by avoiding buying drugs or avoiding places where you can get them you might not be able to avoid a mobile game because it's always with you.

This is the first reason why some mobile games are very addictive; which is ease of access. The easier you can access a thing the more addictive it becomes since you will hardly be able to stop yourself from accessing it.

This is also one reason why people became more addicted to social networks when mobile phones started becoming popular.

But that's not everything.
We humans are extremely lazy creatures. We were designed to conserve energy and to do the least amount of work in order to survive. This makes a lot of sense when knowing that our ancestors had scarce food and lots of work to do.

Now the second factor that makes a mobile game extremely addictive is that you don't need to do any kind of effort to reach it. Compare this with having to go out of your bed to switch a gaming console on then to search for the right CD before finding a chair to sit on.

Because the mobile game can be accessed with a click of a finger so many people get addicted to them. See also Why some games are so addictive

More addiction dynamics

As if the previous factors were not enough a third factor also makes a game much more addictive which is notifications. Just like notifications bring people back to social networks by targeting their brain dopamine levels gaming notifications do the same as well.

When we get a notification the reward chemical in our brains, called dopamine, is released. This chemical motivates us to seek rewards and to have good expectations. With each game notification you might get a dopamine surge and so become eager to check the game. See also Why candy crush is so popular.

With everything i have said i haven't even talked about the game dynamics yet. All of the previous factors make most mobile games addictive to a certain extent.

Now combine those factors with a slightly addictive game and you will get a game that is as addictive as Clash of clans or Flappy birds. See Why is Flappy birds so popular

Games that are very difficult yet have a short learning curve can be extremely addictive. You play the game for few seconds, get the controls and believe you mastered it but shortly you find yourself losing all the time.

The simple to learn yet hard to beat is one of the most popular game dynamics that makes some games extremely addictive to some people. Frustration is a very powerful emotional force.

Once the game developer learns how to use the right amount of frustration they can make sure that players will keep coming back to the game the way drug addicts keep coming back to drugs. See also Why do some people get addicted to gambling.

It's always there

If you tried to eat healthy but kept some unhealthy food in your house then you might relapse. The problem with getting exposed to something all the time is that sooner or later you might fail to hold yourself back and use it.

Mobile games are on our phones 24/7. We can access them anytime and anywhere and this is another important reason why they are very addictive.

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