Human beings respond to a reward system. In essence, this system helps to cement positive behavior with pleasurable stimuli and discourage adverse behavior with negative reinforcement. At the center of the reward system is the idea of motivation. Motivation may be intrinsic, that is, inherently pleasing or extrinsic which requires conditioning and learned actions. These motivations control the various decisions we make in life from eating to taking drugs to gaming.
It would appear on the surface that the rewarding nature of gaming is understood simply as a finite matter of wins and losses. However, the greater the incentives, the more motivation one must continue playing. Monetize game play and it puts a twist on the gaming world by upping the ante on winners and losers. The act of betting has to do with beating the odds and can impart upon people of a sense of superiority that reinforces the impulse to play and promise of a greater positive reward.
Financial loss, however does not always limit the act of playing, often quite the opposite. Instead losing may increase the incentive to play in order to once again beat the odds and the promise of even greater positive reward, psychologically and/or monetarily. Even with video gaming where money is not involved, players can be motivated by ‘virtual’ rewards encouraging continued play. This behavior can indicate a dangerous turn of events behaviorally, perhaps signaling the beginning of reward based impulsive behaviors in a person which are the hallmark of addictive thinking patterns.
While playing games may be fun, be it video gaming, gambling or otherwise, it is important to stay aware of one’s motivation to ensure that habits do not form which may become harmful and debilitating. A loss of control is at the heart of most addictive or compulsive behaviors. Once it becomes difficult to stop engaging in a pattern of behavior that begins to develop consequences in one’s life, it may be time to pause, look at the situation and reach out for help if necessary.