App Craze Creates Addiction

Courtney Garloff, Print Editor

Whether it’s Angry Bird or Flappy Bird, students are flocking to game apps, but they may not always be the innocent source of harmless fun they appear to be.

The latest game to attract users is Flappy Bird, which requires players to tap the screen to move the bird between pipes without hitting them.

“I love playing games on my phone because they help to fill up time, like the time between classes,” said sophomore nursing major Laura Russo.

With new applications released every day there is a large range of games from which students may choose to fill or waste their time.

“People are all buying into that distraction,” said Jim Roberts, Director of Marketing Communications.

And there is a lot to experience.

“The supply seems endless so there are always new, perhaps better, apps to try out. We are often drawn to novelty,” said psychology department chairperson Dr. Marnie Hiester.

Students often flock to them because their peers have it, and they are growing more interested as they rack up new high scores.

“People often want what others have and are influenced by what psychologists call social norms. For teens and emerging adults in particular, there are social pressures to fit in, to be in the in crowd,” said Hiester. “Technology is considered fun and trendy, and thus desirable. Already having lots of cool apps doesn’t necessarily diminish the desire to have more,” said Hiester.

Roberts agrees that the craze is fueled by peer pressure.

“If all of your peer group is doing something, you want to investigate it,” said Roberts.

Another reason for the attraction is the cost: Many games on the Apple App Store or Google Play! are free, and some cost only $0.99.

“Apps generally require little investment, and thus are fairly disposable. The potential benefit to be gained by the app, for fun or utility, outweighs the minimal risk of losing a few bucks if you don’t use it,” said Hiester.

The feeling of achieving quick success can also draw students.

“Video games stimulate a sense of reward in the brain,” said Roberts.

Despite the reasons behind students’ obsession, most say they simply think the games are fun.

“They are fun to play and interesting. Some games like Flappy Bird can even be addicting sometimes,” said Russo.

That addiction or time wasting may be the real risk of heavy gaming activity.

“I think it is possible to spend more time than you probably should playing these games, and they are an easy escape from the pressures of life,” Hiester said. “Many of these games are designed to provide you with instant positive feedback, so that you feel better about yourself when you play, which makes you want to play more many are also designed to allow you to play and compete with friends, so they are inherently social.”

Students may only think of the benefits they receive from opening their favorite applications and not notice the rewards app developers receive: money

“A developer can sell the game and its upgrade or give the game away for free and make people pay for more levels,” said Roberts.

Students may also pay in another way, one often well concealed from users. Some games may collect players’ personal data, and that enables app companies to make even more money.

“You can also use the game to gather data, and any information gathered by playing that game,” said Roberts who added that the best way to see whether apps gather data is to read each app’s terms and conditions.

“This doesn’t surprise me,” Russon said. “When you are on your computer it tracks your history so why wouldn’t your phone do it?”

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