The Game of Addiction

Millions of people suffer from gambling addiction. According to research, people in the U.S spend approximately $5 million dollars on gambling annually [1]. Cultural anthropologist Natasha Dow Schüll’s book ‘Addiction by Design’ touches upon the addictive effects of digital consumer interfaces as a public health issue.

In an interview by Rachelle Annechino from ‘Ethnography matters’, Ms. Schüll talks about how it is easier for people to form addiction to digital gambling user interfaces as compared to a physical game like poker due to the instant reaction available when one clicks a button. Put simply, the addiction is caused due to the immediate appearance of the rewards and reinforcement. The production of addictive games and apps are a side symptom of creating games that can engage the focus of the user for long periods of time while helping to modulate their behavior.

She emphasizes the importance of understanding the design and configuration of the technology and not just the behavior or the person. The real life applications of her research can help people regulate this behavior in order to avoid addiction and engage in more productive and meaningful activities.