Are there studies that demonstrate that gaming is more addictive than watching movies or tv shows?

There's this article that talks about dopamine and rewards. It makes sense, but are there similar studies? Any involving tv shows instead of movies?


2 Answers 2


To answer your question directly, there are so much different factors involved in addiction to games and movies, that I don't believe any study could cover the whole thing. We can, though, try to identify the factors that are different and study them individually.

The fundamental difference between movies/series and games, the one thing that separates more these types of entertainment than anything else, is the following:

"Mechanics in games imply the need for the player as an active part of the whole system, instead of a mere spectator"


Some factors involve personalizing your character, items and environment. Since people value more to the things they themselves made, they attach to the part of the game that has been designed for them (their characters, their items, etc). It makes them a whole lot more engaged in the process. Providing some personalization to the customer has been used a lot in marketing in order, for example, to sell cake mixes.

"When we talk to people who bake with mixes, they consider themselves every bit the scratch baker as someone who doesn’t use a mix,"

"This decorating obsession sold the idea that, this way, you’re making this cake yours."

This type of incentive cannot be applied to movies or series, since the spectator cannot have an effect on the outcome of the scenario. He's a passive observator, probably less attached to the outcome as well.


For MMO's or games where you can share your scores online, Envy and pride are also big motivators. These are feelings you rarely have while watching a movie, since your experience is the same as everyone else watching the movie. You can have a leader-board that shows you who's best, you can have multiple stats on which people can compare, you can even have purchasable cosmetic items to put on your character and show other people!

In-game or in-app purchases for cosmetic items and customization options rake in a lot of money, and developers go to great lengths to make sure that players see all the cool stuff that their teammates and opponents have acquired.

Other factors

Although I only mentioned a few, there are a lot of other factors that influence addiction and that are distinct from the ones seen in movies or TV series. I don't think there is one answer, but you can develop form there and add to this discussion.

Again, the main difference between the two types of media mentioned in this question is the role of the consumer. In games, it is an active part of the experience, an actor bound to the media by causality. In Movies, it is a passive spectator and does not hold any power to influence the outcome. This is a good starting point in order to study addiction to both forms of entertainment.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks icosamuel. So your answer is "no, there are no such studies so far" ? $\endgroup$
    – BCLC
    Commented Nov 7, 2015 at 8:57
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I'm saying there are empirical differences between the medias you mentioned. And there may be more material on these than the broad subject of video games vs movies. $\endgroup$
    – icosamuel
    Commented Nov 7, 2015 at 15:26
  • $\begingroup$ icosamuel, do you mean that the question is too broad and needs some parameters? If so, how about "Are people more likely to get hooked on playing video games than watching movies because of the active role involved?" We can replace "people" with "teenage boys", "old women" or "Americans", "movies" with "tv shows" or "movies or tv shows" or "the active role involved" with "the sense of achievement" or "a desire for camaraderie" ? $\endgroup$
    – BCLC
    Commented Nov 10, 2015 at 22:25
  • $\begingroup$ Or rather divide your query into concrete chunks that may have been documented a bit more. In a sense, I'm trying to convince you that you are able to research further and come up with your own verifiable answer. If this sounds too much like pseudo-science to you, then I'm not the one who can help, unfortunately. $\endgroup$
    – icosamuel
    Commented Nov 11, 2015 at 0:30
  • $\begingroup$ icosamuel, what is "this" ? $\endgroup$
    – BCLC
    Commented Nov 11, 2015 at 20:43

Probably YES and here is why - if you playing games you have your hero which is more connected with you because you do some things in the game by him as YOU (your EGO).

You can also read newest book of Philip Zimbardo - where are these mans? In his book he talk about it. It's interesting that boys can be more addicted from the games and girls can more addicted from the movies and TV series. It's interesting question.

Some companies make experiments when they create game because they want to addicted players - their clients because more clients means more money for their company.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks EPOS. I found some links on boys and gaming addiction. Do you have any links for girls and movies and TV series addiction? $\endgroup$
    – BCLC
    Commented Nov 7, 2015 at 9:25

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