What Makes Nintendo 3DS Gaming So Addictive?

There’s been a lot of controversy regarding the reality of addiction in video games. There are several camps in this argument. 

Some people are convinced that video game addiction is not a thing.  

That’s right!  

They truly believe that while people can get hooked on caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, methamphetamines, cocaine, and heroin, they cannot possibly get addicted to video games. Who in their right mind would spend hours in front of a screen playing around with a controller trying to manipulate every changing image and scene on a screen?  

Well, it’s easy to dismiss these people as not living in reality because there are a lot of documented cases of people missing work, letting their businesses flounder, or letting the relationships deteriorate because they can’t pry themselves off their video game controllers.  

It doesn’t matter whether you are into PC gaming or you use Xbox or PlayStation. You’re hooked!  

But it’s easy to understand where the idea that people can’t get addicted to video games comes from. For the longest time, people get addicted to substances. It’s something that’s outside of you.  

When you ingest some substance, it causes a chemical reaction in your brain that triggers a pleasure response that eventually leads to some sort of physical dependency. You don’t want it. In many cases, you hate it. But you feel like you can’t live without it.  

It’s a physical dependency. You physically crave it.  

So according to this conception of addiction, being addicted to video games is simply a non-starter because there is no external actual substance that you inject.  

But this argument falls apart precisely because the “outside substance” takes the form of stimuli. When you get people stimulated in terms of what they see and hear, it triggers the same pleasure centers in the brain to release dopamine.  

Dopamine is the pleasure drug of the brain and is the root cause of all addiction problems. Once dopamine enters the picture, addiction becomes a very real possibility.  

It doesn’t really matter how dopamine release is triggered. What’s important is that it happens. 

And believe me, video games do an awesome job of triggering dopamine release. This is the reality behind Nintendo 3DS gaming addiction.  

There are just a few factors in Nintendo 3DS that make it ripe for video addiction. Am I singling out this platform as especially addictive?  

Not really! You can find yourself in a situation where you get hooked no matter the device that you are using.  

Video game addictions operate in a fairly uniform way. It’s all about sensory stimulation triggering dopamine release which leads to a physical craving for that dopamine.  

Ok, with that out of the way, how do people get addicted to 3DS gaming? What are its inherent features that make it a physical compulsion?  


It’s very hard to get addicted to something if you don’t have access to it for fixed periods.  

Addiction works in terms of random access. As your brain gets rewarded in fixed increments that follow a tight schedule, it doesn’t get addicted because it can predict when it will experience something so it doesn’t have to release dopamine. When this happens, people don’t get addicted.  

But because Nintendo 3DS gaming enables you to play games anywhere and at any time, you get that stimulation that you need whenever you want. And at that point, you’re at the mercy of how the game is designed, and a lot of the video games out there know the basics of user engagement. This involves random rewards.  

Again, the brain doesn’t get addicted if it knows that its rewards are fixed and spaced apart. Since there are random rewards depending on what choices you make in the game, your brain starts to crave the next time you get rewarded.  

It doesn’t really know when it will happen so you stay engaged for a little bit longer and your focus and attention stay on the game until you get your next reward and you crave that next hit. You don’t know when it will be and portability is a key driver of this.  

Nintendo 3DS Gaming Allows for an Immersive Experience 

When you immerse yourself into something, you are actually drawn into the experience. There is no healthy distance between you and what you are witnessing. It feels like you are participating in this simulated world.  

This sense of control triggers pleasure centers in the brain. It keeps us engaged, and when we are faced with certain stimuli, dopamine is released.  

So, whenever dopamine is part of the picture, addiction is always a possibility. Pretty soon, you start craving this immersive experience. You can’t wait to get home so you can play your favorite video game on your console, whether it’s Red Dead Redemption, the Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, GTA 5, or whatever else you have out there.  

This is not the same dynamic as Nintendo 3DS gaming because it is fully portable. As long as you have it charged, you can get into that immersive world whenever you want.  

The problem is, the deeper you get into it, the harder it is to get out. Pretty soon, you rush through eating. You might not shower on time. There’s just a lot of things that could go wrong because it just lures you in.  

Nintendo 3DS Gaming Enables Optimal Reward and Risk Addiction 

The interesting thing about the human pleasure and reward system in the brain is that a lot of people think that it’s just all about “the stick” in the classic “carrot and stick” formula.  

Put simply, we move toward pleasure and run away from pain. We crave the carrots, but we fear the stick. 

But interestingly enough, addiction works with a stick as well because there’s a sense of risk when you’re playing. Your character might die or you might be set and you have to start from square one.  

Once your brain is put under pressure and when you overcome that, this sense of relief comes with a perception of pleasure. So, the risk in itself triggers a pleasure response because you have overridden or cheated some type of loss. This is a part of the addiction process.  

Nintendo 3DS gaming facilitates all of this because of well-designed games. But if you really don’t want to become addicted, you have to have a fixed ritual where you can restrict or ritualize your Nintendo 3DS gaming so that the rewards that you get there are predictable, spaced apart, and well ordered.  

If you just reach out for your device whenever you feel like it to get a nice, quick boost, don’t be surprised if you find yourself hooked sooner rather than later.