Smartphone games are a supreme waste of time. Except when they aren't!
All of us have had the experience of craving something. And most of us currently experience or vividly remember that craving for wine or some other mind-altering substance. For myself, I remember the sight of a lovely crystal wineglass, with tiny sedate beads of moisture on the outside from the delicious chilled white wine I'd just poured into it. And I can imagine that first taste, a little tart, cold, slightly bubbly, ricocheting around my mouth. I can almost taste and feel it.
And that would be how another evening of drinking too much wine would begin- when I could no longer resist the call of that vision, that craving.
There've been some studies of food craving showing that interrupting that visual image with a different one, especially one that requires concentration and physical movements, can decrease cravings. Ta-Dah! Enter the smartphone or computer game.
A recent study** actually used the videogame Tetris to study naturally-occurring cravings in male undergrad students. After the students clarified what they were craving, they were divided into two groups. Group 1 played Tetris on computer for 3 minutes, and Group 2 got the same start, but their computers 'stalled' while loading the computer game. There was significantly more decrease in craving in the game-playing group. The theory is that the new visual images from engaging in the game partially supplant the craving images, and markedly decrease their intensity and thus their allure.
The authors conclude: "In conclusion, we have shown that playing Tetris for a brief period is sufficient to reduce naturally occurring cravings that participants were already experiencing when they entered the laboratory. "
It seems to me that most smartphone games that require even a bit of strategy thinking could fulfill the same purpose. (Hello, Candy Crush!). Maybe this is another reliable tool to add to our Sober Toolboxes?
**Skorka-Brown J, Andrade J, May J. Playing 'Tetris' reduces the strength, frequency and vividness of naturally occurring cravings. Appetite. 2014; 76:161-165