Games can have a dangerous habit of taking over one’s life, if you let them. Maybe you’ve yet to come across that one game that swallows up vast chunks of your social life in the blink of an eye, but it’s out there.
Whether your stacking blocks till the cows come home, or going hard till three in the morning because you’re that close to leveling up, here are some of the most dangerously addictive games of all time.
By and large, this is an opinion piece – but I’ll be backing this up wherever possible with some cold hard stats too, because stats are super fun, right? Sit back then, and we can crack on.
There’s probably no other game on this list that can be better defined as “dangerously addictive”. Hell, people have literally died playing this game. Going hard for 50+ hours with little to no breaks in between is massively detrimental to your health – who knew?
It doesn’t stop there either. People often post asking for help on forums, citing a genuine addiction to Starcraft that they just can’t kick.
With over 28.5 million games shifted in the Starcraft franchise, there’s no denying it’s an addictive juggernaut of a game – especially in South Korea, where over 30% of the population are registered users.
I don’t think I’ve ever met a person who owned the Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and hadn’t put at least a day’s worth of playtime into the RPG adventure.
Skyrim was released in November 2011. Just four months later in February 2012, GameSpot reported that PC gamers had already put in an average of 75 hours (over three days) playtime. Bear in mind that was an average, and there are doubtless loads of you out there that managed 75 hours in the first week of release.
These days, GameLengths shows that Skyrim players have put in an average of 313 hours, but that’s based on a measly sample of 123 players. Users on Steam often boast play times of between 700-800 hours, with the odd few hitting over 1000.
The Dark Souls franchise probably isn’t the first game that springs to the front of your mind when you think of addictive games. Granted, it also has very specific “charms” that only really pull in a certain kind of gamer, but those that have been claimed by Dark Souls can attest that it’s very hard to break free again.
You die a lot in Dark Souls, if you didn’t know. The game prides itself on setting you up to take a fall, and before you know it, you’ve often lost the entire night to trying to take down one boss. You look at the clock, you sigh. Then you move on to the next challenge.
Not convinced? In Dark Souls II alone, players have collectively lost a staggering 13,051,713,397,869 souls.
Don’t you roll your eyes at me. Whatever your thoughts on Minecraft, this is a massive game that grabbed a shit ton of people by the short and curlies, and didn’t let go for a long time.
Just look at this guy, who spent two years and 4.5 million blocks creating a city. More than the survival gameplay element of Minecraft, it’s the building aspect of the game that really captures the imagination and keeps fans invested for so long. There are tons of incredible Minecraft creations that no doubt took weeks, if not months to finish, with many gamers even working together on some projects.
Then there’s this GameSpot article from 2013 that showed Xbox 360 players had put a collective time of 1 billion hours (114,00 years). Add in the other consoles and the additional three years since that article, and you’re looking at some big numbers.
Considering there are about 90 different versions of Tetris spread across time, consoles, and the internet, it’d be pretty tricky to quantify exactly how much time we’ve all spent making blocks disappear over the years. But I’m sure we can all agree it’s probably a fucking scary number.
Tetris was one of those rare games that was beloved by the hardcore and had massive mainstream appeal too. The 1989 Gameboy version has shifted over 35 million copies to date, while a 2006 version for PlayStation and mobile devices has sold a massive 425 million.
That’s an awful lot of blocks.
When I say Everquest is dangerously addictive, I’m really not joking. I would never say that a game can ruin people’s lives – it’s up to the individual to monitor the time they put in after all, but blimey…
There are plenty of folk who are (or were) in a similar boat – an obsession with this game took hold and people were unable to juggle it with work and social life. It makes sense that if your real life fell apart as your virtual life went from strength to strength, you’d rely more and more on the virtual world. Still, sometimes you really do need to know when to stop.
It was, I think we can all agree, incredibly easy to lose entire days to The Sims. Whether you came on board with the original, or only discovered its virtual delights with later editions, there was so much to do – the trick was that it was all so mundane.
I’ll never understand how EA captivated a generation with a game about choosing wallpaper and stopping characters from pissing themselves, but my God they did. And boy do I have stats to back this one up – take a look at this infographic for The Sims 4, courtesy of Bustle.
Bear in mind this is from 2015, so only about a year after the PC release in 2014. Can you imagine what that number would be now, if we factored in total time played across all four Sims games?
World of Warcraft
Yep, a lot of people say World of Warcraft ain’t what it used to be -and maybe it ain’t. But can you remember how this game stole your soul back in its heyday? Remember how you’d spend every hour you weren’t playing it thinking about how you wanted to be playing it?
You weren’t the only one. Back in 2012, Kotaku reported on a study which discovered the following:
By one analyst’s calculation, the 11 million or so registered users of the online role-playing fantasy World of Warcraft collectively have spent as much time playing the game since its introduction in 2004 as humanity spent evolving as a species-about 50 billion hours of game time, which adds up to about 5.9 million years.
Back in 2012, we’d collectively put in nearly six million years of our time into World of Warcraft. I can almost guarantee we’re over the six million mark now. Jesus.
Civilization V came out in 2010. In 2016 (that’s six years later, math fans), it remains in the top ten most played Steam games.
As I write this, Steam stats has it as the ninth most played game of the day. It’s peaked at 38,991, but that’s pretty fucking good going for a six year old game. To be fair, anyone who’s dabbled in the world building strategy game can attest that it is a vast behemoth of a game that swallows up time and spits it out in your face, making you wonder what exactly happened your evening.
The majority of people who took part in this poll used Steam to work out that they’d put in 200-400 hours of play time, while the second largest chunk of the poll was taken by folk who have over 1000 hours of Civilization V under their belt. Goodness me.
So it seems like Blizzard basically make digital heroin. The free-to-play online battle bonanza Dota 2 often reaches peaks of one million concurrent players.
So I just checked, it’s 1,035,689 and the most played game on Steam today. Factor in a thriving pro scene that people love to watch as well as actively participate in, and it’s safe to say you’ve got a fair few folk hooked.
I suppose a large factor in the time people spend on the game is the length of a match, too. 25 minutes would be considered a quick match, while normally you should expect the fun to last for around 35-45 minutes, though it’s really not unheard of for them to go past the 60 minute mark.
So if this article has taught us anything at all, it’s that we as gamers really need to head outside once in a while – just make sure you take a portable with you, yeah?
Ewan Moore is a journalist at UNILAD Gaming who still quite hasn’t gotten out of his mid 00’s emo phase. After graduating from the University of Portsmouth in 2015 with a BA in Journalism & Media Studies (thanks for asking), he went on to do some freelance words for various places, including Kotaku, Den of Geek, and TheSixthAxis, before landing a full time gig at UNILAD in 2016.