Dopamine is not a hormone
Despite sometimes being referred to as the “happy hormone”, dopamine is in fact a neurotransmitter: one of the body’s chemicals that is responsible for transmitting signals between the nerve cells, or neurons, in the brain.
It is not simply a bringer of pleasure
Dopamine is the body’s pleasure chemical, right? Only up to a point. It is involved with the body’s reward system, and is linked to addiction in some cases. However, it serves a range of purposes relating not only to pleasure, but also to processes such as the regulation of movement and our ability to pay attention. It is also related to the expectation of pleasure, even if that expectation is never realised. Hence, it is more involved in motivating you to pursue an activity you think you will find pleasurable, rather than the actual feeling of pleasure itself.
Dopamine doesn’t make video games as addictive as Class A drugs
There is no denying that good video-game designers exploit our body’s desire for rewards incredibly effectively. Dopamine plays a big role in our reaction to a new challenge, even if it is not, strictly speaking, responsible for the feeling of pleasure derived from overcoming that channel. Video games of all types seek to offer a level of compelling challenge that will keep us coming back for more (a decision motivated by dopamine release). It is not true, however, that video-game use is associated with the same levels of dopamine release as the taking of drugs such as cocaine, or having sex. Studies show the levels are, in fact, much lower.