Protecting kids from the risk of gaming addiction

Gaming is big business. According to SteamSpy, there are 276 million active gamers, and right now, each of them owns an average of 49 games. There are over 200,000 online games available, and it’s predicted that consumer spending on mobile gaming apps will reach $105 billion by 2021.

Some of the most successful examples of this would be League of Legends – which had revenues of $2.1 billion in 2017, and Fortnite – which beat all the competition, raking in $2.4 billion.

But with the industry growing at record speed, there have, of course, been side-effects. One of the biggest issues we’ve seen is the rise in addiction to games and mental health issues.

In fact, the WHO now recognises Gaming Disorder as a mental health condition. It estimates that 3-4% of gamers struggle with this disorder, which can cause headaches, sleep deprivation, or in some cases, even hospitalisation.

So, who’s to blame?

At the moment, some psychologists are placing the blame with parents. As with social media and the internet in general, it’s parents’ responsibilities to protect their kids from the dangers.

They say that parents are allowing their children to use too much media. This can create a ripple effect, that can lead to an array of mental health problems and, ultimately, addiction.

Others, however, have pointed to the gaming industry itself. It’s clear that there’s big money to be made in the industry, and game creators have been accused many times of designing games that they know will be addictive.

For example, many games are purposely designed with no definitive “end” or “win”. This removes the feeling of accomplishment and makes the player feel they need to continue playing to get the buzz they want.

Some developers have even admitted to buying data on gamers, that will reveal how likely they are to purchase and play the game, as well as how likely they will be to recommend it to others.

According to Liz Wooley, founder of Online Gamers Anonymous, video games have become the new drug of choice among many young people. She says the most addictive games are:

  • Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (eg. Everquest)
  • First-Person Shooters (Call Of Duty, Halo)
  • Real-time Strategy Games (Starcraft, Command and Conquer)
  • Role-Playing Games (Final Fantasy, Knights of the Old Republic)
  • Third-Person Action Games (Fortnite, Tomb Raider, Splinter Cell)

She noted: “Thousands of people were getting hooked to this latest generation of video games that were designed by people with degrees in psychology, to make them as addicting as possible. “The biggest insight that a consumer needs to realize, whether they are getting the video game for themselves or someone else, is that video gaming can become a “drug of choice” for some people. Are you willing to take that chance?”

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