Are Video Games Too Addictive?
During a visit in a West London YMCA, the British prince, Prince Harry, has called for parents to boycott the popular battle royale game, Fortnite. Speaking plainly at the event, Prince Harry spoke of Fortnite and said:
This game shouldn’t be allowed, what is the benefit of having it in your household?
He also called the game addicting and added that it was designed to keep you playing the game.
Is He Right?
It’s no secret that Fortnite has become one of, if not THE, most played game in recent years. As of March this year, Fortnite has hit over 250 million players worldwide and earned an estimated $2.5 billion in 2018 alone. This is, of course, thanks to microtransactions.
Microtransactions have been around since the inception of Fortnite‘s battle royale mode, with players being able to buy new skins for their characters and weapons and let’s also not forget the dance emotes that have become the bane of parents and onlookers everywhere. But, are these microtransactions to blame for kids being addicted to Fortnite?
The simple answer is: no.
Fortnite is far from the first game to introduce microtransactions and certainly not the first multiplayer game to introduce them. Microtransactions have been a part of MMOs like World of Warcraft, Warframe and countless others for 20+ years.
The real truth is not that games have gotten more addicting, it’s that video games have seen a wider adoption rate since the turn of the millennium. With consoles and PCs becoming more affordable, more people are able to access video games, whereas in the past they were the privilege of kids who had parents with high-earning jobs. But, with free-to-play games becoming more and more popular, it was only a matter of time before a game like Fortnite came into the forefront. The main reason that games like Fortnite and Roblox (to give another example) are popular among younger players, is because they are instantly accessible and always updating with new content every other week, and its this fresh cycle of rewards that keep players coming back.
Now, instead of asking parents to buy them the latest Call Of Duty or Battlefield which can cost upwards of $60 depending on the edition, kids are asking their parents for virtual currencies instead which can cost at little at $3.99 per transaction. Parents or guardians are much more likely to spend a little per week if it makes their children happy and occupied.
Gaming in and of itself is addictive, but the same can be said for any activity. The fault lies in parents and guardians who lack the education on how to manage children’s time and exposure to games. As previously stated, it’s all too easy for a parent to give their kid an iPad or controller to keep them out of their hair for a few hours. But, in an age where almost every type of content is available digitally, this does a lot more harm than good.
What Can Be Done?
As stated above, there is definitely a need for better oversight of younger gamers as well as vulnerable adults. The fact of the matter, however, is that the tools to do that already exist in most of the games available on the market today. Parental controls have been built into consoles and games for years now. But, if parents aren’t made aware that they’re there or don’t want to use them, then there really isn’t much that video game publishers can do on their end aside from including stricter age verification measures. Something that would, no doubt, earn them a lot of backlash from older gamers who don’t want to waste their time flitting back and forth between their email inbox just so they can play a game.
The best solution available now, would be to run ad campaigns on TV, encouraging parents to become more involved in their children’s gaming habits and making them aware of the controls that are available to them. Adverts are currently run in the EU and UK to promote awareness of addictions such as smoking and gambling, so, it wouldn’t be too far of a stretch to include parental controls and gaming in that list.
In conclusion, the best way to avoid your loved ones becoming addicted to games is to take the time to talk with them and learn why they’re choosing to spend their time playing these games. In the end, all the warning screens and preventative measures in the world can’t beat some good old-fashioned human interaction.