The NHS has announced plans recently to offer gaming addiction services to 13 to 21 year olds who might be addicted to games such as Fortnite, Call of Duty and Candy Crush.
I was asked to be on Sky News to discuss this but I was dropped as I could not make it to London for the 2.30 call time when they asked me to go on at 10am this morning, not realising I live miles away. It’s a shame as I would have loved to have been part of this discussion and do have some experience in this area after we struggled ourselves with Fortnite.
Do I think that the NHS should help kids with overcoming gaming addictions or should it be down to the games companies or the parents?
This is a big question and one that has so many things that need to be addressed. It’s not as simple as opening a clinic and forcing kids to attend psychotherapy in person or via Skype because the kids in question are using computer games as a means of escape, there is normally a bigger issue going on. With Nathan, it was starting secondary school. For others it may be home issues, mental health, the list is endless. The real problem is getting the parents to understand what and why this is happening and what their kids find so attractive about the game. The kids may not see the problem and feel like they are being punished, it needs to be handled correctly. I know what worked for us, but that may not work for everyone.
The games also need addressing. They list Fortnite, Call of Duty and Candy Crush as the most common addictive games, lumping them into a melting pot of evil. These games are very different and have different mechanics and playing styles which need to be addressed. Candy Crush is one of the biggest mobile games in history and one of the first to push the micro transaction mechanic to players. Either you wait till your stars fill back up to play or you pay for more. 79p here, £1.99 there, quickly adds up without many realising, but the candy crush player demographic is an older generation who do not do console or PC gaming. From what I understand, it is mostly adults who are addicted to these types of games spending anywhere from £50 to £500 per month on in game transactions. Kids also copy from adults so if it’s ok for them, why is it not ok for me? Many will not have developed a full grasp of money yet and it’s in a virtual world. You make a transaction with invisible currency for an invisible product, this is hard for people to understand sometimes, young and old.
Kids are also having these games forced down their throats from their peers and celebrities who endorse playing. There are competitions out there that have big cash prizes and these are giving kids ambitions to keep playing as one day, just one day, they may be as good as Ninja or someone and earn millions for playing games. Its fueling their dreams to disconnect from society and be a better gamer than their friends for kudos. Cutting back on the glamorous lifestyle of celebrities gaming should be pushed into the media and have them talk to their audiences about this issue.
Loot boxes, micro transaction, surprise mechanics are also a huge issue that needs to be addressed. Fortnite is a free to play game but if you want certain perks or to be in the rankings, you need a season pass. You also need to have certain skins to be cool and show how many seasons they have been gaming. Those with season 1 or 2 skins get more respect from others and are presumed elite, so people want to play with you. Other youtubers that kids watch, like The Sidemen, openly spend tens of thousands of pounds on squad packs for FIFA games in the hope of getting the perfect team. This pushes kids to buy more packs and spend any money they can on what EA Games call surprise mechanics and give a comparison of them being like kinder eggs. They are not. At least kinder eggs have chocolate and kids do not realise that to youtubers like KSI and The Sidemen, dropping £7000 on in game purchases a few times a week for a video will make them double that in ad revenue. Many of these games with lootbox transactions have PEGI ratings of age 3+ which is absurd when you start looking into that the loot box mechanics are encouraging gambling in children from an early age. Does this mean that we will see gambling addiction for kids bolted along side gaming addiction because EA Games and Epic Games do not see the serious nature of this?
Parental controls should be standard. Consoles, computers etc should have strict time limits put in place either via the router or via parental controls. This gives us peace of mind that they are not up all hours and in China, they have enforced that no consoles can be played by minors between 12am and 6am which is great. If you do not know how to set parental controls on routers, phones, consoles or PC, please get in touch and I will guide you through it. Microsoft have started to pave the way with their family settings on their consoles which can help set the limitations for certain times, games and game ratings so you can help kids be safe online.
The games companies should be more aware of this and have measures to help. Timers like Netflix has when it asks if you are still watching after 4 hours, alerts should force people off their consoles or pc games for breaks to come back to reality. In game clocks and timers, it shouldn’t be like a Vegas casino where you never know if its night or day. Gambling companies have regulations and helplines, why don’t these games, especially when the loot boxes are just gambling discuided behind a trade marked name.
I believe that if these are addressed it will make more headway into challenging the problems of gaming addiction. It should be openly talked about in schools, it shouldn’t be shunned, it shouldn’t be something that is made fun of nor should the parents be blamed for letting it get to that point. The games companies make the games this way, always have and always will as that is how they make a profit. But parents can and should be aware of the signs and be able to get help and support if needed.
Sorry for long post. I would love to hear your thoughts too.
Love, hugs and gg,