About Cam Adair

Cam Adair is a speaker, writer and player of chess. A prominent thought leader on gaming addiction, he shares weekly videos on YouTube.

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‘Gaming Disorder’ is a mental health condition, and it’s time the industry accepts its social responsibilities.

TLDR;

Video game addiction is real. (WHO, 2018)

Big Gaming denies addiction problems for its users, while booming to record revenues.

Regulations and legislative efforts are on their way.

Over the past 40 years the video game industry has boomed into an industry worth an anticipated $138 billion dollars in 2018—larger than both the film and music industries combined 1 1. Video game industry is booming with continued revenue × . Growth is projected to accelerate as engagement with young people is high—over 83% of teenagers play video games regularly 2 2. Pew: Teens, Social Media & Technology 2018 × —and infrastructure for organized professional gaming (eSports) continues to develop.

As revenues and engagement have grown, so too has another phenomenon—gaming addiction, with the World Health Organization officially recognizing ‘Gaming Disorder’ as a mental health condition in 2018 3 3. WHO: Gaming disorder × . Yet the gaming industry continues to deny its existence, suggesting that its creation is “misguided”, “premature”, and has the potential to be “deeply harmful.” 4 4. IGDA Exec. Director's Statement on Gaming Disorder ×

Deceptive Denial

Instead the industry argues that gaming is safe for most people, and in fact, beneficial 5 5. Gaming Industry Statement on Who Icd-11 List and the Inclusion of Gaming × . They suggest that a diagnosis for gaming addiction will create a moral panic, even though no empirical evidence has been presented to make their case. They describe games as “fun”, while neglecting to mention that fun is a chemical response of dopamine in your brain, and hide behind the notion that they are simply “making what people want,” with no regard to the fact that “what people want” may not always be what is positive for their overall well-being 6 6. Michal Napora, Game Developer Comments on Industry × .

The decision whether or not to formalize a mental disorder should not be made based on a fear of potential miscommunication. -Lee Seung-Yup

While true that gaming addiction impacts only around 4% of the total gaming population, with billions of gamers worldwide, even 4% is a substantial number. Regardless of the percentage of people who are affected, the fact remains that people do suffer from severe impairment from problematic gaming, and they should not be blocked from receiving necessary support 7 7. Orsolya, Loránd, 2017: Inclusion of Gaming Disorder in ICD has more advantages than disadvantages × . As the gaming industry has grown, so too has the public health need for gaming addiction 8 8. Rumpf et al., 2018: Including gaming disorder in the ICD-11: The need to do so from a clinical and public health perspective × .

Big Gaming, like Big Tobacco and Big Alcohol before it, has a simple choice to make: become a part of the solution, or be regulated into compliance. Here are four solutions Big Gaming could implement immediately that would help to address addiction problems with their users:

Actionable Changes

1. Warning Labels and Notifications

“Take everything in moderation (even World of Warcraft)”
– Blizzard Entertainment (2007, World of Warcraft loading screen messages)

Adding warning labels to games about the potential harmful effects of overuse is a positive, albeit small, step forward. These are especially important to help parents understand when a game offers the opportunity for their children to spend additional money within the game through in-app purchases, micro-transactions, and/or loot boxes.

Game developers should also implement personalized feedback mechanisms, including time tracking, pop-up notifications and self-restrictions, to support extreme users in breaking their pattern of excessive play.

2. Ethical Responsible Design

Not all game design is problematic, but some features are worse than others. Games that are less predictable by using variable reinforcement ratio schedules, games that have no end (continue on endlessly), and games that include loot boxes are three such addictive features.

Instead of designing games to maximize the amount of time—and the amount of money—users spend in a game, game developers could be considering the potential harmful effects of addiction in the design phase itself, as pointed out by Shumaila Yousafzai, Zaheer Hussain, and Mark Griffiths 9 9. Time for the gaming industry to take addiction seriously × .

3. Leverage Esports for Good

Esports is growing rapidly with millions of players competing for the right to be the best in the world. Colleges are adding varsity teams and scholarships, and 19,500 high schools in the United States will soon have teams as well.

This is a great opportunity for the gaming industry to leverage eSports for good by, i) providing all eSports players with a well-being handbook, ii) showing commercials at all tournaments with warning signs of addiction, and iii) investing a percentage of eSports revenue into healthy gaming campaigns and addiction prevention.

4. Guide Gamers In Need

Gaming companies have massive databases of players and their behavior patterns, equipping them with the information necessary to identify at-risk users, which they can then offer resources and services that can help.

As Shumaila Yousafzai says, “it is not the gaming industry’s responsibility to treat gaming addicts but it should play a part in guiding them towards agencies that know how to treat them.”

Moving Forward

These four changes would play a significant role in combatting the harmful effects of gaming addiction on the lives of millions of people, a public service any company should be proud to provide. Not only will this help people who need help, but it will allow healthy gamers around the world to game in peace, without the risk of developing their own addiction.

However, until Big Gaming decides to be a part of the solution, we should continue legislative pressure to hold these companies accountable for profiting off of addiction.

Need help?

Reading this and struggling with a compulsion or addiction to gaming? You are not alone. Check out Respawn, a program specifically designed to help you quit gaming and take control of your life back. Backed by scientific research, join thousands of others like you who have quit gaming. Start your journey today.

Employment rates for young men are dropping sharper than any other group. Is gaming to blame?

TLDR;

Unemployment rates are rising for young men in their early 20s without bachelor degrees.

75% of the time they used to spend working is now spent gaming.

Overexposure to gaming can cause structural brain changes that warp your perception of effort and reward. These changes can hurt your capacity to obtain employment.

In the 1990s technology disruption of the workforce accelerated with the advent of computers and high-speed internet. Increased automation, globalization and digital platforms caused the nature of work to shift forever. But these were not the only technologies that would have an impact on the workforce, and another may surprise you: video games.

Why Work When You Can Game Instead?

Over the last 15 years as video game usage has increased, so too has unemployment for young men in their early 20s 1 1. Aguiar, Bils, Charles, Hurst, 2017: Leisure Luxuries and the Labor Supply of Young Men × . Not going to school, and without a bachelor’s degree, these young men have replaced 75% of the time they used to spend working with playing video games.

Most alarming of all, happiness surveys show they aren’t unhappy in life, in fact, they are content. What could be better than playing video games all day? That is until they reach their 30s and that contentment leads to depression as they realize how far behind in life they are, without adequate skills to acquire work and provide for a family.

We see this phenomenon reflected in the Game Quitters community, with 44% of our members unemployed, 21% working part-time or casually, and only 35% in full-time employment. The majority of our community are men aged 18-32, and 60% of them earn less than $500 each month.

Video Game Addiction Hurts the Economy

When you struggle with a video game addiction, merely undertaking necessary and normal every activities is a full-time job. This level of impairment hurts your capacity to obtain employment, or perform if you have managed to get one. A study 2 2. Rumpf et al., 2014 × in Europe found that gaming addicts reported missing 7.5 days of work in the last 12 months, the same amount as those who struggle with social phobia, but higher than those with depression (4.1 days) and cardiovascular conditions (7.2 days) 3 3. Alonso et al., 2011 × .

Steve, a video game addict, regularly finds himself calling in sick to work in order to game: “I downloaded the game and played a lot that night. The next morning, I woke up and said “I’m calling into work.” And I played games all day. Then the next day I said “I’m calling in again.” I spent the morning playing and I was starting to feel irritable and paranoid but the gaming felt so good and I missed it so much and my brain was so happy. But then I was sad, frustrated, and pissy.”

It’s difficult to work if you struggle with a gaming addiction. Gaming is all-encompassing. You get lost in it for hours and hours without even noticing. It becomes your world. And this has an impact on our economy. In South Korea, a study estimated the socioeconomic loss due to excessive internet use to be between 1.5 and 4.5 billion dollars in 2009 4 4. Lee, H. K., Kim, H. S., & Lee, T. J. (2011). Cost-effect analysis on the introduction of online game shut down regulation. Seoul, Republic of Korea: Ministry of Gender Equality & Family × . Imagine what the socioeconomic impact is worldwide when young men are too busy gaming to be working and contributing to society.

Pretending to Work

I struggled with this myself. Addicted to video games, I withdrew from the real world. I dropped out of high school, never graduated, and while all of my friends were off to college, I was at home playing video games up to 16 hours a day. As much as I had fun playing games, I also struggled with depression. Since I wasn’t going to school my parents told me I had to get a job, so I ‘got’ one at a restaurant as a prep cook. Except I didn’t actually get the job, and instead, pretended to have it.

Every morning, after gaming all night, my dad would drop me off at the restaurant for work. As soon as he drove off I would walk across the street and catch the bus back home, sneaking in through my window, and going to sleep. This would go on for a few weeks before naturally they would ask me where the paycheck was, which is when I would make up an excuse and say I quit or I got fired or whatever else I could suggest to deceive them with. Then I would pretend to get a new job, rinse and repeat.

Eventually as much as gaming allowed me to escape from my situation it didn’t actually fix it, and my depression got to a point where I wrote a suicide note. It was this night where I realized I needed to make a change, and that change began with quitting gaming. I started to see a counsellor, and this counsellor helped me get—and keep—a job. This was the turning point in my life.

But it wasn’t easy, and for a month every morning before work I would throw up in the shower. My anxiety to quit gaming, leave the house, and work was that intense. I missed the majority of my shifts the first month of work. I should have been fired quickly, but due to reasons I will never know, I was not. You could say it was divine intervention. Through the support of my family, my counsellor, and a deep commitment to make a change in my life, I was able to persevere and maintain my job. I began to rebuild my life without video games.

So why does this happen? How are these bright young men with all the potential in the world getting caught in a web of gaming and unemployment?

Gaming Changes the Brain

Video games are intentionally designed to keep you hooked using state-of-the-art behavioral psychology. Overexposure to this type of game design and hyper-stimulation can cause structural changes to your brain, including numbed pleasure response—every day activities no longer satisfy you, hyper-reactivity to gaming—gaming is really exciting and everything else is boring, and willpower erosion—even if you wanted to quit you would struggle to have the willpower anyways.

Imaging studies show an impact to brain regions involved in decision-making, behavioral inhibition, and emotional regulation 5 5. Weinstein, 2017 × . Gaming addicts also show increased risk-taking choices, and an impaired ability to control their impulses. Further, gaming addiction is association with dopamine deficiency, which studies have found impacts your desire and willingness to work 6 6. Weinstein, Livny, & Weizman, 2017 × .

Gaming Warps Your Perception of Effort/Reward

When you put effort into a video game, you improve. You see measurable progress with a score flashing across the screen, a leaderboard, and/or a mission completed. Games are explicit in their expectations and consistent in their rewards—many of which you receive through instant gratification. Real life doesn’t work the same way, with actions and outcomes often having no linear relationship. To a gamer this inconsistency can be extremely demotivating, especially when it comes to pursuing employment through the job market.

Ariel, a gamer who was struggling to find employment, shared with me that “in games you know you have to complete a task to make progress toward your goal, on the other hand in the job market it’s a gamble. You could send out literally a hundred resumes and only hear back from one employer for an interview, and they still might not even hire you.”

Why pursue work that requires effort, with no guarantee of a reward, when you could simply game all day instead? Gaming provides more control over your experience and the results you achieve, regardless of whether they are respected in the real world or not.

Jane McGonigal, a video game scholar and game designer, has shared with the New York Times that “games provide a sense of waking in the morning with one goal: I’m trying to improve this skill. There is a routine and daily progress that does a good job at replacing traditional work.” Many modern games are also designed to have no end. You can continue to play them indefinitely, one more mission—and day without a job—at a time.

Gaming Is a Safe Place to Fail

If you apply for a job and don’t get it, you experience rejection and that hurts. On the contrary, if you die in a video game you just press restart and try again. There is no risk. This level of comfort that gaming provides helps to explain why men are leaving the workforce to disappear into video games instead.

Ariel was actively trying to get a job, but turned to games as a crutch to escape feelings of rejection. “I was really, really getting frustrated with submitting resumes and applications to companies and never hearing anything back, so the resentment grew and grew, and I would heal that resentment by playing video games.”

Another member reports that “there was a safety in computer games that I could not replicate with anything else: the safety of the new game or reload button, where if things didn’t go exactly how I wanted them to go I could just redo it, and nothing of the previous failures would remain.”

Life Is the Ultimate Video Game

When it comes to unemployment there are multiple factors you can point to for blame: stagnant wages, a poor job market, globalization, automation, and the Great Recession to name a few. These are all important in their own right and we must be aware of them, but the fact remains, employment rates for young men in their early 20s are dropping swiftly, and they are escaping into video games with their newfound freedom.

To combat this as a society we must do more to recognize video game addiction and offer support services for those who struggle with it. We must break the stigma, as it only further isolates those who desperately need help. This isn’t only a public health crisis, but an economic one.

Practical Tips:

For gaming addicts struggling to find employment, treat the job search like a game. Set a goal of how many job applications you will submit each day. And whether you hear back or not, you can always press the restart button and try again tomorrow.

Reflect on the types of games you play and what you like about them. Do you play competitive games? Or role-playing games? What do the types of games you play help you learn about the types of jobs you could pursue? What skills can you develop to improve your employment prospects? You are the character you are building in this game of life. Be patient and take it one day at a time.

Need help?

Reading this and struggling with a compulsion or addiction to gaming? You are not alone. Check out Respawn, a program specifically designed to help you quit gaming and take control of your life back. Backed by scientific research, join thousands of others like you who have quit gaming. Start your journey today.

What Is Video Game Addiction?

Video game addiction is a real mental health condition affecting millions of people around the world.

The World Health Organization recognizes it as “Gaming Disorder” in their International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) as “a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour, which may be online or offline, manifested by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.”

Although billions of people play video games, the majority of them do not have an addiction, and the World Health Organization estimates the number of those who do struggle with an addiction is 3-4%. The difference between a healthy fun gaming hobby and an addiction is the negative impact the activity is having in your life.

Typically an addict will have a level of severity resulting in “significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning,” and the pattern of gaming behavior is “normally evident over a period of at least 12 months in order for a diagnosis to be assigned, although the required duration may be shortened if all diagnostic requirements are met and symptoms are severe.”

What Causes Video Game Addiction?

Video games are intentionally designed using state-of-the-art behavior psychology to keep you hooked. Games are immersive experiences that provide you with a high amount of dopamine, and overexposure to this level of stimulation can cause structural changes to your brain.

You begin to live in a world where you expect instant gratification. Games are so immersive that it’s easy to play for hours and hours without even noticing that a minute has gone by. They allow you to escape and see measurable progress. They are social, and create an environment where you feel safe and in control.

Game developers also deploy manipulative game design features such as in-app purchases, micro-transactions, and loot boxes that some governments have declared illegal – because they are a form of gambling. Video game addiction exists because game companies are billion dollar industries and the more people they have hooked on games, the more money they make.

What Are the Signs of Video Game Addiction?

The American Psychiatric Association has identified nine warning signs to watch for when it comes to video game addiction. Although these can be helpful to better understand the severity of your own situation, it’s important to always seek the advice of a professional.

  1. Preoccupation with video games. The individual thinks about previous gaming activity or anticipates playing the next game; Gaming becomes the dominant activity in daily life.
  2. Withdrawal symptoms when gaming is taken away. These symptoms are typically described as irritability, anxiety, boredom, cravings, or sadness.
  3. Tolerance – the need to spend increasing amounts of time engaged in video games. This may be motivated by a need for completion of increasingly intricate, time-consuming, or difficult goals to achieve satisfaction and/or reduce fears of missing out.
  4. Unsuccessful attempts to control the participation in video games.
  5. Loss of interests in previous hobbies and entertainment as a result of, and with the exception of, video games.
  6. Continued excessive use of games despite knowledge of psychosocial problems. The individual continues to play despite negative impact.
  7. Has deceived family members, therapists, or others regarding their gaming.
  8. Use of video games to escape or relieve a negative mood (e.g., feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety).
  9. Has jeopardized or lost a significant relationship, job, educational, or career opportunity because of participation in video games.

If you meet five (or more) of the following warning signs in a 12-month period, you may have an addiction and should seek the help of a professional immediately.

Effects of Video Game Addiction

Video game addiction is a compulsive mental health disorder that can cause severe damage in one’s life. It’s common for a video game addict to spend over 10 hours a day gaming, usually well into the night, and many suffer from sleep deprivation. Immersed in their experience, gamers are known to have poor diets consisting mainly of energy drinks full of caffeine and sugar. Many are dehydrated and malnourished.

In more severe cases, gaming addicts report agoraphobia – a type of anxiety disorder in which they fear leaving the house – and others identify with hikikomori — a term popularized in Japan as reclusive adolescents or adults who withdraw from social life.

Gaming addicts tend to be moody and irritable, depressed, physically aggressive, and refuse to go to school or work due to gaming. To be a gaming addict is to experience functional impairment in multiple areas of your life, and the long-term effects can be devastating. Gaming addicts fail out of college. They get divorced. And they struggle with unemployment.

Video Game Addiction Self-Assessment

If you would like to screen yourself for a video game addiction, read the nine warning signs and symptoms above, or take our short quiz here.

If you are concerned about your gaming use, we recommend to seek help immediately, and you can also begin by starting a 90 day detox.

Video Game Addiction or Underlying Mental Health Problem?

In the debate around video game addiction you often here the objection that gaming is better understood as a coping mechanism for underlying mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and not a disorder in its own right. Is this true?

No. It is widely established in the addiction field that comorbidity – the simultaneous presence of two chronic diseases or conditions in a patient — is common, and gaming disorder is no exception. For some, gaming excessively will be a form of coping with another condition and may progress to a gaming disorder, comparable to the behavior of substance-related disorders, and for others gaming excessively will be a function of impairment.

Whether problematic gaming came first, or as a result of underlying mental health problems, therapeutic goals should include treatment of the gaming disorder itself because this disorder can be the underlying agent of functional impairment, and its treatment might be a prerequisite for effective treatment of comorbid conditions.

Video Game Addiction Treatment Options

The good news is that help is available for someone struggling with a video game addiction. Game Quitters is an online peer support community with hundreds of free videos, a community forum, and a very affordable program for both gamers and for parents.

For more severe cases you may want to seek the help of a treatment facility who specializes in video game addiction. There are also professionals around the world available to provide therapy and counseling. If you are struggling with a video game addiction, seek help immediately. It can change your life.

With record profits and new business models available to game developers, danger is on the horizon.

TLDR;

Games are intentionally designed to keep you hooked using the best practices of behavioral psychology.

Gambling-like game design features include loot boxes, microtransactions, and in-app purchases.

Companies are earning record profits by targeting these unregulated features to kids.

Games are no longer what they used to be—fun, simple, and innocent. As technology has evolved, so too have games and the way in which they are designed. Armed with teams of behavioral psychologists, game companies deploy state of the art features to draw you in, and keep you hooked.

With each new game release, evidence builds that games are “specifically designed to exploit and manipulate the addictive nature of human psychology” as Representative Chris Lee of Hawaii has stated 1 1. New York Times: A Video Game ‘Loot Box’ Offers Coveted Rewards, but Is It Gambling? × . Worst of all, they are targeted towards the most vulnerable—kids.

How Did We Get Here?

The iPhone changed the way we communicate. The App Store changed the way we game. Starting in 2008, mobile and social gaming began taking the world by storm, and so too would a new business model with the introduction of in-app purchases.

No longer tied to a one-time purchase of the game itself, a game company could now offer their game for free (or for a small amount, usually under five dollars), and instead offer you opportunities to make small payments within the game through microtransactions. These were usually offers for upgrades, such as better weapons, faster advancement, cosmic improvements, and special or additional levels. What was once a fair playing field for all gamers, quickly devolved into pay-to-win.

Further, microtransactions take advantage of our psychology through impulse buying and loss aversion, and the problems with this type of predatory game design have only been intensified with the introduction of loot boxes.

Is It Gaming, or Is It Gambling?

Playing video games and gambling have a lot in common. Both operate on game mechanics that include “variable reinforcement schedules in order to reward and prolong play, and use exciting and stimulating sound and light effects.” They also include repeated cycles of uncertainty, anticipation, and feedback, and the rewards are just enough to keep you going 2 2. The Guardian: Social Media Copies Gambling Tricks To Make Users Crave It × .

The clearest example of these game mechanics are loot boxes. A type of ‘mystery box’, a player can pay anywhere from a few dollars to $50 or more of real-life money for the random chance of obtaining a desired virtual item. This item may be unattainable within the game outside of winning it in a loot box, and tend to vary in rarity (common, rare, epic and legendary), so they also come with a sense of prestige. We know from gambling research that the anticipation of a potential win activates our brain’s chemical reward system 3 3. Kim, 1998: Opioid antagonists in the treatment of impulse-control disorders. × , and loot boxes prey on this psychology. Worse, they are in games everywhere.

A study found “the loot boxes in almost half (45%) of the 22 games analyzed met the criteria to be considered psychologically similar to gambling, even though they are rated as appropriate for adolescent players under the age of consent for gambling.” 4 4. Drummond & Sauer, 2018: Video game loot boxes are psychologically akin to gambling × Further, a poll by Parent Zone found 10% of 13-18 year olds admitted to gambling on unregulated casino, esports betting or mystery box games, equivalent to almost 450,000 teenagers in the UK, and this was despite age-verification procedures 5 5. Telegraph: 400,000 British teens lured into under-aged gambling through video games, investigation reveals × . Research is clear: the earlier you start gambling, the more likely you are to continue gambling into your adulthood 6 6. ResearchGate: Griffiths × .

The potential damage is significant. Gambling physically alters the brain’s structure and makes people more susceptible to depression and anxiety 7 7. Telegraph: Gambling physically alters the brain, making people more prone to anxiety and depression, study finds × , and is associated with both debt and family difficulties. Reports come out regularly of the nightmare parents have when they receive their credit card bill and discover their son or daughter had been buying loot boxes and other in-app purchases without their consent. Today’s video games are a gateway to gambling.

Why Take Advantage of Youth? It’s Profitable!

If science is definitive that youth are vulnerable to gambling 8 8. Wilber & Potenza, 2006: Adolescent Gambling × , and games are now clearly designed with these features, why do game developers continue to pursue this path with reckless abandon?

The answer is unfortunately simple: It is extremely profitable. In 2017, Activision, which owns Blizzard—one of the most popular game companies—reported earnings of over $4 billion dollars from in-game purchases alone, equivalent to more than half of their total earnings! 9 9. PCGames: Over half of Activision Blizzard’s revenue in 2017 came from in-game purchases ×

Predatory as they are, there is a legitimate debate about whether loot boxes are a true form of gambling. Current law in most countries doesn’t view paying real money to win virtual goods as a form of monetary exchange—a necessary component of gambling law 10 10. US Federal Gambling Laws × , which has left the market unregulated (and thus exposed and used by vulnerable populations such as teenagers). However, what if you were able to sell your virtual goods for real-life money? This is exactly what happened in the game Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO).

Counter-Strike is a series of first-person shooter games that has been one of the most popular in history, but when game maker Valve released their latest edition CS:GO in 2012, things did not go according to plan. That is until they introduced a new game feature: skins. Skins were a unique way to decorate your virtual weapons. Acquire one in the game and you could sell it for real money. The game’s popularity exploded and grew in players by 1,500% within two years.

It also created a thriving gambling market. It worked like this: You buy a skin for cash, and then use the skin to place a bet on professional CS:GO matches using third-party websites like CSLounge. You could then sell your skin for real money, thus, placing a bet with a skin is essentially no different than placing a bet with real money.

Worse, this was an intentional strategy by the game developers, as employee Kyle Davis explained that the best way to get players “deeply engaged” in games (the terms companies use instead of “psychologically hooked”), was to “give away virtual items of random value and encourage a robust market to trade them.”

Research firm Eilers & Krejcik Gaming found more than 3 million people wagered $2.3 billion worth of skins in 2015, and of course, Valve received a kickback on 15% of the money 11 11. Bloomberg: Virtual Weapons Are Turning Teen Gamers into Serious Gamblers × . The CS:GO gambling industry was valued at $7.4 billion in July 2016, and has helped make CS:GO one of the biggest games in the world.

A Sign of Things to Come

However, it came with a cost: lawsuits 12 12. Holden, Rodenberg & Kaburakis, 2017: Esports Corruption: Gambling, Doping, and Global Governance × . The first came on June 23, 2016 alleging that Valve “knowingly allowed, supported, and/or sponsored illegal gambling.” A second, third, and fourth lawsuit came within weeks, causing Valve to take action and shut down this illegal gambling market, but not before they had earned hundreds of millions of dollars by taking advantage of the users they claim to care for.

Unfortunately, this was not the end of the romance between the gaming and gambling industries. With the Supreme Court legalizing sports betting 13 13. VentureBeat: Supreme Court decision means esports betting can step out of the shadows × — paving the way for legal esports betting—this budding romance has just begun. With record profits and new business models available to game developers around the world, danger is on the horizon.

Need help?

Reading this and struggling with a compulsion or addiction to gaming? You are not alone. Check out Respawn, a program specifically designed to help you quit gaming and take control of your life back. Backed by scientific research, join thousands of others like you who have quit gaming. Start your journey today.

If you think you might be gambling too much, or if you are worried about a friend or relative, help is available 24/7 and 100% confidential. Call or text the National Problem Gambling Helpline: 1-800-522-4700 or send a message on chat.

The rise of eSports is a modern day gold rush.

TLDR;
  • eSports: organized competitive gaming
  • Revenues near $1 billion annually
  • Prizes are in the tens of millions of dollars
  • U.S. colleges now offer scholarships
  • Millions of players compete for hundreds of pro gamer spots
  • Major health and addiction implications

Beginning in the 1990s, gaming went from a casual hobby, to an organized professional sport 1 1. Medium: The History and Evolution of Esports × . Today competitive professional gaming, also known as eSports, is a soon-to-be $1 billion dollar industry 2 2. Forbes: Esports To Grow Substantially And Near Billion-Dollar Revenues In 2018 × , championships are watched live by tens of millions of people 3 3. Verge: 'League of Legends' eSports finals watched by 32 million people × , and their potential Olympic debut is on the horizon 4 4. Variety: Professional Competitive Gaming on the Rise, Overwatch Shows Olympic Potential × .

With significant growth year-after-year, the eSports industry is a modern day gold rush. Major media networks ESPN, TBS, SyFy, and Telemundo all broadcast esports events 4 4. Variety: Professional Competitive Gaming on the Rise, Overwatch Shows Olympic Potential × , traditional sport leagues like the NHL and the NBA have launched tournaments and leagues, and owners of NBA and NFL teams have added ownership stakes in esports teams 4 4. Variety: Professional Competitive Gaming on the Rise, Overwatch Shows Olympic Potential × .

In the U.S., over 600 colleges and universities have added varsity esports teams and/or scholarships for esports 5 5. ESPN: List of varsity esports programs spans North America × , and this year PlayVS announced a partnership to bring esports to 19,500 high schools 6 6. Venture-Backed Startup Targets High School Esports Infrastructure, Eyes NCAA × . The numbers clearly show, eSports is here to stay.

Why is eSports so Popular?

Gamers love competition. They want to be the best. From 1972 when the winner of the first eSports event received a yearlong subscription to Rolling Stone magazine 1 1. Medium: The History and Evolution of Esports × , to present day where prize pools include up to tens of millions of dollars 7 7. E-Sports Earnings × , winning is at the core of what playing video games is all about.

eSports is also accessible. To play a traditional sport you may have to organize people into the same physical location, whereas with gaming you can play with people from all around the world instantly with an internet connection from the comfort of your own home.

Streaming—where you can watch other people (including professional gamers) play on websites like Twitch—is another reason eSports is popular. In 2017, Twitch (owned by Amazon) received 15 million daily visitors, with 355 billion (yes billion) minutes watched 8 8. Twitch: 2017 Year in Review × .

Gaming culture today is as much about playing games as it is about watching other people play. Our own internal surveys reveal the average gaming addict plays an average of 25 hours per week, while spending 25 hours per week in other internet activities—watching streams.

eSports sells the dream of going pro. With 83% of teenage girls and 95% of teenage boys playing video games regularly 9 9. Pew: Teens, Social Media & Technology 2018 × , what could be more exciting than earning your living as a pro gamer, especially compared to traditional careers like being an accountant, lawyer, or sales associate—no offense to people working in those professions. The competition for eSports is fierce, with hundreds of millions of gamers competing for hundreds of spots.

Health and Addiction Concerns

Although eSports and the capacity to earn money as a gamer are positive developments for the industry, there are valid concerns to be aware of.

To be the next eSports star involves gaming many hours each day, and research on the negative impact on your health when you spend hours sitting in a chair in a dark room starring at a screen is conclusive. Faker, one of the world’s biggest eSports stars practices for 12-15 hours a day 10 10. The Guardian: The rise of eSports: are addiction and corruption the price of its success? × . That does not bode well for your health.

The introduction of college scholarships for eSports is another concern, as teenagers will now justify their excessive gaming use because they are going to be the next eSports star—when in reality the chance of that is very slim.

I’m not one to discourage a teenager, or anyone for that matter, to not pursue their dream, however doing so while being informed about what it truly takes is important, and what it takes is more than gaming all day every day. It takes focus and determination, responsibility, maturity, and optimal health—mentally, physically, and emotionally—amongst many other factors, including luck.

When the competition to become a professional gamer involves millions of players for hundreds of spots, having a backup plan if it doesn’t work out would be highly recommended.

Watch: ProGamer Opens up About Why He Quit Professional Gaming

Watch: Should You Pursue Pro Gaming?

Need help?

Reading this and struggling with a compulsion or addiction to gaming? You are not alone. Check out Respawn, a program specifically designed to help you quit gaming and take control of your life back. Backed by scientific research, join thousands of others like you who have quit gaming. Start your journey today.

Are concerns over violent video games valid?

TLDR;

Every time there is a new school shooting, violent video games are what make the headlines.

Violent video game use increases aggression, decreases empathy, and is a risk factor (amongst others) to violence.

On the morning of April 20th, 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold entered Columbine High School in Denver, Colorado and committed the murder of 12 students and one teacher 1 1. Wikipedia × . The pair subsequently committed suicide. A national tragedy, the massacre ignited a fierce debate over gun control laws, bullying, and violence in video games—as the two high school seniors enjoyed playing games like Doom and Quake. Since then, video games have been tied to school shootings, including this year when Nikolas Cruz killed 17 people in Parkland, Florida, and the President of the United States suggested violent video games were partially to blame 2 2. Business Insider, 2018 × .

With millions of teenagers playing violent video games such as Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto, and Fortnite, do parents have cause for concern? Does playing video games make you violent? If you are playing violent video games, are you at-risk of becoming the next school shooter?

Video Games Are a Risk Factor

The evidence is mounting that there are problematic effects of violent game use, however, that should not be interpreted as direct cause and effect. An authoritative review in 2015 by the American Psychiatric Association 3 3. APA, 2015 × found “a consistent relation between violent video game use and increases in aggressive behavior, aggressive cognitions, and aggressive affect and decreases in prosocial behavior, empathy, and sensitivity to aggression,” however it’s important to note that although all violence is aggression, not all aggression is violence.

Research is conclusive that there is “no single risk factor that consistently leads a person to act aggressively or violently. Rather, it is the accumulation of risk factors that tends to lead to aggressive or violent behavior 4 4. Berkowitz, 1993 × 5 5. Eron, Huesmann, Lefkowitz, & Walder, 1974 × 6 6. Ferguson et al., 2013 × . Each risk factor increases the likelihood of such negative behavior 7 7. Sameroff, Bartko, Baldwin, Baldwin, & Seifer, 1988 × — violent video game use is one such risk factor.” The average gamer is not going to be violent – it is just an elevated risk – with other factors playing a role in violent behavior such as bullying, childhood experiences, frustration, poverty, personal and social stresses, and external events and situations that bring hostile ideas to mind.

The Media is Guilty

The media has a role to play here. Every time there is a new school shooting, violent video games are what make the headlines. These segments play on the fears of responsible parents around the world and do immense harm to the quality of conversation of a very serious topic—violence. These news segments may be profitable as clickbait, but they also increase the shame and stigma attached to gaming, resulting in the further isolation of a community that now makes up the majority of our population during a time when our society needs the opposite.

Violent video games are currently protected by the First Amendment 8 8. Supreme Court, 2011 × , and although we can all agree that a game that simulates a school shooting should not exist, I believe we can also agree that our goal should be toward a world free from real-world violence, and using violent video games as a scapegoat to that only hurts our cause.

Violent video game use also decreases empathy. On the internet, it’s easy to see someone as just an avatar, a username, and not as a real human being. When the majority of an adolescent’s time is spent in this type of virtual environment, the impact on their development can be significant. It’s also common for problematic video game use to isolate, and isolation can be dangerous, for others and for oneself.

Tips for Parents:

  1. Review Games and Ratings: Be educated and informed on the types of games your teenagers are playing and whether or not they contain violence with Common Sense Media.
  2. Play Games Without Violence: Although 85% of games on the market contain some form of violence, there are many that do not. Search for games focused on adventure and story-telling instead of ones based on killing and competition.
  3. Avoid Isolated Gaming: Move gaming consoles and computers into a central area in the home so you are able to monitor gameplay.

Need help?

Reading this and struggling with a compulsion or addiction to gaming? You are not alone. Check out Respawn, a program specifically designed to help you quit gaming and take control of your life back. Backed by scientific research, join thousands of others like you who have quit gaming. Start your journey today.

The debate is hot, but what does research tell us?

TLDR;

This debate generates headlines in the press, but research proves gaming addiction irrespective of comorbidity factors such as anxiety or depression.

Gaming addicts who quit for 90 days found a 21% improvement to their psychological health.

When the World Health Organization officially recognized ‘Gaming Disorder’ in their International Classification of Diseases (ICD) 1 1. WHO, 2018 × , a common objection was that gaming is better understood as a coping mechanism for underlying mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and not a disorder in its own right. Is this true?

The short answer is no. Although this can be a tempting argument to believe, it’s simplistic, deceptive, and not based in research or clinical expertise. For instance, it is widely established 2 2. Müller & Wölfling, 2017 × that comorbidity—the simultaneous presence of two chronic diseases or conditions in a patient—is common, and gaming disorder is no exception. For some, gaming excessively will be a form of coping with another condition and may progress to a gaming disorder 3 3. Griffiths, 2017 × , comparable to the behavior of substance-related disorders, for others, gaming excessively will be a function of impairment.

Related: How to Overcome Escapism

Our own internal data shows 48% of gaming addicts meet criteria for moderate or more severe depression, an important number to be sure, but one that also proves less than half of gaming addicts to have comorbidity with depression. Other research has found internet addicts (porn, gaming) do not have other impulsive/compulsive disorders 4 4. Chamberlain, Ioannidis, Grant, 2018 × , debunking the claim that they always have pre-existing conditions.

What Came First?

Whether problematic gaming came first, or as a result of underlying mental health problems, therapeutic goals should include treatment of the gaming disorder itself because this disorder can be the underlying agent of functional impairment, and its treatment might be a prerequisite for effective treatment of comorbid conditions.

I have experienced this personally as I struggled with not only a gaming addiction, but also anxiety and depression, and to improve my anxiety and depression required me to remove gaming from my life. Others in our community report the same, and we’ve found that quitting gaming for 90 days improved psychological health by 21%.

Related: Gaming Helped Me Stay Sane, Then It Became a Problem

Many of those who struggle with a gaming disorder struggle with everyday responsibilities, and often this condition is associated with poor school or job performance. Quality of life has been found to be significantly impaired irrespective of whether individuals have comorbid impulsive/compulsive disorders 4 4. Chamberlain, Ioannidis, Grant, 2018 × , however those who have quit for 90 days have received a 2x improvement to their overall quality of life.

Is Controversy Helpful?

Although arguing that gaming disorder is merely a symptom of underlying mental health conditions generates headlines and gets your name printed in the press, it is not effective for improving the lives of those who struggle with this condition, and has the potential to cause significant harm.

Research shows the primary reason someone with problematic gaming will not seek help is due to stigma—the fear of being judged, dismissed, or misunderstood 5 5. Driver, 2014 × , all of which are heightened by this type of misinformation. Gaming addicts need to know that if they come forward to seek treatment they will be met with compassion. They need to know their concerns are valid, and that professionals are trained in diagnosis and treatment.

Video Game Addiction Quiz for Gamers

Need help?

Reading this and struggling with a compulsion or addiction to gaming? You are not alone. Check out Respawn, a program specifically designed to help you quit gaming and take control of your life back. Backed by scientific research, join thousands of others like you who have quit gaming. Start your journey today.

The World Health Organization officially recognizes ‘Gaming Disorder’ as a mental health condition 1 1. WHO, 2018 ×

TLDR;
  • 2.2 billion gamers worldwide
  • 3-4% are addicted
  • 18-24 year old males most at risk

Over two billion people play video games worldwide 2 2. Newzoo, 2018 × , including 150 million in the United States alone 3 3. ESA, 2015 × . Gaming is a worldwide phenomenon and $100 billion dollar industry 2 2. Newzoo, 2018 × that continues to grow year-after-year. Gamers are all ages, with the average age of a gamer being 35 years old 3 3. ESA, 2015 × . Gaming is gender-neutral, with 83% of teenage girls playing video games regularly and 92% of teenage boys 4 4. PEW, 2018 × .

What Is a Video Game Addiction?

Video game addiction is real, and the World Health Organization will soon officially classify it under the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11).

Gaming Disorder is characterized by a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour, which may be online or offline, manifested by:

  1. impaired control over gaming (e.g., onset, frequency, intensity, duration, termination, context);
  2. increasing priority given to gaming to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities;
  3. continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.
    The behaviour pattern is of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning.

The pattern of gaming behaviour may be continuous or episodic and recurrent. The gaming behaviour and other features are normally evident over a period of at least 12 months in order for a diagnosis to be assigned, although the required duration may be shortened if all diagnostic requirements are met and symptoms are severe.

3-4% of Gamers Are Addicted

For most, gaming is a fun hobby, but for others it can be destructive, leading to significant impairment in personal and family relationships, educational and work opportunities, mental and physical health, and overall well-being.

Related: The Benefits of Quitting Gaming

Studies have found anywhere from 1-10% of gamers struggle with compulsive addiction issues, with the World Health Organization finding 3-4% in their own investigations 1 1. WHO, 2018 × .

Demographics

Quick Stats:

  • Average age of a gamer: 35 years old
  • Average age of a gaming addict: 24 years old
  • Gender breakdown of a gamer: Male: 50%, Female: 48% 6 6. PEW, 2015 ×
  • Gender breakdown of a gaming addict: Make: 94%, Female; 6%
  • Ethnicity breakdown of a gamer (USA): Caucasian: 67%, Hispanic: 15%, African American: 12%, Asian: 5%, Other: 3% 7 7. Statista, 2015 ×
  • Ethnicity breakdown of a gaming addict: Caucasian: 69%, Asian: 13%, Other: 18%
  • Countries gaming addicts represent (to date): 92

Over Ten Million Addicted Gamers

With conservative estimates by the World Health Organization of 3-4% of gamers struggling with addiction challenges, there are can be tens of millions of addicted gamers worldwide, with this figure expected to continue to grow for the years to come. A large-scale study 5 5. CAMH, 2017 × in Canada recently found 13% of students grades 7-12 reporting symptoms of a video game problem, a 4% increase since 2007.

With tech companies continuing to pursue profits at all costs, including the integration of loot boxes and other gambling-like game design (of which governments in Belgium and the Netherlands have found to be illegal), and the introduction of college scholarships for esports (organized gaming), there is no time to wait to fight back against this issue.

Video Game Addiction Quiz for Parents

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Need help?

Reading this and struggling with a compulsion or addiction to gaming? You are not alone. Check out Respawn, a program specifically designed to help you quit gaming and take control of your life back. Backed by scientific research, join thousands of others like you who have quit gaming. Start your journey today.

Take a Stand

Game Quitters exists to help those who need help with gaming addiction challenges to get the help, and to spread awareness about the negative impact gaming addiction can cause. Want to help? Donate today.

The Benefits of Quitting Gaming

Taking 90 days off gaming has been scientifically proven to improve your quality of life by 2x 1 1. King, Adair, Saunders, Delfabbroa, 2018 ×

Over two billion people play video games worldwide 2 2. Newzoo, 2018 × , including over 150 million in the United States alone 3 3. ESA, 2015 × . For 90% or more of gamers it’s a healthy hobby and fun way to relax with friends. However, for the remaining 10% or less gaming can be destructive, and the World Health Organization estimates that 3-4% of these gamers struggle with an actual addiction to games 4 4. WHO, 2018 × .

Whether you are a gamer who wants to quit because you are struggling with an addiction, or you are simply curious about what life can be like without gaming, we hope the following data can be helpful for you in making your decision.

To quit gaming is to commit to living your life to the fullest. Not only will it increase the amount of time and energy you have to invest back into your goals and dreams, but there are numerous other benefits you can receive.

We asked hundreds of gamers to commit to not gaming for 90 days, and evaluated them across areas of their Quality of Life. Here were the results:

The Benefits of Quitting Gaming After 90 Days

+44%

Time Management

+29%

Concentration

+28%

School/Work Performance

+27%

Intimate Relationships

+16%

Family Relationships

+35%

Relationships with Others

+21%

Psychological Health

+35%

Optimism

+18%

Your Appearance

Want these benefits and so much more? Quit gaming today:

Worried about your kid? Take a short quiz on Fortnite Addiction.

Fortnite is the hottest game in the world. A viral teenage obsession. In a recent talk to students in Brisbane, the crowd erupted when I mentioned Fortnite. Over 40 million people played it last month alone 1 1. Fortnite now has 125 million total players × . The Fortnite: World Cup has just been announced with over $100M in prize money 2 2. The first Fortnite World Cup with $100 million in prize money is happening in 2019 7 × .

So teenagers are playing a video game, what’s the big deal? Parents report losing their sons to Fortnite addiction 3 3. Parents are losing their sons to Fortnite, the hottest game in the world × – including one who emailed me that she discovered her son stole her credit cards and spent over $200 on the game.

In the U.K., a 9 year old girl has been sent to rehab 4 4. Girl, 9, in rehab for Fortnite game addiction after wetting herself to keep playing × for Fornite addiction, after wetting herself to keep playing. When her parents removed the game, she attacked them.

Should you be concerned about Fornite? And if you are, what can you do about it?

What is Fortnite: Battle Royale?

  • Rating: Players aged 12 and up.
  • Cost: Free. Battle passes available for purchase to earn extra rewards.

The multiplayer ‘Battle Royale’ version involves up to 100 people playing against each other and is the version your child is probably playing or wanting to play (as opposed to the Save the Day solo version which is also available but probably not the one your child is obsessing over).

It is a shooter game (of a similar vein as Hunger Games) where players are dropped unarmed onto an island. There, they must make their way to ‘houses’, where they find weapons they then use to shoot and kill, they build structures and try to avoid the destructive storm that threatens all outside its safe zone. The last player standing after all else are killed is deemed the winner.

Unlike many online games where you are ‘respawned’ should you die and are able to continue to play, keeping alive is the difference between winning and losing and means a lot more in Fortnite than in many other shooter games. 5 5. The Modern Parents Guide to Fortnite ×

Warning Signs of Fortnite Addiction

Video game addiction is real, and the World Health Organization has officially classified it under the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11).

Gaming Disorder is characterized by a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour, which may be online or offline, manifested by:

  1. impaired control over gaming (e.g., onset, frequency, intensity, duration, termination, context);
  2. increasing priority given to gaming to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities;
  3. continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.

The behaviour pattern is of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning.

The pattern of gaming behaviour may be continuous or episodic and recurrent. The gaming behaviour and other features are normally evident over a period of at least 12 months in order for a diagnosis to be assigned, although the required duration may be shortened if all diagnostic requirements are met and symptoms are severe.

Video Game Addiction Test

The American Psychiatric Association recommends a set of nine questions to screen for a video game addiction. Take our quiz below:

Video Game Addiction Quiz for Parents.

Common Mistakes Parents Make

Chances are, you’ve already tried countless things to help your teenager:

Here’s what you tried: You removed their devices, and took away the modem.

Here’s why it didn’t work: Your teenager throws a tantrum so intense you feared for their life. Maybe they even got violent. Your teenager also still needs access to the computer in order to complete their homework, so simply removing devices is only so realistic.

Try this instead: You must enroll them in the process. Taking away their access without supporting them to fill the void can be very dangerous for them. Your teenager must be part of the process! Learn more about this in Reclaim

Here’s what you tried: You told them their friends online weren’t their real friends.

Here’s why it didn’t work: Their online gamer friends are their real friends, and usually, their only friends. When you tell them to quit gaming, what they really hear is to stop having friends.

Try this instead: They need help making new friends outside of gaming. They don’t know where to start, or what to talk to people about other than gaming. Most kids at school play games. Help them join clubs and find new group activities.

Here’s what you tried: You told them games are a waste of their potential.

Here’s why it didn’t work: Gaming is where they feel a sense of accomplishment. When you tell them games are a waste of their potential, you’re not acknowledging the incredible accomplishments they have made in their games. “I wish they fully grasped the gravity of what I’ve accomplished in games over the years…” -Rushlite

Try this instead: By being curious, and learning more about the accomplishments of your son or daughter in their games, you will build rapport with them. Rapport creates trust, and trust creates influence. Start to have conversations about gaming – what games they play, what they enjoy about them, and so forth. Be genuine!

Here’s what you tried: You just let them continue to game, giving them responsibility for their decisions.

Here’s why it didn’t work: They are unable to moderate their time. They continue to game even amongst their knowledge that gaming is negatively impacting their life. 84% of gaming addicts knew they had a problem over 12 months ago!

Try this instead: Support them in improving their time management skills. Help them create environments conducive to their ability to focus, such as bringing them to the library to study. You have to be both parts equal support while not enabling their problematic behavior further.

Here’s what you tried: You bought them their new favorite game or console.

Here’s why it didn’t work: Games are specifically designed to hook your teenager. Gaming companies use state of the art practices, and behavioral psychologists to make their games as pleasurable (and addictive) as possible.

Try this instead: By understanding more about why your teenager is drawn to games, and how games are specifically designed to hook your teenager, you will be empowered to support your teenager to have a healthy relationship to gaming (and technology).

Extra Support for Parents

Cam’s book Reclaim is brilliant and is highly needed. We strongly recommend Reclaim to parents seeking help and solutions for their kids struggling with digital media overuse. – Andrew Doan, MD, PhD (author, speaker, and neuroscientist) and Julie Doan, RN (author, speaker, and life coach)