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Online games - experts warn of addiction risk for children

Online games - the risk of addiction is growing.

The fact that online games or computer games, in general, have a specific addictive potential can hardly be disputed. It is allowed to be a "little" addiction because it is usually a leisure activity. Collecting stamps or working with a model railroad in the basement can also be addictive. Many people, especially men and male adolescents, are intensively involved with something in their free time. This compensation for school and work usually has positive effects.

Online games - the risk of addiction is growing Picture Nr.: 760184
Online games - the risk of addiction is growing | ©: Tomasz Mikolajczyk on Pixabay

But when is addiction an addiction?

Experts speak of pathological gambling behavior when the person concerned gives in to the impulse to gamble even when this results in social, societal, financial, or professional problems of a larger scale.

Online games deserve special attention concerning pathological gambling behavior because the leading target group of the manufacturers of these games are children and adolescents. Moreover, online games are available around the clock. They do not require any social communication, such as one or more "real" players in a board game. Children and young people are in the learning phase of their lives and are therefore relatively easy to influence.

The results of a new survey on the subject of addiction to online games show that this is the case. This time, the DAK and the German Center for Addiction Issues commissioned the Opinion Research Institute Forsa to study "Money for Games." (only in German language) 1,000 young people between the ages of 12 and 17 were interviewed by telephone about their gaming behavior and money spent in connection with online games. A study like that has not been done before, at least not in Germany.

The study showed that of 3 million childhood and adolescent gamblers, around 465,000 display risky or pathological gaming behavior.

Almost 100,000 gamers aged 12 to 17 belong to the particularly vulnerable group of computer game addicts, who exhibit withdrawal symptoms and loss of control. The "gambling" factor is now also a component of the investigations.

Online games - the risk of addiction is growing Picture Nr.: 3923644
Online games - the risk of addiction is growing | ©: ChristianaT on Pixabay

Loot boxes - the gaming industry's sideline.

This is a vast billion-dollar market, the world of computer games. In terms of revenue, online games have long since left the leisure segments of film and music behind. In 2017, it was 3.3 billion euros in Germany alone. That's twice what the music industry turned over and three times what was earned at the box office.

But the profit from sales of games and consoles does not seem to be enough for the masters of games. That is why in some games, there are so-called loot boxes.

Initially, these loot boxes were gifts or bonuses to players who reached a specific score or a higher level. They contain, for example, equipment or weapons, depending on the game, whereby the player does not know beforehand what is inside. Meanwhile, Loot boxes can also be purchased for real money. This got the makers of Battlefront 2 into trouble, for example, because players could gain advantages through the Loot boxes that could be purchased. A massive shitstorm was the result. At the same time, many state institutions began to ask themselves whether toolboxes do not fall into the area of prohibited gambling. The question is quite rightly raised because those who spend money without knowing what the Loot box contains are betting on their luck that the box will contain the right thing—basically, the same as putting coins into a gambling machine. Various lawyers argue that Panini collectible pictures or Surprise Eggs would also be a sort of gambling. However, it would only be real gambling if the virtual contents of the loot boxes could be turned into real money again.

Players earn from Loot boxes.

This is precisely what has been happening for a long time. The contents of the Loot boxes are turned into money on virtual markets. That can be up to 1500 Euros for rare items. Well, collectible pictures or surprise eggs are also sold on. But virtual markets in the environment of online games are subject to other, more complex laws. Children and young people are attracted to these games, which are usually designed as endless games. But they also learn that gambling can bring quick and easy profits without initially suffering painful financial losses—the gateway to gambling addiction.

Loot boxes are another component of the still entirely uncontrolled online gaming world, which needs more state control because it is about the adults of tomorrow.

Implementation of the topic "Addictive Danger of Online Games" in Youth Work

Computer games can inspire children and young people. A computer games evening with a few retro games such as "Packman," "Bricks," "Tennis" or the jump-and-run game "Commander Keen" would be a great idea to then talk about the topic of "online gaming" as well as the rip-off attempts and the dangers of addiction.

Of course: Youth group work also offers 1000 other possibilities to get along for 2-3 hours without playing games. The possibility of communication with real people, playing with real people, experiencing, and feel feelings and impressions in real life.

Winning and losing becomes visible; everyone must learn to endure it, which can be experienced by oneself in the presence of others. These are entirely different "situations" that the child, the young person, must face. Only always move anonymously in a virtual world, without any social aspect. How is one supposed to learn to master life in the real world? One could almost assume that addiction is an escape.

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