Podcast 16: Can gamification lead to game addiction?


Welcome to this week’s episode of A Question of Gamification. And this week’s episode is all about game addiction. In fact, I had a question this week, can gamification lead to game addiction?

My name is An Coppens. I am the show host for The Question on Gamification, and also the chief Game Changer at Gamification Nation.

Now, I often receive the question, what about my kids, they are always playing Fortnite or they are always playing X-Game. At the time of Pokemon Go, it was Pokemon Go. Today its Fortnite, tomorrow, it may be a new game. And the thing is, game trends will come and go. The one measurable that you always need to look out for is do your kids do anything else but play video games or computer games or tablet games? If they do, then you’re probably fine.

Can gamification lead to addiction? I guess it could. So the honest answer is that anything where we’re rewarding people and making them feel good, which is releasing positive chemical reactions in both the body and the brain can have the impact of achieving addiction. So I suppose the grassroots ingredients are there.

Now, when we look at gamification, most of the time, we’re speaking about business applications or applications that are not focused purely on entertainment, namely work, fitness, health. Now, I know people who are totally into using their Fitbit, and they would often come out with saying, “Oh, I’m addicted to my Fitbit” and “Oh, I’m addicted to my health statistics, etc.” But not to such an extreme that nothing else matters. And this is where I would draw the line.

The place when something becomes an addiction is when the person has to achieve beyond all else beyond all other reason. The fact that the World Health Organization has recently approved game addiction as a real ailment or real addiction is sort of to make the point that anything in too many doses or too much will be detrimental to someone’s health, be detrimental to someone’s well being, both mentally and physically. And those risks exist.

The risk with gamification is that, yes, you may do something for a certain time, for longer,  more often, you may be more committed. But so far, I have yet to come across a situation where gamification has become an addiction.

Gaming can be an addiction if nothing else exists beyond the game. That means no more social life, no more friends, no more work. In fact, the game always comes first. That’s when it gets to that point where you have to win, and would even go as far as potentially ringing the support line of your favourite game, to say, Hey, I’m about to do serious damage, if I don’t get a life, or I don’t get my points back, etc. That’s when we’re really talking about a serious situation.

In those cases, it’s important to work with the individual to make them aware that something is wrong and to also seek professional help to help them through this. This is not something you should tackle on your own or the individual on their own. Like anything, most of us do things for the greater good for and we design for gamification and for games, we want people to become better. We wanted to have every great and positive intention. We also still want people to have a life outside of what we build. So we don’t want them to play all of the time. We don’t want them to be stuck in a game. And I think if your children go through phases where one game is so all-consuming and all-absorbing if they’re still playing with friends, if they’re still enjoying, play sports if they’re still inviting friends over to come and play the same game, it’s okay.

Now if we look at the benefits of gaming, and that is something I often get asked about by parents is like my kids are always playing, and they’re always looking into this, I want to limit their time. Think about it this way. For a lot of introverted kids, gaming is a way of releasing creativity. In some cases, some of the kids manage teams, manage guilds, run missions, and basically have a whole tribe of people of all ages, from all cultures playing in their game.  I think gaming can be a very uniting factor as well.

If I could tell you, last week, we had our first official team meeting in our little team at Gamification Nation, and what was the most uniting factor was actually gaming. Everyone had a story to do with games that actually united. We have a gentleman working for us, who’s niece lives in a war zone, whose only way of having relief of what’s happening outside her door is by playing games. We have a lady working for us whose son also communicates and does amazing things in a game environment, which, if given a chance in real life, he would shy away from because he’s so introverted. One of our other team members said that, in fact, that was him was so totally him. He felt that the games actually gave him a sense of belonging, a sense of team, a sense of achieving something.

So for all the bad rap that we give games, there’s also much good it can do.

Not all games have killing, shooting with weapons and everything in it. Some are sports based, some in the casual game genre involve crushing candies or throwing pigs. Whatever the case may be, there’s always an age-appropriate game to be found for your child, for your team.

I would say, there’s always something you can still do that is fun, that is engaging, and also enriching.

What are the benefits directly even if you’re thinking of recruiting gamers?

They know about problem solving. Because effectively, games are actively seeking out opportunities to problem solve, whether that’s a puzzle, whether that’s something more complex, whether that’s a team challenge.

Secondly, they are often in team environments, they learn about communication in virtual teams because they’re not all sitting around the table in one room. They work together in a tribe. They learn about team management. They learn about managing resources. A lot of games have limited resources, things you need to nurture in order for them to grow, things for you to collect over time for you to unlock maybe new areas. So there’s a lot of very valuable skills that young people and older people learn through the means of games. In fact, it is one of the most natural things we have as a means of learning.

How do children learn their first skills? Well, actually, it’s through experience, it’s through play. So why deprive them of that, just because you may be at risk of gaming disorder. I would say, create a healthy balance. Show them that there is both life in a game and life outside the game. If they are big time into something, let them. Like all things, these things will pass.

If they’re great at it, and they can make a living out of it. Hey, it’s an option just like lots of young people want to be professional sports people. This day and age eSports is actually a viable career for some kids.  The age of cut off for eSports starts at 12 by the time they are 18 years old they are a veteran by age 21 you’re coaching, all because your dexterity your physical responses begin to slow down over time.

So think twice when you’re stopping your children from playing. Look at it from the other side and say, what are they learning? How are they playing? And what is potentially great for them in this space, because there are lots of hidden good things that also come out of gameplay.

The moment when you start to worry when it is taking over all of their life. That’s when it’s time to maybe call in some professional help to see, can you gently get them out of the habits and set them on to a new path?

So a bit of a deep question and a relatively short answer as well. But at the same time, I wanted to give you both sides of the coin, both the good and the bad. Because, like with every good thing, there’s also a flip side.

So thank you for asking your questions, keep them coming. If you like our show, do give us a positive rating. And I look forward to talking to you next week.

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