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Tips for gamers & parents on managing video game addiction

Monday 18 June 2018

TREATMENT for video game addiction has been made available on the NHS after being declared a mental health problem by the World Health Organisation, as concern mounts about games such as Fortnite.

Dr Umran Ali, a senior lecturer in creative media at the University of Salford, where he teaches students to create and design video games ahead of careers in the growing industry, offers advice for parents and gamers on how to enjoy a healthy interest in video gaming.

He said: “The decision by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to classify gaming addiction as a mental health condition is still highly controversial. Gaming is an incredibly popular pastime, with an estimated 30 million gamers in the UK alone and like many hobbies it can be enjoyed on a variety of levels, from a casual passing interest to a lifelong passion.

“There has been a lot of concern about games like Fornite recently, created by industry veterans Epic Entertainment. The game currently boasts 125m active accounts worldwide, and the vast majority of players manage to achieve a healthy balance in playing games as part of a modern lifestyle.

“There is nothing particularly addictive about Fornite’s design. It’s based on a relatively simple premise – up to 100 players battle it out until one remains who is declared the winner and players are able to build forts which are a key to surviving a round.

“One of the reasons the game is so popular is that it can be picked up very quickly by younger players, does not require a lot of time – each round lasting only 15-20 minutes – and although the core premise does not change, the game is not repetitive.”

These are Dr Ali’s top tips for parents and gamers on achieving a healthy balance:

1)    Respect games as an interest. Many parents dismiss games as a purely juvenile pastime, not realising games over the last two decades in particular have become an incredibly popular and complex form of entertainment. Don’t dismiss them out of hand, and remember as generations change so do their interests and pastimes.

2)    Get involved. This is especially true for parents.  There is an incredibly rich social aspect, albeit a virtual one, with games like Fornite - ignore the tabloids and see it for yourself, or even better start playing games with your children. There is a huge range of games available covering many different genres. You may find joining them can help build a deeper level of understanding and respect and strengthen the parent-child bond.

3)    Design and Education. There is now a huge range of free software and games design educational courses that children as young as five can take part in and start expanding their passion and interest into the educational arena. Even board game design can be a great way to start developing new skills, and thinking about a career in the games industry.

4)   Connect. Video games are incredibly diverse and wide ranging, from games about cooking and gardening to flight simulators, They can serve as a great conduit to promote interest in real world activities. If a child is particularly interested in virtual locations or maps in a game perhaps there is a national park with a similar feature. Children love exploring and learning, so try and use video games as tool to help you discover their interests.