BY VICTORIA WANG ’20
Prince Harry called for a U.K. ban of the online survival game “Fortnite” on Thursday, April 4, claiming the game was “created to addict.” His remarks are the latest in an ongoing global debate on whether online gaming is detrimental to human health.
The free-to-play online video game, developed by Epic Games, has quickly gone viral since its release in 2017. The game is relatively easy to play: players ght against 99 others in an attempt to be the last person standing on a virtual battle eld. According to CNBC, as of last month, “Fortnite” has gained more than 250 million registered players around the world, with over 10.8 mil- lion players active at any given time. One estimate claims that the game is potentially worth as much as $12 billion from advertisements.
The surging popularity of “Fortnite” has brought up serious concerns for health experts and parents, who have seen children and teenagers invest massive amounts of time and energy into the game. In the U.S., hundreds of children have been sent to rehabilitation centers for “gaming detox.” Some high school students have even dropped out of school due to uncontrollable addiction, Yahoo Business News found in 2018. And it is not only the younger generation who is affected: according to the BBC, over 200 divorces in the U.K. from January to September of 2018 cited addiction to “Fortnite” and other online games as one of the reasons for the relationship’s failure.
Prince Harry’s statement re ects widespread apprehension surrounding online gaming addiction. He is not the only public figure voicing these concerns. Last summer, the World Health Organization of cially recognized “gaming disorder” as a mental health condition in the 11th Revision of the International Classi cation of Diseases (ICD-11). The condition is characterized by impaired motor control and prioritizing gaming over daily activities, among other symptoms.
As addiction to online gaming and digital usage becomes a mounting problem for the global population, state actors around the world — including governments and leading technology corporations — have set measures against excessive technology usage to avert impending harm to users.
The British Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee has started investigating “Fortnite” as part of its ongoing inquiry into technology addiction, promising to release a report on its ndings later this year. The committee chairman Damian Collins said in a BBC interview that they “have invited Epic Games, the company behind ‘Fortnite,’ to give evidence to [their] investigation, which is examining the addictive nature of gaming as well as links between gaming and gambling.”
Since 2018, tech giants such as Google and Apple have been adding features to their products in an attempt to combat digital addiction in the U.S. In May 2018, Google added a feature to the new Android P — an app dashboard that shows how much time the user spends inside an app and sets time limits for certain apps. That same month, Apple launched a new feature called “Digital Health” as part of its new iOS 12 operating system. The app also helps users manage the time they spend on their iPhones and iPads and sets time limits on usage.
Since late 2017, China also has imposed tight regulations to crack down on youth gaming addiction. In 2017, China’s tech giant Tencent tightened checks on the age of people playing online games, requiring real-name registration to check the ages of users against a police database. In 2018, new regulations were implemented for different ages based on the checked registration information. Under the new regulations, children under 12 are allowed to play for one hour per day while older children can play for up to two hours. They have also implemented a nighttime curfew, during which no children are allowed to play games after a certain hour.
“Fortnite” is only the tip of the iceberg of online gaming addiction, which is also only part of an increased and rising global reliance on the internet.