Video games can’t catch a lucky break.
Whether it is violence in video games or microtransactions simulating gambling, video games are typically in the crosshairs of one group or another.
But you don’t expect the Duke of Sussex, better known to the world as Prince Harry, to weigh in on the subject matter.
Yet that’s just what Meghan Markle’s husband did this week, and in quite a big way.
You see, Prince Harry didn’t call for restraint, regulation, or some considered approach to the problem of video game addiction with regard to popular FPS Fortnite.
No, instead he called for it to be banned outright.
That’s quite insane, but the logic underpinning Prince Harry’s statements are not totally out of the realm of the rational when you consider the debate around video game addiction the past several months.
The World Health Organization identified video game addiction as a real disorder, and current industry favorite Fortnite seems to have morphed into the latest poster child for public stoning in this arena.
Specifically, speaking to a crowd gathered to meet him at a YMCA in London, Prince Harry said, “That game shouldn’t be allowed. Where is the benefit of having it in your household? It’s created to addict, an addiction to keep you in front of a computer for as long as possible. It’s so irresponsible. It’s like waiting for the damage to be done and kids turning up on your doorsteps and families being broken down.”
To be clear, however, Prince Harry didn’t just have negative sentiments reserved for video games.
He also said of social media that it was “more addictive than alcohol and drugs.”
The second statement is important because it shows a general trend that isn’t relegated to just Fortnite or video games, but rather a critique that spreads across electronic devices.
Indeed, much talk has surfaced in the past several years about limiting a child’s “screen time” – that is, the amount of time the child spends in front of a computer, television, or even smartphone screen.
These discussions have dovetailed with widespread social concerns about Internet gambling and, specifically, gambling-type mechanics found in smartphone video games and the like.
In truth, some game mechanics do resemble gambling, and casino-style incentives in more ways than many of us are comfortable to admit.
Stuff like that definitely invites increased government oversight, and it is here that the gaming industry has to be careful.
Unlike film or television, gamers can now instantly satisfy commercial demand from their device. Manipulating people to spend more than they would or to eschew healthy activities will inevitably draw attention from government officials and “concerned citizens.”
How do video games combat this?
Honestly, it is a tough fight, because video games are such a scapegoat for so many social ills.
Whether it is games inspiring people to commit violence or gamble the house away, there seems to be a fundamental shift towards blaming outside sources for internal family dynamics.
But, as Prince Harry’s comments illustrate, video games will always face an uphill battle when it comes to public perception.
If anything, the Prince’s remarks are a reminder of how wary companies have to be about ignoring public sentiment.
Materially speaking, however, game companies will do what they have to do to make money and survive within the limits of the law. Maybe people blaming Fortnite should take a look at the conditions surrounding the so-called problems associated with Fortnite rather than taking the easy route of blaming a video game for social ills.