Video game developers’ dilemma: how to entertain minors without turning them into addicts

Video game developers’ dilemma: how to entertain minors without turning them into addicts

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Video game developers’ dilemma: how to entertain minors without turning them into addicts

A boy tries a video game at a technology fair.WOLFGANG RATTAY

The Chinese multinational Tencent announced last week that it will include facial recognition in its games to identify when minors connect. It thus seeks to ensure that the government-imposed curfew that prevents children from playing between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. is observed. Debates on the sidelines about whether China takes another turn of the screw in citizen control, the movement of the company, owner of sector references such as Epic Games (Fortnite) and Riot Games (League of Legends), puts on the table what is the degree of responsibility of developers to prevent or alleviate addictions. In the West, companies have barely gone beyond the incorporation of parental control mechanisms. Experts believe that, without going to dystopian extremes, more could be done and point to parents as the best filter.

To begin with, something can be done from the game design. The structure of some of them makes it easier to fall into addiction, although it does not explain the problem in its entirety. As Alberto Oliván, narrative video game designer argues, it is easy to get hooked on titles close to random, based on slot machine mechanics. It refers to those who base their experience on opening cashiers, pay-to-win and dedication of huge hours. “Addictions take advantage of a design flaw in our brain where the reward circuits are overstimulated. All products that take advantage of such error, exploit the most intimate factor of the human being. It seems immoral for a company to benefit from this, ”he adds.