The circle shrinks, and Alex* frantically pickaxes a tree, hoping to gain materials to build a wall around himself and defend against enemy fire. Out of the corner of their eye, they see a bush camper with a Gold SCAR in hand, so they quickly switch to a Boogie Bomb and throw it in the enemy’s direction.
While this high stakes situation takes place in the imagined world of “Fortnite: Battle Royale,” created by video game and software development company Epic Games, for many serious game players like Alex, optimizing the number of “#1 Victory Royales” has a noticeable impact. Winning as many games as possible takes precedence over homework or other duties.
“I’ve always loved video games,” Alex said. “They keep me mentally stimulated, and there are just so many different genres and styles of games that I could never get bored.”
Video games are characterized by jargon and intense scenarios designed to interact with and test the player’s ability to accomplish the goal of the game, whether it’s destroying the enemy base or being the last avatar standing, according to Clinical Psychologist Dr. Brent Conrad from TechAddiction, a treatment and information center for those who overuse technology.
In recent years, completing these virtual goals has grown into an unprecedented viral industry. Revenue in the gaming business is skyrocketing and is expected to increase by roughly 14 billion in this year alone, according to Newzoo’s Global Game Market Report.
Gaming has also found a platform in video entertainment. Top-ranked gamers film and upload videos of their most impressive or high-scoring games to YouTube or even live stream themselves playing for millions of viewers to watch on Twitch, a site that gained traction for its platform dedicated solely to games.
“I watch Twitch every single day, mostly watching Fortnite and Madden streams,” Alex said. “Twitch streams are like watching a live sports game, but you get to actually interact with the players over live chat.”
Because of the interactive nature of many popular games, players can be a part of a team with friends, whether they are hundreds of miles away or right next to them. Grant Keller ’21 said that the social aspect of gaming is one of the main reasons he plays so often.
“I play so many games because it’s fun,” he said. “I hang out with so many people. Guys I haven’t seen in three years I still play [‘Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege’] with.”
Learning resource specialist Grace Brown said that she believes that while there are positive aspects to video game playing, there can also be detrimental effects.
“[Gaming] has lots of positive sides, like it’s social and interactive, and it has all sorts of strategy,” Brown said. “But there’s also the danger of it becoming out of balance with the rest of their life because they’re just so passionate about it that it is all they want to do. It can even lead into tech addiction where it’s setting off the endorphins in their brain and they’re actually becoming physically addicted to the excitement. There’s all sorts of different levels of everything, from just immaturity and not managing their time to actually having an addiction.”
The World Health Organization included “Gaming disorder” in the eleventh edition of its International Classification of Diseases this past summer. The newly declared mental health condition is characterized by excessive video game playing that affects both interpersonal and intrapersonal behaviors and relationships.
According to a poll conducted by the organization, only around three to four percent of game players can be diagnosed with this condition. However, tendencies that can be classified as addictive are found in a large majority of gamers around the world, Brown said.
Of 265 polled, 48 percent of upper school students said they play video games, and 23 percent play more than seven hours a week.
These tendencies can lead to limited face-to-face interaction, lack of physical activity, decreased eating and diminished time spent on outside. If these inclinations become extreme, resorting to parental intervention can be beneficial, Brown said.
“Sometimes, families have to put some parameters around [gaming],” she said. “Sometimes, technology actually has to be removed because just the temptation is too great. That’s where the parent education piece comes in.”
Despite recognizing the harmful consequences that can come from gaming, Alex said that they will continue to play.
“An addiction is an addiction, whether to drugs or to video games,” Alex said. “Video game addiction is purely psychological as opposed to physiological, but the symptoms of withdrawal are similar. I play ‘Fortnite’ almost every day, and I definitely will continue to play some sort of video game every day.”
*Name has been changed.