GDC: Games should address addiction issues before legislation does

At GDC this week, it was cautioned that games with luck-based results should better self-regulate against addiction before possible legislative action.

At GDC 2016 this week, there was a session called "Gaming, Gambling or Addiction: F2P Scientific and Legal Perspectives" led by psychiatrist Tyler Black and his brother Ryan Black, a legal expert. The session addressed free-to-play games and how addiction may arise -- and the possible future legal actions against them.

During the session, Tyler Black states that the biggest danger of game addiction lies among children. He proceeds to point out they aren't the best at making good decisions and resisting urges for gratification. This is mainly due to the fact that their minds are still developing. This makes them more likely to be targets for games involving chance. He acknowledges that gaming itself is a relatively harmless activity that can become addicting through overuse. 


The referenced over-use is rooted in a desire for rewards. The danger Black speaks about lies with titles that offer rare drops, elusive bosses, and so on. These "luck of the draw" mechanics are where addiction develops.

Black proposed that self-regulation should become the norm for said games. For example, parental controls that bar microtransactions and in-game ads would be effective. Providing players details as to the percentage of a drop would also be beneficial. 


Ryan Black makes note that these suggestions are close to being passed, and some are already in place for other countries. His concern is that government has always found a way to legislate on entertainment that maybe harmful (see gambling). It maybe a matter of time for games in the US.

The brothers stress that it would be best for game companies to take the matter into their own hands before the government does so. Tyler Black ultimately ends the session with expressing that game designers should be responsible -- not encouraging compulsive play, but offering fun and a fair challenge.

Published Mar. 17th 2016
View Comments
  • Mathenaut
    Sounds like the moral censors raising hysteria about 'problematic content' are about to get what they've been asking for.

  • Auverin Morrow
    Commissioning Editor
    I'm not entirely sure I agree with this. Developers should definitely put some effort toward minimizing addiction issues, but I don't think it's necessarily their responsibility to rework their games just in case someone might get addicted. Alcohol manufacturers aren't held responsible for alcoholics, and devs shouldn't be held responsible for addiction issues that have nothing to do with them.

    Sure, maybe it's a good idea to follow Korea/Japan's example and have a notification pop that tells you how long you've been playing and advises you to take a break. Maybe they could even force a break of at least a few minutes at a certain hour cap. And yes, more parental controls is always good.

    But taking legislative action against creators who just want to entertain because a few people can't control themselves? Not cool.
  • Jeffrey Rousseau
    I agree, the government stepping in seems a bit much. Most games provide a notice of "please remember...".

    I also feel that developers shouldn't have to limit themselves in a creative sense either when it comes down to this. I think w window pop up about how long you play should be enough. Maybe even the loading screen reminding you how much you've been playing.

Cached - article_comments_article_35709