However, he is concerned that Australia is lagging behind European countries such as Germany, and Asian countries including Japan and South Korea, in measuring the scope of online addiction problems, even though we know they exist. “For such a prosperous country, Australia has committed very minimal resources to identify and help people with these problems. I regularly receive emails from parents who say their 16-year-old has stopped going to school and only plays video games and they are desperate for help – but don’t know where to turn. If the Australian Government can support the local gaming industry, as it has done with federal tax offsets, for example, then more in the way of supporting player health and wellbeing should be possible too.”
Associate Professor King has conducted many large surveys of frequent gamers and their family members, to identify practical strategies and interventions that may address the range of problematic game behaviours. Many gamers have expressed support for broad prevention strategies including educational guidelines, game-time selfmonitoring tools and game content information. In a recent study, about half of the respondents supported school-based education and age restrictions on playing online games. They were also supportive of outpatient treatment options for gaming disorder, such as psychological therapy or counselling.
“Even though most gamers report great fondness for their games, and rightly defend games as a worthy recreational pursuit, they are also pragmatic and recognise that some people need help with problem gaming. I think it’s especially important that young gamers are supported to enjoy the hobby in balance with other important life activities and prioritise the other things that are most important to them.”
Associate Professor King says there is a need for improved assessment, prevention and intervention options for problem gaming, including educational resources and prevention strategies to address unhealthy gaming habits in young people. He also says further research and policy attention is needed on game features, particularly unregulated in-game spending (loot boxes), that contribute to excessive time and money spent on gaming to the detriment of a gamer’s health and wellbeing.
He laments that the gaming industry has done very little to support international efforts to recognise and respond to problem gaming, and has often expressed its opposition to the health community’s concerns about gaming and other online-related disorders.