Should Game Developers Mind Their Own Business?
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A fear of video game addiction really isn't that unusual or extreme. It's very possible to become addicted to video games just as much as any other addictive substance or form of media. Some people are alcoholics; some people are addicted to social media. Whatever the subject of the addiction, it's not to be taken lightly. Someone who plays video games for fun is very different to someone who is late for work or neglects family and friends to imbibe. These are just two of the signs to look for when trying to find out if someone is struggling from an addiction. This article isn't here to rehash the concept of video game addiction however. I've done that before. We're talking about something slightly different today. Today we're talking about the much younger generation.

When I was a kid, I got to play my dad's original Game Boy. Around the same time, we had a Windows 3.1 computer with access to a small library of games my dad set up for my sister and me. We could have realistically stayed indoors all day and played video games. There were certainly some days throughout my childhood that we did. But we also went outside, we played Frisbee golf, we built things with Legos, and we dug holes in the alley looking for treasure. All in all, my childhood was pretty average and incredibly diverse in things that I did for fun. This is true for most children, I would hope and imagine.  

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This is probably me showing my age, but I've noticed a lot that parents in my generation are starting their kids off with technology incredibly young. I didn't have my first cell phone until I was 16 and my parents told me I needed to get one in case my car broke down. Now I'm seeing children in their single-digit ages with cell phones. In comes the crotchety old woman comment of, “When I was your age [insert stereotypical statement here]!” I'm not being that ridiculous though, since it is possible to give children too much of a good thing. Think of it this way. If your mom gave you every piece of candy that you wanted as a child, you would have had cavities to show for it. If your parents gave you a cell phone and let you play endless games when you were young, you might have problems regulating your use as an adult.

That's not to say it's a 100% guarantee. Some of these children might be told to play video games throughout their childhood, then end up hating them as a teen and find another hobby. Every single person is different and generalizing statements just don't help anyone. However, there is definitely still the fear that introducing children to video games early on and giving them unlimited access can lead to problems. There's one company in China called Tencent that is taking responsibility into their own hands. Their mobile game, Honor of Kings, is incredibly popular throughout the world, but mostly in their home country of China. Teachers and parents raised concerns about the amount of time kids play the game, and Tencent is responding with restrictions. Soon players of Honor of Kings who are under 12 years of age will only be able to play one hour a day and won't be able to log in past 9pm. Users of the game that are 12-18 will only be allowed to play two hours a day.  

As much as I want to think the developers hearts are in the right place on this, I just don't see any way I can agree with this practice. Limiting play seems like an easy way to stave off video game addiction, but it's like telling someone not to push the red button. Of course they're going to want to! Kids these days are just as smart as we were back then, they'll find ways to play the game whether you tell them they can or not. Plus, this is just lazy parenting. “My child plays too much of your game! It's your fault, fix it!” Actually, no. You're just putting responsibility for a fault in your parenting on someone else. If your child plays too much of a game (especially to a point that it's an addiction concern), then it's your job to speak to them about it and/or set rules yourself. Do not rely on an outside force to do the work for you.

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Another really big factor here is self-regulation. I was given the option to play video games as a kid. I was also given the option to play in the yard. I could go for a bike ride or do finger paintings if I want to. Because my parents gave me options, I was able to decide for myself how much time I wanted to spend on something. As a child, I was already able to self-regulate how much time I was spending doing any one thing. Sure, there were probably some days I sat in front of the T.V. for longer than my parents would have liked, but I didn't do that every day.

If we start setting hard limits on everything for children, then they're not going to learn limiting skills themselves. We could really be setting them up for failure. Think of every stereotypical alcoholic or drug addict that points to something that went very wrong in their childhood. If you dictate exactly what your child can do and when they can do it for everything, it will affect them. And one game limiting how much time children can spend playing it could lead to others doing the same.

How do you feel about Tencent limiting play time for children? Do you think it's a great idea and wish others would follow suit? Or do you agree that these decisions should really be left up to the parents and the children themselves? Let me know in the comments!

April Marie
April Marie
@Legiodith

Contributing Writer
Date: 07/10/2017

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