Last week, Prince Harry expressed his disapproval of popular Battle Royale game Fortnite, including his belief that it should be banned. His reasoning was that children can get addicted to it, which is something I believe could be harmful to the gaming industry.
Gaming addiction is a real problem, and a big one at that. Prince Harry is correct in that, if someone is indeed addicted to Fortnite or any other video game, they need to get help immediately, or their mental health and life in general will suffer. The issue with Prince Harry’s comment, however, is the insinuation that just because it can happen means the medium is harmful and wrong, which is simply not true given the plethora of benefits video games provide. The social interaction. The improved neurological elements such as hand eye coordination, problem solving and quicker reflexes. The most obvious one – the fact that it provides another source of entertainment beyond television, movies, music and other likewise formats. Most things that bring us joy in life can be abused to the point of it doing damage (drinking too much water can kill us, should we ban that?), so specifically targeting video games comes off as ignorant. And that’s where the core issue lies; he isn’t just referring to Fortnite here, he’s referring to video games in general, and spreading this kind of misunderstanding could have major repercussions.
A few weeks prior to this, the UK gaming scene saw another misunderstanding in the form of Article 13, an EU law that, among other things, banned European gamers from uploading any gameplay, screenshots or memes online. While the reasoning behind that was slightly different, the common theme between this and Prince Harry’s comment is that of misunderstanding. Just like movies in the early 1900’s, television in the mid 1900’s and rock music not long after that, video games have become the next medium to be targeted based on myths and ignorance. The problem here, however, is that actions are being taken on these misconceptions, to the point that it could have an extremely detrimental impact.
Thousands and thousands of people make a living playing video games. YouTubers. Twitch streamers. eSport competitors. Thousands and thousands of people have their lives compromised by ignorant laws like Article 13 and misunderstandings like Prince Harry’s. And then there’s the game developers and publishers who, even if we don’t reach a complete gaming outlaw (which, fortunately, seems very unlikely despite this), will have their income damaged due to this. Less people will buy their games due to not seeing their favourite streamer play it. Less people might be physically unable to buy their games if Prince Harry acts on his belief, or if the EU decide to go even further. Of course this is the worst case scenario here and, honestly, I don’t believe either party will outright rid of gaming, but it’s very worrying knowing that so many high power people have these beliefs about video games considering what they could do.
It’s especially disappointing because Prince Harry could be using his platform to help the advancement of the industry. One statement from him could propel the medium forward and annihilate the unhealthy misconceptions numerous non-gamers have, including toting the benefits noted above. Moreover, it could also advance gaming as an educational tool. I personally have gained such a deep appreciation for writing because of video games – my enjoyment for writing stories started with, of all things, the WWE “Create-A-Story” mode, where I’d spend hours writing adventures in it to the point that I realised how passionate I am for artistic fields. This is also true beyond that; Minecraft has proved to be an excellent educational tool in many schools, as has Media Molecule’s games LittleBigPlanet and Dreams that have, through their level designing and game designing features respectively, opened the doors to many learning programming, game development, design and more. It’s fantastic that he’s spreading the dangers abuse of video games can bring, but why focus on that instead of the overall positive changes gaming can cause?
So what does this mean long term? In regards to the very long term, I think they’ll become more knowledgeable on the subject and gaming, like movies, television and rock music, will lose the ignorant stigma attached to it. In the foreseeable future, however, I am mildly concerned. With more and more authoritative figures popping up voicing their disapproval of video games or video game culture (and all from the UK lately – as a Brit, I assure you we’re not all like this), we could keep seeing minor shifts in the gaming world like Article 13. People will fight it and, as I said, I believe the long term impact will be minimal, but it’s those short term misconceptions and job safety woes that hinder gaming as a medium from reaching the level of respect, integrity and impact it deserves.
What are your thoughts on this? Leave a comment below or tell me via my Twitter profile @JoshBSocial.