Alright, listen up, all you greedy a**holes turning gaming into gambling: A 14-year-old killed himself because of your sh*t. Yes, your sh*t, and I'm talking to all of you: EA, Activision, Tencent... all of you who are preying on teenagers and people with addictive personalities to line your pockets. It's bad enough that the industry is rotten with abusive leaders and exploitation. It's bad enough that we, the consumers, are addicted enough to forgive and forget, and flock to Activision's every outing, while its boss certifiably kept rape on the hush-hush. Now, it's come to the point that a 14-year-old gamer spiraled so out of control, he saw no way out other than suicide.
Is there blame to go around? Sure: Parenting, mental health, education, all of these are factors in limiting a young person's – or any person's – vulnerability, but that's beside the point that the giants steering our favorite industry are purposefully preying on the weak.
Now, I understand that business is business, and I'm not naive enough to not know that human lives can be business, but I still believe something needs to change. Gaming and gambling should not be interchangeable, but at times, they feel like one and the same. This favorite hobby of ours started as an expression of skill and a means to socialize. Now look at where we are: Even colleagues of mine are paying strangers to boost them in game when their own skills hit the ceiling, and social gaming has become an online matter, where streamers with thousands of followers and daily viewers feel so lonely they commit suicide.
Gaming, we need to have a talk, but I don't know where to start... since we're here though and opened up the conversation already... let's start with this suicide:
The boy was 14, and was found dead in a pond, days after he was reported missing. The leading theory is that the boy had previously been in trouble for spending too much money on the game Free Fire, and he was scared of getting in more trouble with his father.
There. That's the story. The bigger story behind the tragedy is that gambling and loot boxes have long been linked, yet gaming companies only show little signs of slowing down. Especially mobile gaming essentially lives on loot boxes, and thrives within the young demographic: Every kid has a phone, and most of these games are free to download. From there, naturally, the downward spiral into heavy spending and addiction is an easy one. The trouble lies not only within the gaming itself, but the potential of a gaming addiction serving as a gateway drug. Gambling problems are taken as seriously as drug and alcohol addiction. With video games targeting the most vulnerable demographic of them all, it is long overdue that we take these predatory behaviors seriously, and hold companies accountable.