Video games seem to have a way of transcending culture, language, and geography – and many people use them as a way to connect with others, especially online. But there’s a darker side to consider, one that Elaine Uskoski knows well.
Her son Jake began struggling with video gaming during university. Elaine says in a recent blog that video games were a way for him to cope with anxiety and depression, and to “escape school and social stresses, and create new online friendships in an arena of acceptance amid other gamers.”
Then she noticed the signs that it was becoming a problem.
Elaine remembers that his grooming had slipped, his weight had dropped, and he’d become visibly shaky.
“He communicated less, he was moodier, and he looked chronically tired,” she recalls. “He had stopped living.”
According to CAMH’s 2017 Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey (OSDUHS), 12 per cent of Ontario students met the criteria for a video gaming problem.
Many video games now also include elements of gambling within them, making gambling more accessible to younger audiences.
“The monetization of video games is an emerging trend to watch,” says CAMH clinician Lisa Pont. Increasingly, it seems the lines between gambling and video gaming are blurring as developers find new ways to integrate your bank account into the gameplay.
“To give you an example, a player may choose to purchase something known as a loot box,” explains Lisa. “The virtual contents are unknown and the player pays for a chance to win randomized prizes such as new equipment or a new outfit for their character, also known as ’skins’.”
With the introduction of loot boxes and other gambling elements within video games, there is a need to better understand the effects on youth and how clinicians and community partners can provide developmentally-appropriate information and support.
For Elaine, part of that effort is sharing her insights and experiences of helping her son through his journey, both as an author and a speaker.
She spoke at this year’s Gambling and Gaming Harms: Ontario Professional Development Forum, co-hosted by the Gambling, Gaming & Technology Use team within the Provincial System Support Program at CAMH, and Gambling Research Exchange Ontario.
Over 100 clinicians and community partners came together in Toronto to interact and learn from each other’s experiences, and broaden their outlook beyond their own practice.
“It was important that I attend the forum to both learn from experts,” says Elaine, “and to provide a face and a voice to Video Gaming Addiction from a parent's perspective.”
Elaine also notes that more education about problem video gaming is needed for parents and service providers.
“It’s important to understand that despite believing I was doing my best, there was a lack of awareness that created blind spots in my parenting. Today, after over four years of battling through, working together, and reaching out for whatever help and reinforcements I could find, there has been much personal growth for both of us; our bond is stronger. There has been success, and there is still work to be done.”
CAMH continues to be part of that effort, supporting youth, their families and professionals working in the area through the Provincial System Support Program’s Gambling, Gaming & Technology Use team. To find educational resources, please click on the links below.
- Youth, family and interactive technology pamphlet
- Blog: Parenting through video gaming disorder
- Adolescent Problem Gambling: A Prevention Guide for Parents
- Youth problem gambling evidence-informed web section
For Gambling and Gaming Harms: Ontario Professional Development Forum highlights and archived presentations, please visit https://learn.problemgambling.ca/forum2019.