New HBO series probes why gaming addiction ‘is a real thing’

By Alexandra Canal, Producer | Yahoo Finance

Just days ago, a 16-year-old gamer from Pennsylvania won over $3 million in the first-ever World Cup for the popular video game Fortnite. The individual jackpot was the largest ever in competitive gaming history — even bigger than Tiger Woods $2 million-plus haul for winning the 2019 Masters Tournament.

Fortnite’s explosive popularity underscores the rise of gamers, and their spending power. Worldwide, players are expected to spend over $150 billion on their hobby this year, according to market intelligence firm Newzoo.

As gaming becomes a cultural phenomenon, HBO’s (T) “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” is taking a closer look at how the once innocent pastime can morph into an addictive sickness.

So are video games becoming more of an obsession than a hobby?

The discussion “really hit a climax a couple months ago when the World Health Organization declared that ‘Internet Gaming Disorder’ was a real thing — a mental illness,” HBO Real Sports Correspondent David Scott told Yahoo Finance during a recent interview.

While the industry resists the classification, Scott said “the research and clinical reports really do point to a problem.Something like 3 percent of gamers will be [clinically] addicted and won’t be able to control it.”

Scott added that “even if it’s [only] a relatively small percentage of gamers who have these problems — that’s going to be very evident” in the U.S.

The World Health Organization recognizes “gaming disorder” as a mental illness

Whether it be giant TV screens or tiny mobile tablets, tech addiction is bleeding into every day life — and Washington is starting to take notice.

Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) just introduced a bill that aims to eliminate mindless scrolling on platforms like Facebook (FB) and Twitter (TWTR). In a statement, Hawley said that “big tech has embraced a business model of addiction” — citing “psychological tricks” that make it difficult for users to look away.

Video games can evoke similarly addictive behavior.

“Whether you call it an addiction, a disorder or just ‘problem gaming’ — it’s a real thing,” Scott said.

Over 2 billion gamers comprise the industry, with more and more players latching onto their consoles in the hope of turning a leisure activity into a lucrative career.

Jul 28, 2019: Kyle ‘Bugha’ Giersdorf celebrates his win as the first solo World Champion at the Fortnite World Cup Finals e-sports event at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

“This is a disease that in some ways preys on the intelligent,” Scott said. “You have to be really smart to analyze and play these games at a certain level.”

Incentives, like big prize purses and college scholarships, are using “smart arguments” to drawing in savvy people who probably don’t think of themselves as addicts, Scott added.

It makes the trap hard to resist.

“If you’re really elite you can win millions of dollars in a sold out USTA stadium and make almost as much as the tennis players who will win the U.S. Open in a few weeks,” he added.

Alexandra Canal is a Producer at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @alliecanal8193

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