Fortnite gamers are motivated, not addicted

The World Health Organisation officially classifies gaming addiction as a disorder. The recent classification sought to address the growing use of digital technologies where people turn to electronic devices at the expense of other things such as work (or school), friendships and socializing. But evidence to support the idea that players are addicted to video games is lacking.

The International Game Developers Association (IGDA) strongly opposed the classification “as clearly prejudicial against gaming as a hobby and interest” and for a “broad” terminology. But both parties seem to agree on one thing: more and more people are choosing to play games over other activities.

Is reality broken?

Back in 2011, game designer Jane McGonigal reflected on the increased play of video games in her book Reality is Broken:

The fact that so many people of all ages, all over the world, are choosing to spend so much time in game worlds is a sign of something important, a truth that we urgently need to recognise. The truth is this: in today’s society, computer and video games are fulfilling genuine human needs that the real world is currently unable to satisfy … And unless something dramatic happens to reverse the resulting exodus, we’re fast on our way to becoming a society in which a substantial portion of our population devotes its greatest efforts to playing games, creates its best memories in game environments, and experiences its biggest successes in game worlds.

Seven years on, I believe McGonigal’s assessment of society is close to reality. In a world where terror haunts the streets of major cities, mental health problems are on the rise, and international relations have become worryingly strained, people are increasingly seeking escape in the vivid and thrilling experiences of online gaming worlds.

The Fortnite phenomenon

Technologies have developed and changed how games are played at an exponential rate. Environments that host millions of players at the same time offer opportunities to interact and take on a game’s challenges together. In-game moments can be captured and shared among friends and online communities. Gamer personalities have become modern-day celebrities to many young players as a result of streaming and on-demand video services.

Fortnite, one of the biggest gaming phenomena of this decade, plunges 100 players from a flying bus on to an island, with the goal of being the last player (or team) standing. With a series of obstacles to negotiate, the game embraces online game-playing in a way that has appealed hugely to young people and adults alike. But players are not addicted to rocket-riding or loot-hunting on their way to outlasting 99 other players. Instead, they are fully invested and motivated to beat (or at least engage with) their opponents.