James Driver is a registered psychotherapist who works with clients on a variety of issues, including overcoming drug and alcohol problems, students struggling with exam pressure, relationship problems, sexual and emotional abuse and retirees confronting issues of meaning and existence.
His Master's research focused on online gaming addictions, a topic he is particularly interested in and is in the process of writing a book that will provide comprehensive information for parents on managing problematic gaming and addiction.
We sat down with James to find out his perspective on the crossovers between gambling and gaming.
Do you think gaming is a gateway to gambling?
Is it necessarily? No, not at all. Gaming is an incredibly broad form of media, with different games fulfilling a wide range of functions. Many gamers play for reasons that would not be satisfied by gambling whatsoever - for example playing in order to work together with others, playing to develop skill and overcome challenges, playing to experience a story of visual experience etc. I think we are increasingly seeing a divide now between games that have been designed with monetisation as a starting point (i.e. the game was designed with making money and ways to do that as central to the design) and games that were designed to be games as a starting point, with the expectation that if the game was good enough it would be commercially viable on that basis.
We've heard young people are spending upward of $500 betting on skins as part of the popular game Counter-Strike.
Have you heard of this happening and what do you think?
I think the fact that young people are at times spending so much money on these things raises two issues for me - firstly, the fact that obviously the game and their status within it - the way they are perceived by their peers in-game is of extreme importance, to the point that people are willing to run up debt or get in significant trouble in order to boost their in-game status. I think recognising and understanding this is critical to working with young people around the issue and preventing it in the first place. Secondly, I think it highlights that many parents are often not aware of how easy it is for young people to spend money using the parents' accounts, so it's important for parents to become informed on how this can occur so that they are able to manage it appropriately.
An additional point is that through these sites there is often an earlier introduction to gambling than what kids might otherwise encounter. Since gaming is obviously a hugely popular hobby, young people are likely to be exposed to advertising for this form of betting long before they might ever have entered a casino or gaming lounge, and so it is I think important that young people be educated about gambling and the various psychological tricks that it uses to encourage people to gamble at younger ages than what might previously have been necessary.