University Professor: Candy Crush Is Turning Children Into Obsessive Gamblers

from the think-of-the-royal-flushes! dept

Here is a brief list of all the definitive information we have about the effects of video games on children. Violent video games make children more violent. Violent video games do not make children more violent. Video games make children less sympathetic to their fellow humans. Video games make children more sympathetic to their fellow humans. Video games cause severe health problems in children. Video games have health benefits for children. And, above all else, we know that parents in the United States are so certain that video games are a problem for their children that they brilliantly ignore the tools at their disposal to help them act like, you know, parents.

Whoo. Sort of takes your breath away, doesn’t it? Well, we aren’t done yet, apparently, now that another study supposedly shows that (sigh) video games are turning our precious youth into wannabe Doyle Brunsons and the only remedy is attentive parents the ever-effective school systems to educate kids about gambling games.

Prof Mark Griffiths, director of the International Gaming Research Unit, based at Nottingham Trent University, said large numbers of under-16s were becoming hooked on games often accessed through social media websites. Many sites provide opportunities to play online poker with virtual money or give users a free introductory session to cash-gambling games with no age restrictions.

Free versions of poker and gambling sites are turning children into gambling addicts. Got it. How are they doing this, professor?

Speaking to the Times Educational Supplement, he said these games introduced young people to the excitement and rewards of gambling even when they are not playing for real money, adding: “It’s a bit like the old drug-dealing analogy of giving a bit for free and hooking them in.”

Ah, it’s so simple! If you offer something for free and reward the user, they’ll become hopelessly hooked and think they can earn real rewards in real life! Like drug dealers do! And play-money gambling sites! And the way Farmville has spawned a bunch of kids now hopelessly trying to grow plants out of their concrete sidewalks! Or how that free NFL game where you run back kickoffs has somehow magically convinced zillions of kids that they’re Devin Hester.

Sorry, not buying it. Kids, by and large, are far more intelligent than we give them credit for. But, hey, it’s not like the professor is only picking on poker sites.

Prof Griffiths identified games such as Candy Crush Saga which has been downloaded more than 500m times and gives players the option of paying money to access higher levels. He said that these games had a “moreishness quality, a bit like chocolate”.

“You say you’ll just have one chunk and you end up having the whole lot,” he said. “So you say, ‘I’ll just play for 15 minutes’, and you end up still there four or five hours later.”

So…the game being fun and costing something is the problem? Look, I dislike micropayments as much as the next person, but deciding that Candy Crush has caused a need for gambling education in every school in the UK is a bit like saying that because kids read comic books they should have to take a lesson on some of the unfortunate squeeze-effects of wearing superhero tights. It’s just a little overboard.

And, I ask, knowing that this will be laughed off by my children-having peers, why is there no mention of parenting anywhere in these recommendations? I played cards with my friends as a child. I played free online poker when I was in high school. All the education I needed to know that I wasn’t Phil Helmuth was my father pulling up a picture of the Las Vegas strip and saying, “They didn’t build those enormous buildings by letting people win.” That, along with some attentive parenting, ought to be enough.

Filed Under: , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “University Professor: Candy Crush Is Turning Children Into Obsessive Gamblers”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
BentFranklin (profile) says:

I know a woman, 50 years old, who is addicted to the Candy, and it isn’t a pretty thing. I’ve no doubt the Candy pushers developed the app in ways that scientifically maximize their return using things like operant conditioning, similar to slot machines. So the described study may not quite deserve the level of mockery and scorn that Mr. Geigner levies.

Call me Al says:

Re: Re: Re:

I see this as something very fundamental.

It is laudable that many people wish to protect others from things that have a negative effect on them. However that protection should never infringe on those people who are not effected in a detrimental way.

In simple terms, almost everything that humanity does can have a negative impact on a section of the population. If we follow the pattern of protection to the extreme then we won’t be allowed to do anything.

Pragmatic says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Agreed, but it should be self control. Perhaps addiction awareness could be taught in schools; you know, symptoms of addictive behavior, etc. and what to do about it. I’d go for that. Give ’em the tools they need to deal with it so they can catch themselves. The nanny state alternative does not appeal. We’re not all addicts.

Anonymous Coward says:

And Another Thing...

“Kids, by and large, are far more intelligent than we give them credit for.”

Exactly. In fact, they’re actually more intelligent than adults, as proven by the professor here. It doesn’t matter what kids watch or what games they play, so long as their parents just tell them not to actually do those things in real life. Which brings me to my next point.

Porn. Why is it that we seem to think that porn is bad for children? Can’t parents just tell children that it’s OK to watch those things, just don’t do them? I mean, “Kids, by and large, are far more intelligent than we give them credit for”, aren’t they?

Pragmatic says:

Re: Re: And Another Thing...

Wrong. It teaches objectification of women and reinforces negative stereotypes. Get your hand off your dick and actually talk to a woman once in a while.

And they’re not freaks if they have love handles or stretch marks. That’s what regular women have.

Oh, and haven’t you forgotten that porn stars tend to have a short shelf life? When your looks go and that’s all you’ve got, it’s over. Do you really want your daughter to grow up to do that, then be cast aside when she starts to look like the sofa?

So no, I don’t think using porn as sex ed is a good or healthy idea.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: And Another Thing...

I maintain that the moment we are born is the moment we are at our most intelligent, and it’s all downhill from there.

Regarding porn, the only reason porn is “harmful” to children is because of how society deals with porn. To paraphrase Dark Helmet in a comment above, the harm is a symptom of our society, not of the porn itself.

Capt ICE Enforcer says:

My poor mother.

It all started innocently enough, a game called Oregon Trail appeared on our first computer. My mother tried it and was hooked. A few years later we moved 2 blocks away to a larger house. My childhood memories all destroyed. Then there was farmville which resulted in her knowing what fruits and veggies look like. My Hot Pocket dinners ruined for health food. And now Candy Crush… Oh that evil Candy Crush, now all her Facebook post are about playing Candy Crush, where is the Love. My mother is doomed. We need to educate the parents in this world. Or we are Doomed.

Anonymous Coward says:

“Here is a brief list of all the definitive information we have about the effects of video games on children. Violent video games make children more violent. Violent video games do not make children more violent. Video games make children less sympathetic to their fellow humans. Video games make children more sympathetic to their fellow humans. Video games cause severe health problems in children. Video games have health benefits for children.”

Wow, it is almost as if the science community is composed of individuals with different viewpoints and different ways of doing studies that may only focus on a section of the activity. /s

As for the rest of the article.

Yes there are specific activities that could be argued to be built into some games to reinforce addictive behaviour and form habits. Just because people get offended by the suggestion that videogames, or whatever, could be made with negative qualities does *not* mean it shouldn’t be studied to see if there is any truth in it.

These sensational articles on techdirt are really bringing down the overall quality of the site.

Anonymous Coward says:

I love to play video games. I don’t think when I walk away from the screen I’m some race car driver that can just get up and walk away from a crash unscathed. I don’t think bullets will bounce off my chest. I have no inclination to go shoot someone.

While I don’t, I could gamble to my hearts content with one arm bandits or whatever and never spend a dime. I have never in my life ever sit foot in a casino and have no plans to.

decrement (profile) says:

This opinion might be unpopular. I believe Mark Griffiths is correct to be unsettled, but is going down the wrong path with linking things to gambling.

Candy Crush has been tuned perfectly to maximize micro-transactions. The game has an insidious way of leaving the player only one or two turns away from completing a level, then dangles opportunities to spend money or spam friends to continue.

I consider the practice of dangling the carrot of level completion over children to be predatory. I would love to see pay-to-win micro-transactions reigned in on games marketed toward children.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Your point is valid, but it’s not the best game at extracting micropayments. I submit that Smurf’s Village is much better at it — that’s the one that got kids to spend over $1,000 in a single billing cycle.

I know several children (well, highschoolers) who play Candy Crush — but none of them feel compelled to pay. The payment dangle is a cooldown period every so often, and you can pay to avoid waiting for the cooldown. Some of the kids just wait it out. The ones who don’t wait it out just set the time on their phone ahead and keep playing.

McCrea (profile) says:

Dear ed.

I wanted to read the source for “health benefits.”

Well, “video games have health benefits for children”, “benefits” links to an article citing only “video games can improve your health”. Improve your health links to another trivial article citing only “video games that are supposed to improve your mental and physical health”. Now, not only have we gone from an assertion of fact “do have benefits” and “can improve your health”, we’ve fallen down to a mere “supposition.” I suppose you know what they say about suppositions. Finally, “Mental and physical” links to where the most meaningful science is found in the “Mythbusters 10-Year Anniversary” advertisement.

Please don’t restate and overstatement of a supposition from a presumed source that is no longer linked. All tedium and no source makes Joey want to start cutting himself.

KeillRandor (profile) says:

There is a problem, but...

There is actually a very specific problem at the root of this issue, but it’s not being fully recognised and understood:

We have a number of different activities that are currently being labelled and considered as being the same, especially when using computers.

Unfortunately, the differences between such activities are so fundamental, that not recognising and understanding them – (or being able to do so) – IS causing problems. And since those whose responsibility it is to inform and teach people about such differences don’t even know any better, either, it should be no surprise that the problems, and symptoms, are getting worse.

All this professor is doing is recognising the possibility of some symptoms of this very problem, but without relating it to such a problem in the first place it has no true context in which to exist, (and therefore be studied).

So, the problem is with what we use the word game to represent, and how and why it differs, but is related, to what we can (and should) use other words to represent, such as art, puzzle, competition, work and play.

So how can the differences between them so fundamental?

Because we’re talking about differences such as:

Things a person DOES, and things that happen TO that (same) person.

We’re talking about differences between things that can and should never be able to be considered and recognised as being the SAME THING.

That people (of any age) can be taken advantage of when getting confused between such different things should be no surprise to anyone.

The main questions, however, that truly need to be asked, are how we managed to get into such a situation in the first place, and what we can do about it…

Which is what I’m working on – (Part 1: On the Functionality And Identity Of Language).

Anonymous Coward says:

I have this argument with my family

As long as you aren’t avoiding responsibilities, who cares if your spare time is spent on Candy Crush, or WoW…vs how my other family members are with crocheting and fishing?

Why does it matter as long as the things that are supposed to be taken care of are being done?

I mean, I did try to crochet for a while, and the first thing that happened is the blanket I spent at least 2 months of my free time on got used as a dog blanket, I decided F it….and went back to gaming.

I work full time, pay my own bills, been on my own for 24 years. If I want to play WoW for 16 hours straight, by golly I will. Stop harassing me about it.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...