Dave McCarthy talks health and game monetization.
Video games and the habits they inspire have been looked at with a closer magnifying glass over the last few years. A lot of that stems from the controversies of loot boxes and whether or not they qualify as gambling, something that’s being looked at in various countries. But looking beyond that, there’s something else more basic and raw there: the issue of addiction.
You may not be aware, but this week the World Health Organisation will discuss putting Gaming Disorder to its list of official diseases, being defined as a disease where people become so hooked to video games they can’t function properly. While that doesn’t carry any legally binding consequences, doing so would be a big statement and signal to various governing bodies in regards to regulation of the industry who use the WHO as a standard bearer for health related issues.
Largely the industry has ignored or dismissed the issue. In fact, there’s very little talk about it from within at all. Someone who has spoken up a little more lately is the Xbox Head Of Operations Dave McCarthy.
In an interview with GamesIndustry.biz, McCarthy talks about several of these issues posed by health organizations and governments. He says that Microsoft and the Xbox brand are focusing on the health of the players, talking of new parental features that parents can utilize for their kids, new tools to block offensive images, and new steps toward online moderation. While he stops short of tackling the issue of addiction head on, he does acknowledge there’s a real importance to moderating time spend playing, and wants people to set limits when they need to. He sees it as a choice, though, and not something anyone should directly enforce.
“We have to be clear in our stance that we do believe a balanced approach to a gaming lifestyle is key,” McCarthy says. “We need to state that’s a value of ours. It is reflected right now in the parental settings and the family controls. We’re exploring the idea over whether we would apply those more broadly across our ecosystem.
“I go back to user choice. When we do that on Xbox, and this is something Phil has been really effective at in his role, is centring us on the gamer, and how choice is key for all that on Xbox. Choice around screen time, choice around the content that I want to play, choice around the services I want to have… And I think that is going to remain our philosophy, versus telling people they need to go in this direction. It’s more about giving people the tools to enable them.”
While we haven’t seen much of Microsoft on this front in particular, they strides they’ve been making in terms of inclusivity and player health, even with things that are tangentially related, haven’t gone unnoticed- from their adaptive controllers, to even something as small as setting new guidelines and actually trying to bring them to public attention. Let’s hope it continues, and to a greater degree.