More people are playing computer games online than ever before. Estimates suggest that around 1.2 billion people consider themselves gamers, while around 700,000 play online games on a regular basis. One thing’s for sure: games have permeated our daily lives more than ever before.
The world of online gaming is only set to get busier, as access to the internet improves, as technology advances, and as we become more adept at playing games while on the move.
This growth is perhaps best showcased by looking at how much people spend on online gaming every year. In 2017, the global spend was $121.7 billion, in 2018 it was $140 billion, and by the end of 2019 that figure had risen to $151.9 billion. Conservatives estimates suggest that by the end of 2020 spending will top $160 billion for the first time ever, and there doesn’t seem to be any sign of this growth slowing.
However, given the number of people playing games every single day, and also due to the fact that there is so much money involved in the industry, it is perhaps unsurprising that crime and various types of online abuse are also on the increase. Worrying research reveals that one in every two online gamers are bullied at some point, and 41% of those who had been cyberbullied experienced social anxiety afterwards. A further 38% even said that they had been hacked while playing a game; leaving their personal information open and vulnerable to attack.
So, with that in mind, there has never been a more appropriate or necessary time to get clued up on how to stay safe while playing online games, what the law says around this issue, and how to get a better idea of when crime is taking – or is about to take – place.
How to stay safe while you are gaming online
1. Leave your true identity at the door
At the very top of your priority list when it comes to staying safe online has to be refraining from telling anyone your real identity. That means not giving away private information such as your name, your address, your school, and certainly not your banking details. Also, refrain from doing things such as uploading a picture of yourself; instead, use an avatar or moniker, as this will ensure that it is far easier for you to be identified, and subsequently harassed.
2. Mute, mute, mute
The online gaming world can be a harsh place. People with the capacity to hide behind anonymous names are often more brazen when it comes to dishing out abuse – the same is true on social media platforms – so don’t be afraid to mute people (or even go as far as to report them) if they are being particularly cruel or malicious. There is absolutely no room in online gaming for bullies and those with spiteful intentions, so don’t let them get away with anything if you spot something remiss.
3. Take breaks
Of course, the issues associated with gaming aren’t solely related to financial safety; there can also be physical ailments to contend with if adequate care is not taken. Did you know that gamers can be faced with issues such as eye fatigue, carpal tunnel syndrome or long-term migraines due to playing computer games for too long? It is absolutely essential to take regular breaks and drink plenty of water – not sugary energy drinks! – when gaming to keep any problems to an absolute minimum. Acer, the computer specialist, suggests that taking breaks every 50 to 90 minutes – for at least five minutes at a time – is essential.
The world of online gaming has many positives: the shared experience of gaming can open us up to new friends, and also strengthen existing friendships (especially long-distance friendships). As with other forms of online technology, however, there are inevitable pitfalls and drawbacks that we need to be aware of. But, with the right precautions in mind, you’ll be able to enjoy the experience even more. Stay safe out there, and have fun!
Jacob is a gaming enthusiast who resides in Manchester. He spends his free time reading, writing, and scouring the internet for the latest gaming trends.