Physical stress to phishing: Real challenges of virtual gaming and how to counter them

The rapidly-growing Esports industry has its own issues that manifest in the form of various risks associated with online gaming. Here's a look at some with their possible remedies.

Anand Krishnaswamy July 08, 2020 11:57:18 IST
Physical stress to phishing: Real challenges of virtual gaming and how to counter them

With the boom of online gaming and the Esports industry and the increase in the prize money on offer for talented players, many have begun to explore this as a career option of choice. This is especially true of many children and teenagers who enjoy gaming and would love nothing more than making a living out of it.

The Esports industry alone is expected to be worth more than $1.5 billion by 2023, according to a report in Business Insider. When we further consider the value of the gaming industry from which Esports has emerged, one can understand just how much money it is all worth. According to Forbes, the value of the gaming industry worldwide could cross $300 billion by 2025.

Physical stress to phishing Real challenges of virtual gaming and how to counter them

Phishing and hacking are among the most common threats in online gaming, but can be thwarted by simple precautions.

This industry, however, has its own issues that manifest in the form of various risks associated with gaming. These can roughly be put into one of the three categories - health, psychological and online risks. The one thing they all have in common is that with a few precautions they are avoidable.

The health risks associated with gaming are the oldest and have been a major point of contention for people who are against playing video games. These risks are largely in the form of lifestyle diseases caused by playing for long hours, with a poor diet and a very limited or no physical activity. Other than this, there are injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome or tendonitis that a lot of gamers tend to struggle with.

Like with people who experience such issues but are not into playing video games, the solution for these problems is simple - a balanced diet, a basic amount of physical activity, and adequate breaks while playing. Risks of injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis can be reduced significantly by taking short breaks of even as little as a few seconds to stretch out and relax the hands every 15-20 minutes. Paying attention to the posture and ensuring it is not awkward as well as using relaxed and softer movements while playing also helps.

These issues are similar to what many people outside of gaming also experience at times. Jobs or lifestyles that require people to spend their time working on computers or just long hours at work are susceptible to the same health risks. The same precautions can hence be used by gamers to improve their lifestyle and reduce health risks.

Some gamers can experience psychological issues too. This is in the form of video game addiction. This is also sometimes referred to as gaming disorder. In 2018, WHO recognised this disorder. This is denoted as a pattern of 'digital-gaming’ or 'video-gaming' behaviour characterised by impaired control over gaming activity, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and the continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.

Recently, a young teenaged boy from Kharar in Punjab spent Rs 16 lakh on the widely popular online game PUBG. The money was from his parents' savings, which had been kept aside for family emergencies as well as the boy's education. This one possible example of a case of gaming disorder. This kind of irresponsible spending is the biggest sign of addiction. The boy is believed to have spent the money through online micro-transactions for the purpose of buying in-game cosmetics and upgrades to his account in the game. He is believed to have made purchases even for some of his friends on the game.

It is possible to prevent gaming disorder by using a number of strategies. This includes educating gamers of the downsides to such behaviour and helping them control their urge at the cost of more important tasks.

Treatment is generally in the form of therapy. This is done to help improve self-confidence and develop social abilities outside of the game. Gaming disorder is an addiction that is sometimes based on a person’s inability or unwillingness to cope with the real world. Hence, when someone begins to show signs of it an intervention is required. Like many other addictions and disorders, therapy is helpful in solving the issue.

The last category of risks is online. This category is the newest and has really come into its own after the emergence of online gaming. The threats that can be put under this category are those that originate from an online source. The risks in this category range from cyber-bullying to phishing of personal and financial information.

The most common occurrence in this category is cyber-bullying. Every online game has its share of players showing this kind of behaviour towards others. The difference is how many of these players there are in the game and how far they take their behaviour. At the most basic level, this behaviour is a result of competitiveness and comes in the form of trash-talking or responding to a player that has offended them in some manner.

Most games have some kind of a system that lets people report players who engage in such behaviour. However, like sledging in cricket or trash-talking in traditional sports, even professional gamers and Esport professionals engage in this behaviour at times. Until such time that it is considered to have not crossed the line on competitive integrity, such behaviour is overlooked by the companies that own the game. Most games have some method of separating the players who engage in such behaviour from the general player population, often by matching them with other similar players.

The best way to deal with such behaviour is the same as how one would deal with bullies in real life. Firstly, one should attempt to persuade the offender through logic, without calling them out as bullies. If the behaviour persists, one should move onto step two, which is to report the person in question and block them.

Many games today offer the option for reporting and blocking players within the game interface itself. It is important to remember a few points throughout this. The incident should not be taken personally. If the incident continues to trouble you, talk to someone or take some time away from the game, do not seek revenge and possibly the most important, never reveal your personal information.

This brings us to the risk of phishing for private information. There are malicious individuals who attempt to use games to steal private information. The main method of doing so is by finding a means to make the target reveal the information by themselves, therefore it is extremely important to avoid revealing personal information in the game.

The other common means of phishing is to use fake websites promising rewards to the player to steal the player's game account in a bid to get more information. One should be careful and share gaming account credentials with only trusted websites.

Some game services also offer additional layers of security such as using an authentication code linked to your mobile or email that is provided for each time the players wish to access the game. If your game of choice has such a feature it is best to make use of it.

There is a group of players who prefer to play from cyber cafés. These players need to be mindful to log out of their account after they have finished playing and are leaving. Also, it is best to use places one is familiar with as there is a lesser risk of the computers containing malware that is targeted towards stealing information. In the case of such players, having an additional security layer of either a mobile authenticator or a confirmation email to access the account is even more useful.

Hacking is the last method used. This is outside the control of the player and as such, it is the job of the gaming companies to protect players from this. In certain gaming circles, there are players who prefer to play on non-sanctioned online servers which are owned and run by a third party. This is due to a variety of factors such as them being disappointed by the quality of the game on the official servers. This kind of behaviour makes it impossible for the game company to protect the player.

In the rare event that it is unavoidable, one should only use third-party servers that are owned and operated by reputed companies or individuals, as they will be careful to take appropriate security measures to avoid a loss of reputation from hackers breaking into their servers.

It is important to note that several activities that are a part of day to day living such as school/college and office, playing sports, visits to local bars and nightclubs, online shopping or even just withdrawing money from a nearby ATM machine can expose one to the some of these risks. This brings up the point of how gaming itself is only as bad as the activities listed above towards personal health.

Keeping that in mind, one should also note that the online risks itself are not from gaming but ones created by malicious and nefarious elements of society that have found a means to try and exploit the growth of the gaming industry.

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