Cam Adair’s Personal Journey and Founding of GameQuitters

Cam Adair, the founder of GameQuitters, joins Brian, Jeff, and John in the All in the Addicted Gamblers podcast to discuss gaming addiction. Click here to listen to the full episode.

Super summary:

Cam Adair, the founder of GameQuitters, discusses gaming addiction, its impact on young people, and the increasing overlap between the gaming and the gambling industries. The gaming community’s resistance to acknowledging gaming disorders and the rise of eSports contribute to normalizing excessive gaming. Adair advocates for setting boundaries, maintaining open communication, and understanding games to prevent gaming disorders. He also highlights the importance of recognizing the psychological tactics used in both gaming and gambling industries to keep users engaged and spending money, urging parents, counselors, and problem gamblers in recovery to be aware of the risks involved.

Topics discussed:

  • Gaming addiction impact on young people and overlap with the gambling industry
  • Resistance within the gaming community to acknowledge gaming disorders
  • Importance of setting boundaries and open communication to prevent gaming disorders
  • Understanding psychological tactics used in both gaming and gambling industries
  • Urging parents, counselors, and problem gamblers in recovery to be aware of the risks involved

Cam Adair, the founder of GameQuitters, shares his journey with video game addiction, which began when he was a teenager. He used gaming to escape bullying and eventually played up to 16 hours daily. His life deteriorated, and it wasn’t until he wrote a suicide note that he realized he needed to change. At the time, little to no help was available for people struggling with video game addiction.

The Journey of Overcoming Video Game Addiction

After quitting cold turkey and later relapsing, Cam Adair realized he needed to understand why he was drawn to games. He discovered a community struggling with similar issues and created GameQuitters, which now helps 75,000 people monthly in 95 countries.

Cam admits he had other addictions, such as Adderall and marijuana, but gaming was the most severe. He did not identify as an addict until he gave a TED talk in 2013. He notes that the concept of excessive gaming is relatively new.

Cam is not against gaming as a whole, as 90% of gamers play casually without experiencing significant negative impact. However, he believes there is a responsibility on the gaming industry to support the 10% of gamers who struggle with problematic play. He argues that the industry must do more to identify and support at-risk players.

Loot boxes and in-game skins are contentious issues in the gaming industry, as they can lead to financial loss and potential harm to users. Cam suggests that the areas where the gaming industry fights change the most are the areas that would make the most significant difference, not just to their bottom line but to the effectiveness of their products and the potential harm to their users.

John and Cam discuss the rapidly growing issue of gaming disorder and its impact on young people. They mention a recent clinical training on gaming disorder attended by the Delaware Council on Gambling Problems. John acknowledges that Cam’s talks, such as his 2013 TED Talk, hold the attention of young people and provide valuable information. Cam then addresses the trivialization of gaming disorder and how it has gained more general acceptance over the past two years. He notes that the issue impacts most families in some way, as many teenagers play video games.

Cam points out that acceptance is growing among families, but the gaming community is more resistant. Gamers tend to be defensive due to the long history of attacks on video games, such as their connection to school shootings and violence. This defensiveness leads to a lack of understanding and support for those with a gaming disorder.

The conversation shifts to the financial implications of gaming, specifically the recent development of loot boxes and other in-game transactions that blur the line between gaming and gambling. Cam explains that the industry is going through an age of normalization, with organized gaming competitions, or eSports, becoming more prominent at various levels, from elementary school to professional. It has led to some justifying excessive play in pursuing potential scholarships or professional opportunities.

Cam highlights three reasons why eSports are growing rapidly. First, younger players’ potential to earn money significantly differs from traditional sports. Second, eSports levels the playing field for players of different physical abilities. Third, with new games being released frequently, there is an exponential opportunity for eSports and professional players.

However, Cam notes that the chances of earning money or scholarships through gaming are still very low, despite the high number of players competing. The normalization of gaming and the fact that it takes place at home, providing parents a sense of safety, has increased excessive play.

One podcast discussed e-sports and its impact on society. The speakers highlighted that e-sports is a rapidly growing industry, drawing massive audiences, with competitors, agents, trainers, and sponsors, just like any other sport. E-sports has gained even more popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic, as many traditional sports were put on hold and schools turned to online activities to keep students engaged. It led to an increase in schools and universities offering e-sports programs and clubs.

One concern raised in the discussion was the potential for gambling addiction, as e-sports can provide more opportunities for betting, both for adults and children. Some young gamers might also have unrealistic expectations about becoming professional e-sports players, justifying excessive gaming as “practice.”

Twitch, a live streaming platform primarily for gaming, was also discussed. The average gamer spends as much time watching others play on Twitch as they do playing games themselves. Twitch can be compared to cooking shows, where viewers watch to learn new strategies, and techniques or simply be entertained. As the gaming industry grows, parents and clinicians need to consider not only the time spent gaming but also the screen time spent on platforms like Twitch and YouTube.

The speakers also pointed out that young gamers look up to e-sports professionals and streamers like they admire athletes. It highlights the cultural impact of e-sports and the gaming industry on younger generations, which is likely to continue growing.

Establishing Healthy Gaming Habits and Boundaries

Cam Adair shares his insights on addressing excessive gaming and preventing gaming disorders among children and teenagers. He emphasizes setting boundaries and maintaining open communication with children about gaming limits. Each family should decide on the screen time and gaming time limits based on their values. Predefined consequences should be in place if the agreements are not followed.

For teenagers, Cam suggests limiting gaming time to around 2 hours a day and not every day. One way to keep gaming from becoming the only activity is to ensure children have other hobbies and interests. Parents should also model healthy technology use and avoid being glued to their screens all day.

It’s essential to understand your children’s games and their mechanics. It helps you become a trusted authority and prevents manipulation. Engage in discussions about gaming with your children and allow them to express their opinions.

For individuals with a gaming problem, Cam recommends trying a 90-day gaming detox as a challenge. After detox, some players may decide not to return to gaming, while others may try to reintroduce gaming in moderation. Knowing yourself and the types of games that may trigger problematic play is crucial.

The primary goal is to learn about your relationship with gaming and create a contrast between life with gaming and life without gaming. Breaking the attachment to gaming can help individuals realize that there are many other engaging and fulfilling activities in life.

Video games have evolved significantly over the years, becoming more immersive and addictive, partly due to the introduction of mobile gaming and changes in business models. With the release of the iPhone, mobile gaming introduced free-to-play games where in-app purchases were made possible due to credit card integration in the App Store. It led to games being treated more like a service and closely aligning with social media platforms. As a result, companies are incentivized to keep players engaged for as long as possible and encourage them to spend money in the game.

The industry caters to four types of gamers: achievers, social gamers, competitive players, and explorers. Achievers buy progress, social gamers enjoy customization, competitive players seek advantages, and explorers looking for additional content. The best games incorporate aspects that appeal to each type of player. With games continuously updating and releasing new content on a seasonal basis, the gaming industry aims to keep players engaged indefinitely.

The average age of a gamer is 33 years old, with an average gaming history of 14 years. Gaming is not just a young person’s activity as even seniors are now getting involved. The market for seniors is growing, with many playing smartphone mobile games for an average of two to three hours daily.

Parents need to educate themselves about the gaming industry and understand the psychological tools companies use to keep players engaged. This knowledge can help parents address potential gaming problems with their children. Families should know the need for boundaries, effective communication, and quality time together. Instead of just focusing on “fixing” one child, a comprehensive family plan should be developed to tackle gaming issues effectively.

The Blurred Lines Between Gaming and Gambling

Cam Adair discusses the connection between gambling and gaming, highlighting the increasingly blurred lines between the two industries. Both industries are learning from each other to stay relevant, with gambling products resembling video games and gaming companies incorporating gambling elements to monetize their products. This overlap creates potential risks for problem gamblers in recovery who play video games, as gambling features and advertising are becoming more prevalent in the gaming industry.

Cam emphasizes the importance of understanding gaming and video games for gambling counselors and problem gamblers in recovery. Many clients are likely to engage with gaming, especially if they are more driven by competition or high stimulation. The gaming industry is less regulated than gambling, allowing opportunistic companies to exploit the market and exploit users.

A significant concern is the exposure of children to these gambling mechanics. Loot boxes and in-app purchases are present in games rated suitable for children, introducing them to simulated gambling behaviors. The younger a person starts gambling, the more likely they are to gamble in the future. Cam urges parents to be aware of and monitor their children’s in-game spending and educate themselves about the risks.

The podcast also touches on intermittent rewards, a psychological tactic used in gaming and gambling to keep people engaged for extended periods. Cam emphasizes the importance of understanding that video games are digital products designed to make money using persuasive psychology. He encourages consumers to know how they engage with these games and their incentives.

In conclusion, Cam Adair raises awareness about the growing connection between gambling and gaming, emphasizing the importance of understanding and addressing the risks associated with this overlap, especially for problem gamblers in recovery, parents, and counselors. Click here to listen to the full interview.

Listen to the full interview here

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