Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, spoke critically of the influence of popular online multiplayer game, Fortnite, is having on younger members of society.

On April 2nd, Prince Harry spoke at a YMCA event in west London. Addressing the crowd of mental health experts in attendance, Prince Harry raised the issue of video game addiction, specifically noting the influence and popularity of Epic Games’ famous battle royale game, Fortnite:

“That game shouldn’t be allowed. Where is the benefit of having it in your household?”

“It’s created to addict, an addiction to keep you in front of a computer for as long as possible. It’s so irresponsible.”

“It’s like waiting for the damage to be done and kids turning up on your doorsteps and families being broken down.”

While many, such as the World Health Organization who classified “a gaming disorder” as a mental health condition, believe that video games are an inherently addictive product, research indicates that the addiction is itself related to chemical production and reception, rather than by any direct fault of a video game. In 2017, video game researchers Christopher J. Ferguson and Pat Markey wrote in The New York Times:

“This is all terribly misguided. Playing video games is not addictive in any meaningful sense. It is normal behavior that, while perhaps in many cases a waste of time, is not damaging or disruptive of lives in the way drug or alcohol use can be.

Let’s start with the neuroscientific analogy: that the areas in the brain associated with the pleasures of drug use are the same as those associated with the pleasures of playing video games. This is true but not illuminating. These areas of the brain — those that produce and respond to the neurotransmitter dopamine — are involved in just about any pleasurable activity: having sex, enjoying a nice conversation, eating good food, reading a book, using methamphetamines.

The amount of dopamine involved in these activities, however, differs widely. Playing a video game or watching an amusing video on the internet causes roughly about as much dopamine to be released in your brain as eating a slice of pizza. By contrast, using a drug like methamphetamine can cause a level of dopamine release 10 times that or more. On its own, the fact that a pleasurable activity involves dopamine release tells us nothing else about it.”

In 2016, The American Journal of Psychiatry published a study titled Internet Gaming Disorder: Investigating the Clinical Relevance of a New Phenomenon, which found that there was little evidence of an inherent link between video games and ‘clinical outcomes’ regarding proposed criteria to be used to classify patients with a gaming addiction:

“Internet-based games are currently one of the most popular forms of leisure, and researchers studying their potential “darker sides” must be cautious. If one extrapolates from our data, upwards of 160 million American adults play Internet-based games, and as many as one million of these individuals might meet the proposed DSM-5 criteria for addiction to online games (40). This represents a large cohort of people struggling with what could be clinically dysregulated behavior. However, because we did not find evidence supporting a clear link to clinical outcomes, more evidence for clinical and behavioral effects is needed before concluding that this is a legitimate candidate for inclusion in future revisions of the DSM. If adopted, Internet gaming disorder would vie for limited therapeutic resources with a range of serious psychiatric disorders.”

Ironically, Prince Harry would also state during his remarks that social media is “more addictive than alcohol and drugs” on the same day that he and his wife, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, created the @sussexroyal Instagram account, which has amassed over 4 million followers over the course of 3 days.

What do you make of Prince Harry’s comments regarding Fortnite, video games, and social media?