14 Dec 2022

Fortnite may be the first video game to find itself at the centre of a class action addiction lawsuit, but it won’t be the last. That’s the prediction addiction recovery support service Rehabs UK is making, based on growing demand for information and treatment around gaming addictions.

  • Minecraft and World of Warcraft currently fuel more searches for addiction help and support each month than Fortnite
  • League of Legends and Candy Crush are also in the top 5 games driving searches for support online, across UK, USA and global data
  • In the UK, there are 15% more help-related searches for gaming addiction each month than for cocaine addiction

An estimated 3 billion people worldwide play video games, with the World Health Organisation suggesting that as many as 4% of those who play – around 120 million people – are addicted. In Canada, a large-scale study in 2017 found that 13% of Ontario teenagers showed symptoms of video game addiction, while in the UK the figure is estimated to be around 8% of children and teens. Studies in Japan, Norway and South Korea have revealed similar statistics.

“When someone ‘needs’ to play video games to be happy, and feels miserable when they’re not playing, they may have a disorder which is just as real as alcoholism or dependence on prescription drugs.” Says Rehabs UK founder and director Lester Morse.

“A person might have an addiction to a video game if they can’t stop playing it even though they know they should. They’re aware that the video game is causing them to neglect their family, friends, work, and education, but they keep playing anyway because they feel best behind the screen.”

The World’s Most Addictive Games

Infographic showing the worlds most addictive video games with Candy Crush having over 255 million monthly active players, League of Legends with 117 million, Fortnite with 83 million, World of Warcraft with 9 million and finally Minecraft with 141 million active monthly players.

Lorrine Marer, a British behavioural specialist who works with children and young people battling game addiction, describes Fortnite as “like heroin”. “Once you are hooked, it’s hard to get unhooked.”Marer says.

Fortnite is estimated to have over 83 million active players each month, meaning around 3.32 million potential Fortnite addicts globally. This pales in comparison to Minecraft, which currently has over 141 million active monthly players worldwide, and Candy Crush with a vast 255 million monthly players.

If 4% of these are addicted or are developing addictions, that’s 5.64 million potential Minecraft addicts and 10.02 million potential Candy Crush addicts at the time of writing. With one child mentioned in the Fortnite lawsuit having racked up over 320 days-worth of gaming hours in the space of less than two years, debates continue about how much responsibility parents should accept in cases of extreme gaming addiction.

“We’ve seen plenty of examples of people taking legal action against pharmaceutical companies around the world as a result of the opioid epidemic.”Says Lester Morse. “Where one group or family succeeds in being taken seriously, others will follow.

“Whether you believe the root cause of gaming addiction is in the design of the games themselves, in young people having excessive access to video gaming, or is in the underlying emotional issues that individuals are attempting to muffle by immersing themselves in games, the point is that the Fortnite case won’t be the last we see.”

Gaming addiction warning signs and symptoms

If you’re concerned that someone you care about is developing a gaming addiction, Rehabs UK note these signs to watch out for:

  • Needing to spend more and more time playing in order to get the same enjoyment
  • Not being able to quit playing, or even play less
  • Not wanting to do other things that they used to like
  • Having problems at work, school, or home because of gaming
  • Playing despite these problems
  • Lying to people close to them about how much time they spend playing

“Addicts often use their habits as a way to ease bad moods and feelings.” Morse goes on to say. “As with substances like drugs or alcohol, a person’s use of video games can become compulsive or seemingly uncontrollable when it becomes something their brain is dependent on for a dopamine hit.

“Lots of people enjoy spending their time playing video games, but not everyone reaches the point where their gaming habit impacts their relationships, their personal care or their other activities. If that sounds like you or someone you know, seeking support in the form of CBT or similar therapy can be all that’s needed to help break the cycle and return gaming habits to a healthy level.”