Online gaming has been a saviour to many people over the past yearandahalf. It helped to maintain human connections at a time when we were unable to socialise in person, stimulate our brains and creative thinking, and distract us from the harsh reality outside our homes and around the world. Above all, though, it is a fun form of entertainment enjoyed by all age groups across a variety of platforms.
The all-encompassing nature of social media platforms and the evolution of gaming consoles to expand online capabilities across the board has helped to increase communication between people when playing games, meaning that they have become an integral form of communication for people who enjoy online gaming, able to play with friends and strangers, whilst sharing information and talking via headphones and text-based applications. For those who struggle with anxiety and in-person socialisation – whatever the reason is – this element of online gaming has helped them to build solid groups of online friends with whom they share interests and ideas. It is because of this that online gaming has been deemed a ‘life-saver’ for many.
Despite this, online gaming is replete with danger, ranging from money-stealing scams and bullying and harassment to issues relating to the impact of excessive gameplay on physical health and wellbeing. As with everything, the key to being safe when online gaming is to be aware of the various dangers that are associated with it and take the various steps necessary in order to reduce their negative effects.
But what exactly are these steps you can take to stay safe when playing games online and continue enjoying your favourite form of entertainment?
One of the first and foremost steps that you can take, whether you play games yourself or are looking out for the wellbeing of your child, is to look into reputable games providers. On PC, game providers such as Steam only feature games that they themselves have approved, but they also feature a rating system alongside reviews to help gamers see whether the game is suitable.
It is your responsibility to do research into the games you play online; generally, if the website isn’t featured anywhere in review forums or doesn’t appear to be properly formulated (incorrect spelling, claims that seem too good to be true), then it can be assumed that the website isn’t reputable.
This is particularly true when it comes to games that potentially include monetary transactions, such as casino-based games. A quick way of assessing whether such online games websites are safe is to look for the little padlock situated next to the URL; if it’s not there, it means that there is the potential for the website to be hacked in order to steal any personal details entered on the page. There are, of course, many online casino gaming websites that are perfectly legitimate –look at onlinecasinos.co.uk, for instance – and who provide a safe platform upon which to enjoy your favourite slots and other casino-based games, knowing that your information is being encrypted and therefore looked after.
Hold on to Your Personal Details
Obviously, there are going to be online games that require you to put your personal details in – particularly if it involves monetary transactions and betting. However, it’s still important to consider the level at which you allow your real information to be displayed online.
Ensure that your username isn’t related to anything tangible that others can guess your real name and personal information; regularly change your passwords and don’t reuse the same password across multiple platforms; make sure that nothing about your personal life – such as where you live, what school you go to/where you work – can be determined from your profile picture; and never, ever, under any circumstance, pass on your details to strangers asking for them on online gaming sites or via in-app chat systems on games consoles.
Read the T&Cs Carefully
Many online games have an entire section that states their terms and conditions in detail for players. Oftentimes, there’s important information regarding the sharing of your personal data, microtransactions, and the things you willingly sign up for by playing the games available on such websites.
These T&Cs are often written in miniscule text, making it hard to read – and this is often purposefully done. It’s your responsibility to check through them carefully, however, as these websites cannot be held responsible for any monetary loss or sharing of data that you experience if they have warned you of it in their T&Cs. Zoom in. Enlarge the text. Read it carefully.
Make a Note of Help Tools
Most games and gaming websites have tools available to get in touch with someone if you require help. Ensure that you or your child are aware of these tools and know how to use them appropriately should situations arise that require online support – including bullying and harassment, cheating, and potential scamming.
Take a Break
In terms of your physical health, it’s important to take frequent breaks when playing to give your mind and body a rest – if not, the impact on your health can be detrimental, particularly if you’ve been playing non-stop for a number of hours.
Get up, walk around, go outside, get a drink, eat some food – it could save your life.
Beware In-App Purchases
Microtransactions and in-app purchases have been featuring in the news a lot over the past few years; never input your financial information on to games consoles and websites without first checking out the plethora of information available regarding how these work on the games you play. Most games will state on their Steam page, website, or similar whether there are such transactions in games.
Avoid Unofficial Cheats
Downloading cheats from unofficial websites can cause you to inadvertently download viruses onto your console, smartphone, or PC, meaning that your personal and financial information can be accessed by hackers and used against you. Only ever download mods or cheats that are officially recognised by the gaming company that developed the game.
Play Fair and Follow the Rules
Finally, make sure that you play games according to the rules outlined. Report anyone not playing the same way. Speak to others how you would hope to be spoken to yourself.
Gaming can invite a range of negative consequences, but they are easy for you to avoid if you follow the simple list of tips above. Following these can help to ensure that online gaming is fun and safe for everyone. Let’s keep it that way.