For most of us, playing video games in lieu of actually tending to our responsibilities when we’re teenagers is as much a part of growing up as any other form of teenage shenanigans. When they affect our grades, sure, Mom gets mad, but the Xbox or the PlayStation or, for us middle-aged sportswriters, the Super Nintendo, didn’t stop us from graduating, going to college and getting jobs in the real world.
Rather, gaming was just a free-time diversion and a healthy escape after a hard day at work.
Not so for an unnamed but high-level would-be NHL prospect, as Jeff Marek of Sportsnet Canada reported in his “31 Thoughts” podcast Thursday.
The relevant part comes at around the 22:15 mark.
“On video games — and I’m not going to say the player’s name. I really doubt he’s going to make it to the NHL, and it’s because of a video game addiction, to the point where his junior general manager told me that they’ve had him go to counseling over it, because he’ll play until all hours of the night and into the morning and then he’ll have no energy the next day,” Marek said, via Deadspin.
“Like, he’ll be a write-off. And it is that bad. He has this compulsion for playing video games until all hours. I swore that I wouldn’t say the player’s name, but it’s unfortunate. He’s a recent first-round draft pick for a very, very prominent NHL team, will probably never play in the NHL because of a video game addiction.”
The game Marek singled out was “Fortnite,” the hottest flavor of the week in a genre known as “battle royale,” where 100 players enter into a “Hunger Games”-like survival game and the last one standing is the winner.
And as addictive online games go, it’s basically something Walter White could’ve cooked up.
The game leverages the same Skinner box principles that make slot machines work. Essentially, the combination of an intermittent reward (doing well in a match) and the tantalizing but always just-out-of-reach jackpot (ask anyone you know who plays Fortnite or its competitor PUBG — PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds — to tell you about the time they finished in second place) keeps players coming back for “just one more match” until the sun’s up and they have to face their day on no sleep.
Marek admitted his information is a few months old, but noted that that the concern is very real.
“This guy is a good player and was a high pick … but there’s a good chance he’s not going to make it to the NHL and his general manager said, ‘Yeah, the video game addiction is bad. It’s bad with this kid.’”
It’s an unfortunate situation, but what it all really boils down to is: If a kid can’t be disciplined enough when he’s still on the rise, what’s going to stop him from completely losing his motivation to improve when he’s already rich?
Which ultimately speaks to the danger of blaming video games.
Fortnite, as addictive as it is to fans of battle royale games, is enjoyed in a healthy (or at worst occasional bad day at work) way by thousands of people every day.
But when gaming addiction rears its ugly head, someone needs to step in and have an intervention.
With any luck, this prospect will get it together.
If not? Well, we’ll find out who he is when we look back at the draft and see the one who crashed out in juniors.
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