Game app addiction: don’t let Candy Crush send you to the poorhouse

Gaming application addiction has become a very real problem around the world. It’s almost impossible now to find a youth walking the streets without his or her head buried in a smartphone.

For the most part, game apps are harmless fun and good time filler when you’re waiting for the bus or in line but what happens when this mindless entertainment starts putting a dent in your wallet?

Many app developers are actually hoping it does.

Famous Rugby star, Sam Vesty was slapped with a £3200 (RM15,253.30) bill in three hours after his two sons downloaded multiple ‘add ons’ for their virtual farm game. Across the pond in the US, a user only known as ‘panda’ told Wired magazine that he had spent USD$7000 (RM21,573.10) on the Clash of Clans game but quipped "You don't have to spend less, you have to earn more." In the same article in Wired, another user ‘Vince P’ confessed to spending USD$16,000 (RM49,309.90) on Facebook game, Battle of the Pirates.

If you earn a neat five figures every month; these bills may not be a problem but if you are finding that your app addiction is causing some serious financial difficulties, read on.

Understanding the industry business models

Most games which are free-to-play (F2P) are designed to give you limited gameplay and charge extra in order for you experience the game in its entirety. It could be in the form of limited play time, in-game items or level caps. This is known as the paywall and can end up costing a lot of money if you wish to advance in the game quickly. In short, these games were designed to get you addicted to the point where you think nothing of spending real money on virtual ‘items’: buying In-App Purchases (IAP).

Take for instance popular puzzle game Candy Crush, which allows players to bypass the daily playtime limit by paying for extra lives at US$0.99 (RM3.05). Players who wish to gain an advantage in the game can also purchase other IAPs at similar or higher prices.

Candy Crush-ed
Candy Crush-ed

There are also game apps based on a one-time purchase fee or subscription basis. These are actually less problematic as the fee is upfront and transparent. You know what you’re paying and won’t be distracted into forking out more.

However don’t let that deter you from enjoying your favourite games, instead just take a little time to consider these tips to helping you deal with your app addiction.

Understanding yourself as a gamer

Are you the casual gamer who just needs a time filler and the moment you see the ‘pay’ button you freak out? If so, you can stop reading now.

If you are the hardcore gamer who spends hours not realising the time of day on his or her favourite game, you may end up spending more than you bargained for. Here are some tips to prevent that:

  1. Set a budget. How much can you afford to spend on video games: RM5 or RM250 per month; per day; week?

  2. Get a prepaid card loaded with the amount set on your budget for each month. Enter these details as opposed to your credit card details onto your app store account/mobile phone. This way, you will only have the available amount to spend. If you have to stop your game and fish out your credit card to make a new payment; it will give you some time to resist the urge to buy.

  3. Buy one-time payment games as opposed to subscriptions or upgradable ‘freemiums’. You’ll be more in control of your spending.

  4. Set play ‘time blocks’. Set a time limit for how long you play. Position your phone alarm to go off at the end of this time block. Once it does, take a walk and then come back to your game. The interruption will ensure you’re not so heavily engrossed that you momentarily forget your budget.

  5. Remove all credit details from your phone. It would make it harder for you to purchase an add on or game each time.

  6. If all else fails; go on an app ‘diet’ for a week and reward yourself with a few apps at the end of it. As with any addiction, going cold turkey for while will help rein it in.

This was brought to you by Brendon Lee from RinggitPlus compares banking products to help Malaysians get more for their money.

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