“Just a little more, I’m almost done.”, “But if I do this now don’t do it, then it’s all gone!” – Are you familiar with statements like this from your game-loving child? It’s not just colorful game worlds and entertaining game mechanics that fascinate players. Some video games have opaque profit motives with which games companies want to make money. Or there are game mechanics that can tempt players to play for far too long. We will introduce you to the most important mechanisms in this regard and show you setting options for devices and platforms to support your child in conscious gaming.
Gems and rewards – recognizing mechanisms in games
How are gamers kept in the game? Developer studios have come up with various methods to achieve this:
- Many games, especially on smartphones, are so-called “freemium games”: The game can be downloaded and played free of charge. However, there are many ways to progress faster in the game itself. This is usually done with a premium currency such as gemstones or gold coins. Players can earn smaller amounts themselves while playing. This tempts you to spend as much time as possible in the game. Larger quantities can be purchased for real money, which increases the pressure to consume.
- Some games award a daily login reward for starting the game. If you log in every day, you get a bigger reward every day. If you miss a day, you have interrupted your current login series and therefore have to start all over again – with the smallest reward.
- Comeback Gifts are given to players who have not started a game for a long time. Such virtual welcome-back gifts reinforce the impression among children and young people that it is good and important to be back in the game.
With such mechanics, game developers reinforce the
(which stands for “fear of missing out”) and bind younger and less experienced players in particular to the game.
The independent test committees of the USK assess the extent to which these mechanics are present in the game and how they influence the gaming experience. The age rating depends on the implementation and the technical safety settings in the game. If these mechanics have a significant influence on the age rating, they are indicated as additional information in the license plate. This includes additional information such as “Pressure to play a lot” or “Increased purchase incentives”.
What parents should consider:
Playing is a popular pastime for children and young people. To ensure that your child learns how to handle games well and responsibly, set rules together with your child and set clear boundaries. In consultation with your child, use the parental options and parental control settings on gaming platforms and devices, which can be used to limit the playing time, for example.
We have collected the most common platforms and their settings for you here:
- Android: For younger children, linking the child account to the parent account via Google Family Link can be a good option. You can use it to manage all of your child’s cell phone usage and set restrictions. If you do not have an Android device yourself, you can also set up the restrictions for your child’s account only. You can specify age ratings for apps and content. A daily limit for screen time can also be set via Family Link. In the Google Play Store settings, you can make parental control settings and control costs such as in-app purchases.
- iOS: Under iOS, you can set a “Screen time” in the settings and set up parental controls. Please note that a “Screen time code” must also be set, otherwise your child can change this setting themselves. If you also use an iOS device yourself, you can also manage the restrictions from your phone. In the Apple App Store, you can make cost settings and deactivate in-app purchases, for example.
App permissions can also be managed for both operating systems. For example, you can switch off push notifications for game apps so that your child does not automatically receive reminders to continue playing.
- Playstation: In the “Account Management” of the Playstation, you can make settings such as playing time, monthly spending limits, use of chats and content created by others, age restrictions for games and use of the Internet browser under “Family Management”.
- Xbox: Even without an Xbox account, you can set up a general access PIN that limits any use of the console. You can also create an Xbox family group in the login area under “+ New”. You can create a separate Xbox child account for each child, for which you can grant individual authorizations. In addition to detailed evaluations of usage, you can set age limits for games and the daily playing time (not only in total, but even separately for individual games). In terms of costs, you can set up pocket money that your child can use to buy things independently (limited by the age limit set), prevent your child from making purchases and have an email sent to you for approval. We also recommend installing the Xbox Family Setting app on your smartphone to get further overviews and setting options.
- Nintendo Switch: In the “System settings”, you can prepare the console accordingly under the option “Age restrictions” and then “Age restriction settings”. Among other things, age restrictions for games can be set here and chat functions can be deactivated. Here too, it is recommended that you install the corresponding “App for Nintendo Switch age restrictions” on your smartphone to get a comprehensive overview of the playing time and select a maximum playing time. These settings apply to the entire console and must be adjusted to suit the youngest users. Important: To deactivate purchases in the connected Nintendo eShop, you must log into a Nintendo account on your PC or smartphone.
- Steam: Family options can be managed in the “Steam” – “Settings” – “Family” tab. It is advisable to create a separate “children’s account” for your child. To do this, create a new account and enter “I am under 16 years old” and your own e-mail address as the parent’s e-mail address. The account settings can then be made.
- Epic Games Store: The following measures can be taken in the Epic Games Store: PIN entry for adding friends, voice chat (in gradations), text chat (in gradations), purchase authorizations, content restrictions. You can also have your child’s playtime sent to you as a weekly evaluation by e-mail.
In addition, many games also have child safety features. For example, in the popular online shooter Fortnite. You can find detailed instructions on devices, apps and programs on the medien-kindersicher platform.
As a general rule, parental control settings cannot protect against all dangers and risks. Only use such settings in consultation with your child and adapt them to their age and stage of development. Talk to your child about the tricks of the game industry, such as login rewards, and encourage them to use games consciously.