switzerlanden
Game on – addressing the social impact of gaming

Game on – addressing the social impact of gaming

07-04-2021 | Insight
Gaming has been one of the few winners of Covid-19, as people stuck at home took to their consoles. But the industry has some social issues that has prompted a new engagement theme at Robeco.
  • Daniëlle Essink
    Daniëlle
    Essink
    Engagement Specialist

Speed read

  • Time spent on video gaming has soared 40% during the pandemic
  • Problems include online abuse and excessive in-game purchases
  • Industry also faces issues of unacceptable overtime and lack of diversity

The time spent on video games soared by 40% during the pandemic, as a similar percentage of the world’s population is now reported to play them. Since many new players were attracted to gaming as something to do during the crisis, gaming hours are expected to stay at 21% above pre-crisis levels in future years.

For millions of people, gaming provides hours of harmless fun, and much of it is educational. However, they also face numerous risks, such as online abuse, exposure to violent content, and gaming addiction. Within the industry itself, employees of gaming companies face sustainability issues that include excessive overtime and a lack of diversity among the workforce.

In 2021, Robeco’s Active Ownership team started an engagement program focused on the social risks for companies operating in the video game industry. Six topics were identified: four are linked to risks associated with the use of gaming products, especially by children who are the most vulnerable group of users. Two engagement objectives will focus on the gaming companies’ human capital management and stakeholder management.

Climate investing: from urgency to solutions
Climate investing: from urgency to solutions
Read more

Stopping online abuse

“In-game harassment may harm people’s well-being and put individual gamers off,” says Engagement Specialist Daniëlle Essink. “Therefore, gaming companies should minimize the risks of misbehavior.”

“Gamers should also be able to take action against toxicity, such as by using a private profile, or having the ability to block, ignore, or mute someone in the game. They should also be able to make a complaint or flag misbehavior through a system of user reporting.”

“Beyond gamer intervention, companies should have human or automated content moderation, including a text chat filter. Lastly, it is important to share knowledge and cooperate via platforms such as the Fair Play Alliance, an initiative to create healthy online gaming communities.”

Addiction and time management

Becoming addicted to the games is an age-old problem that many parents will understand when trying to get their children to stop playing them for hours on end. It can also lead to people getting into debt from repeatedly buying in-game features, some of which must be purchased in order for the game to continue.

“It is undesirable that gamers become exclusively interested in gaming at the cost of other aspects of their lives,” says Essink. “Gaming addiction can lead to both health and financial risks.”

“These risks can be minimized if players are able to manage both their online spending and gaming time. When it comes to time management, this can be done for instance by showing warning messages about risk of overuse (as occurs in World of Warcraft), or by inserting reminders for breaks or ‘cooling off’ periods.”

“Similarly, gamers should be prevented getting into debt due to excessive purchases of in-game features by being made aware of how much they are spending. Gaming companies should find a balance in this part of their business model. From the outset, they are encouraged to disclose in their policies what in-game monetization mechanisms are not acceptable.”

Creating in-game diversity

The diversity of in-game characters – many of whom follow the ‘white male warrior’ stereotype – is another issue. “Games should ideally represent a cross-section of society,” says Essink. “Gaming companies have the ability to implement strategies that embed diversity in the gaming environments they create.”

“Game narratives can be made inclusive through representation of different groups, with representative characteristics and non-stereotypical characters. It also helps if feedback loops are integrated into the development process. The development of specific tools for analyzing characters' diversity is also a good way to look at such issues.”

“Besides using published industry ratings and age verification, we ask companies to commit to a higher-level reflection during the game development process,” she says. “Questions might relate to the proportionality of violence, the targets of violence, good versus bad militaries, and the type of weapons used.”

Human capital management

Within the companies, two sustainability issues are excessive amounts of overtime, known as ‘crunch’, and a lack of diversity among game company employees. “Excessive overtime work for longer periods is a practice endemic in the gaming industry and commonly observed around the release of a new game or feature,” says Essink.

“We ask companies to carefully reflect on their product expectations, such as over-specification, their approach to design, under-staffing and planning, and the working culture in the firm. We encourage companies to take a public stance on the question of work life balance, and to have that supported and verified through, for example, employee engagement surveys.”

“We note that involvement in initiatives and programs towards diversity and an inclusive culture are increasing in the gaming sector. We expect companies to adopt a clear diversity and inclusion policy laying out their position on the topic.”

Stakeholder management

Finally, gaming companies are expected to report at least annually on their progress around sustainability issues. “We are also interested in the way ESG issues and reporting are being managed and overseen within the company, and how responsibility for ESG is embedded in the board structure,” says Essink.

“In addition, we welcome transparency about the dialogue that is being conducted with stakeholders and the board’s receptivity to external input – by way of initiatives, cooperation or partnerships. In our review, stakeholder management also includes the consideration of company activity related to lobbying and regulation.”

Logo

Disclaimer Robeco Switzerland Ltd.

The information contained on these pages is for marketing purposes and solely intended for Qualified Investors in accordance with the Swiss Collective Investment Schemes Act of 23 June 2006 (“CISA”) domiciled in Switzerland, Professional Clients in accordance with Annex II of the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive II (“MiFID II”) domiciled in the European Union und European Economic Area with a license to distribute / promote financial instruments in such capacity or herewith requesting respective information on products and services in their capacity as Professional Clients. 

The Funds are domiciled in Luxembourg and The Netherlands. ACOLIN Fund Services AG, postal address: Affolternstrasse 56, 8050 Zürich, acts as the Swiss representative of the Fund(s). UBS Switzerland AG, Bahnhofstrasse 45, 8001 Zurich, postal address: Europastrasse 2, P.O. Box, CH-8152 Opfikon, acts as the Swiss paying agent. The prospectus, the Key Investor Information Documents (KIIDs), the articles of association, the annual and semi-annual reports of the Fund(s) may be obtained, on simple request and free of charge, at the office of the Swiss representative ACOLIN Fund Services AG. The prospectuses are also available via the website www.robeco.ch. Some funds about which information is shown on these pages may fall outside the scope of the Swiss Collective Investment Schemes Act of 26 June 2006 (“CISA”) and therefore do not (need to) have a license from or registration with the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA). 

Some funds about which information is shown on this website may not be available in your domicile country. Please check the registration status in your respective domicile country. To view the RobecoSwitzerland Ltd. products that are registered/available in your country, please go to the respective Fund Selector, which can be found on this website and select your country of domicile. 

Neither information nor any opinion expressed on this website constitutes a solicitation, an offer or a recommendation to buy, sell or dispose of any investment, to engage in any other transaction or to provide any investment advice or service. An investment in a Robeco Switzerland Ltd. product should only be made after reading the related legal documents such as management regulations, prospectuses, annual and semi-annual reports. 

By clicking “I agree” you confirm that you/the company you represent falls under one of the above-mentioned categories of addressees and that you have read, understood and accept the terms of use for this website.

I Disagree