Playing Online Games Smartly and Safely
The Fortnite World Cup, which was recently held in New York City, did something that often eludes the most popular games today; namely, it made headlines across several global broadcast television news shows. Fortnite is, of course, not just a game – it’s its own multi-billion-dollar industry, with the added irony that it’s marketed as a free to download game. It’s a phenomenon, but that doesn’t get the mainstream media attention befitting its cultural impact.
Undoubtedly, some people seeing those reports on outlets like CNN and the BBC News would have been curious to check out Fortnite and other games for the first time, especially as the stories focused on the riches awarded to the competitors – regular teenagers picking up life-changing sums of money. But there are pitfalls to stay clear off when playing games online, and some of them aren’t so obvious. Most people are wise enough to be sceptical about ‘free to download” games. Nothing is really free, and billpayers know to dread the phrase “in-app purchases”.
Skins have become a lucrative industry
Yet, it arguably goes further than that. The money that can exchange hands for ‘skins’ in games like CS: GO is frankly incredible; thousands can be exchanged for these cosmetic updates. And where money is involved, fraudsters will step in. Steam, the dominant digital distribution platform set up by Valve, has been quite good in it support network for players hit by fraudulent activity in buying and selling skins, but there is a vast shadow network of sites and people ready to prey on unwitting new players.
It’s important to remember that online gaming is still largely unregulated and unobserved by authorities. We are still in a wild west era of video gaming. There isn’t the oversight of, say, the online casino industry, where a trusted live dealer site in Canada will be tested by licencing and regulatory bodies before they can offer games. The gaming community basically looks after itself, although there have been some moves to create more formal oversight.
Protect your account at all costs
Obviously, there are ways you can protect yourself if you get into gaming and trading skins. For a start, you should only use sites verified by Steam. Also, it’s best to check the website has been active for a while, and it’s smart to look at third-party reviews before spending any money. Even if you aren’t buying stuff on your account, gaming platforms can be particularly susceptible to fraud through AT (Account Takeover), where scammers will use your account as a base to send messages to other accounts. Fortnite, League of Legends and CS:GO can be particularly susceptible to this type of fraud.
The old rules still apply when protecting yourself. Poor password management is still one of the biggest problems when it comes to fraud – it’s an open door. But if you are using your new smartphone to enter the world of gaming, you should remember that if the offer is too good to be true – it probably isn’t what you have been expecting.
Gaming is just one industry where the authorities haven’t really caught up with the grassroots movement and culture. 99% of the time you will be fine, and you can have a lot of fun, especially as many smartphones like the Asus ROG are now being built for gaming in mind. But you should treat your gaming account like an online bank account, and you should be sceptical of anyone trying to offer you something without good reason.