UNICEF and SGA are guided by the fact that the creators of digital games, which attract the time and attention of children and young people around the world, have huge potential and responsibility to shape their platforms in ways that maximize the positive, and minimize negative impacts on children. COVID-19 caused an explosion in online gaming among all age groups, pointing out that gaming has become a central element of entertainment in the 21st century as one of the fastest-growing industries, but also cultures in the world.
“The gaming industry is one of the few (creative) industries that has not only shown its resilience in the face of the challenges of the current pandemic but has even maintained and pushed its continued growth even further. Our latest annual industry report on the Serbian gaming industry (for 2020) shows growth in revenue, number of employees and the number of new games being developed in Serbian studios. In the context of maturing of an emerging ecosystem, we are convinced that the topics we will deal with together with UNICEF in the coming months and years will contribute to the maturing of the domestic gaming sector, and that game creators in Serbia dedicate themselves to topics such as the protection of the youngest players. Our membership in the European associations EGDF and ISFE, which deal with such issues at the level of European policies, are also some of the steps in that direction”, said Relja Bobić, Program Director of SGA.
Last year, UNICEF conducted the first research on the impact of the gaming industry on children and youth in Serbia, through the U-Report platform. The U-Report represents the voices of young people and promotes their participation in creating positive social change. Around 900 young U-Reporters from all regions of Serbia participated in the survey “How games affect children and young people”, while about two-thirds of them belong to the age group of 15 to 19.
According to this research, 70% of respondents like to play video games. For slightly less than a third of respondents (29%) the main reason for playing is fun, for 12% it is relaxation, 12% of them play out of boredom, 8% cite virtual socializing as a reason, for 5% it is a challenge, 2% claim that it is it’s just a matter of habit, while 2% claim that they are learning something new.
Video games offer the kids an opportunity to learn to collaborate with others, connect with friends around the world, learn new skills and have fun. However, as with many online activities involving children, negative experiences can also emerge. It is a great pleasure for us at UNICEF to, together with the SGA, proactively look at how video games affect children and to create solutions that will protect children and increase the positive outcomes through their engagement on digital platforms. As well as to learn”, said UNICEF Serbia Director Deyana Kostadinova.
In the coming period, UNICEF and SGA will carry out a series of activities that will include representatives of the video game industry, parents’ associations, children and representatives of the education system, in order to contribute to positive outcomes for children and youth, as well as to improve standards within the domestic gaming industry, in accordance with the best practices from around Europe, and the world.