Our fascination with technology and entertainment expands every time we turn on our laptops, open our phones, or fire up our gaming consoles. Online gaming in particular has experienced incredible growth, with the expanding capabilities of technology, we’re now shown worlds we could previously only have imagined.
No wonder we can’t get enough.
With millions of people joining in to fight evil virtual forces, solve the greatest mysteries, or simply place blocks in the perfect position, what does it all mean for our privacy? Connecting into these worlds has never been easier. You can now use Facebook to sign in, provide an email address to get extra perks, and are asked to fill in all the tempting ‘empty fields’ that must be completed in our profiles “personalize your experience“. While we’ve been personalizing our experience, however, this has led to documented cases of people who sell or steal online gaming accounts with the sole intention of cracking your information wide open. It’s no surprise, then, that online gamers now face a massive challenge when it comes to their most guarded treasure: their privacy.
Connected Email Accounts and Services
As we sign up for online games via online networks, we are prompted to create profiles. During the profile creation process we are usually asked for our email, personal information, and to link other services (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Youtube) to connect us on multiple levels. But what information is being shared with third parties?
What type of encryption is being used between services? Can someone else read this information? What information is being taken from us each time a connection is made to different services?
Now that we are asking the important questions, what should be taken away from this? Brush up on your digital literacy and dig into your settings!
Most accounts have an array of settings, preferences, and ways you can look up how you are affected and covered; it’s usually best to avoid the accounts that don’t give you these options. How we connect in our virtual worlds is up to us, as long as we remember that we need to be aware of the permissions we grant, the permissions we are given, and how that affects our privacy.
Using Leveling / Account Playing Services
Online account leveling and playing services have been around for some time now; maybe it’s your favorite Twitch streamer, YouTuber, or someone who’s own account has what you have been eyeing for sometime. It is all very tempting. The concept is simple: there is a certain rank, level, or gear you want to acquire that has been out of your luck/skill set. The majority of leveling services online are for multiplayer games on both computers and consoles. Once you pass over your account and pay the ‘levelers’ to get you to where you want to be, your account (and all your information associated with it) is under their control until they finish their job. Sounds simple, right? The issue is that the majority of the services offered are not legitimate.
There are many tactics that fraudulent levelers/players use to acquire access to your accounts (e.g. Phishing, fraudulent emails, click scams, and verbal/written false promises). If successful, they will acquire your account (which can be abused or sold on various online and hidden markets) and subsequently access your personal information like your billing address, and in some cases, full access to your credit card details.
Gamers invest approximately 3 billion hours a week in their games, and a large portion of that is competitive in some form or another. Whether it’s having the top rank, the best rewards, or completing the toughest challenges, competition is something the majority of gamers thrive on. Gamers feel the need to ‘complete’ games on their own personal levels each time they enter these virtual worlds.
There is plenty of risk when it comes to someone else controlling your gaming accounts. Staying aware of your recovery options, verification levels you can add, personal info you can or cannot give out, and the credibility of the services used will help ensure a safer gaming experience.
Making the Right Decisions for You
Each day, the number of decisions we can make in our online spaces grows exponentially. Gaming sites and services continue to offer us the latest and greatest in statistic tracking, progression tracking, loot finding, account leveling, and almost anything else you can think of. How these new spaces are used, watched, and accepted are up to our discretion.
Ultimately, how you expand your privacy is up to you. From how you craft your profiles, the services you connect, and how you use what you are given, to what games you play, who you play with, how long you play, what others can see, and what you yourself can see: these are all things within your control.
There is no question that your online gaming privacy is being targeted from many angles by parties that want to use what you have put time into creating, either for financial or reputational gain. Each gamer must be aware that there is real risk to their privacy online; but at the same time, given the right knowledge, there has never been a better time to jump in. Online gaming will continue to grow as time goes on, and how we connect to these worlds will, in turn, continue to be refined and defined by us.
This piece was written as a guest article for Passion8 Magazine. You can read more articles that revolve around youth and young professionals at http://www.passion8mag.org/.
About John Fernandez
John’s background is in professional gaming and has worked with Microsoft and Xbox, refining the way games are understood and played.