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In April 2018, the servers of the popular video game “Fortnite” crashed for 24 hr. During this period, Pornhub (a popular pornographic website) analyzed trends in pornography access, finding that: (a) the percentage of gamers accessing Pornhub increased by 10% and (b) the searches of pornographic videos using the key term “Fortnite” increased by 60%. In this letter, we discuss these observations in the context of ongoing debate regarding the validity of “withdrawal” when applied to problematic involvement in video gaming and the potential use of pornography as a “compensation behavior” during the periods of “forced abstinence” from gaming.

Abstract

In April 2018, the servers of the popular video game “Fortnite” crashed for 24 hr. During this period, Pornhub (a popular pornographic website) analyzed trends in pornography access, finding that: (a) the percentage of gamers accessing Pornhub increased by 10% and (b) the searches of pornographic videos using the key term “Fortnite” increased by 60%. In this letter, we discuss these observations in the context of ongoing debate regarding the validity of “withdrawal” when applied to problematic involvement in video gaming and the potential use of pornography as a “compensation behavior” during the periods of “forced abstinence” from gaming.

Gaming and pornography viewing are prevalent behaviors, yet little is known regarding their overlap. On April 11, 2018, the servers of the video game Fortnite: Battle Royale crashed for 24 hr, providing potential insight into “forced abstinence” behaviors. Pornhub, an online platform for pornography, subsequently released statistics about online gamers’ pornography consumption during this period (Pornhub, 2018).

Pornhub reported that when servers were down, the percentage of gamers (identified using affinity data provided by Google analytics) accessing Pornhub increased by 10% and the term “Fortnite” was used by 60% of people more frequently in pornographic searches. These patterns of pornography consumption were limited to the “forced abstinence” period and returned to baseline when Fortnite’s servers were fixed.

Caution is necessary when interpreting these statistics. Nonetheless, they provide potentially valuable ecological data about how gamers may deal with periods of “forced abstinence.” These observations may be relevant to ongoing debates regarding the validity of “withdrawal” or “craving” constructs when applied to problematic involvement in video gaming (Starcevic, 2016). Specifically, Fortnite gamers’ pornography consumption patterns resonate with recent research (Kaptsis, King, Delfabbro, & Gradisar, 2016; King, Kaptsis, Delfabbro, & Gradisar, 2016), suggesting that some gamers deal with distressing symptoms (such as those provoked by a “forced abstinence” period) by employing a “compensation” strategy, i.e., seeking other activities related to their favorite game. Activities such as researching information about video games in forums or watching gaming videos on YouTube have been described as compensation behaviors. In the current context, the statistics published by Pornhub suggest other compensatory behaviors: consumption of Fortnite-related pornographic materials. Indeed, when searching Pornhub with the term Fortnite, one may find parodies where actors perform sexual scenes dressed as Fortnite characters, couples engaging in sexual intercourse while playing Fortnite, or Fortnite-related hentai (anime) videos. Given the recent inclusion of both gaming disorder and compulsive sexual behavior disorder in the World Health Organization’s (2018) ICD-11, further research is required to understand interactions between gaming and pornography consumption at problematic and non-problematic levels. Furthermore, the extent to which “forced abstinence” may promote switching of potentially problematic behaviors, and the mechanisms by which this may occur, warrant further investigation.

Authors’ contribution

All the authors equally contributed to and have approved the final version of the manuscript.

Conflict of interest

JC-C, RB-A, DLK, and JB declare no conflict of interest. MNP has consulted for Shire, INSYS, Rivermend Health, Opiant/Lightlake Therapeutics, and Jazz Pharmaceuticals; has received research support (to Yale) from Mohegan Sun Casino and the National Center for Responsible Gaming; has participated in surveys, mailings or telephone consultations related to drug addiction, impulse-control disorders, or other health topics; has consulted for and/or advised gambling and legal entities on issues related to impulse-control/addictive disorders; has provided clinical care in a problem gambling services program; has performed grant reviews for research-funding agencies; has edited journals and journal sections; has given academic lectures in grand rounds, CME events, and other clinical or scientific venues; and has generated books or book chapters for publishers of mental health texts.

References

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  • King, D. L., Kaptsis, D., Delfabbro, P. H., & Gradisar, M. (2016). Craving for Internet games? Withdrawal symptoms from an 84-h abstinence from massively multiplayer online gaming. Computers in Human Behavior, 62, 488494. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2016.04.020

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  • Pornhub. (2018). Fortnite server outage. Retrieved June 19, 2018, from https://www.pornhub.com/insights/fortnite-server-outage (archived by WebCite® at http://www.webcitation.org/70HyYIZV5).

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  • Kaptsis, D., King, D. L., Delfabbro, P. H., & Gradisar, M. (2016). Withdrawal symptoms in Internet gaming disorder: A systematic review. Clinical Psychology Review, 43, 5866. doi:10.1016/j.cpr.2015.11.006

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • King, D. L., Kaptsis, D., Delfabbro, P. H., & Gradisar, M. (2016). Craving for Internet games? Withdrawal symptoms from an 84-h abstinence from massively multiplayer online gaming. Computers in Human Behavior, 62, 488494. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2016.04.020

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Pornhub. (2018). Fortnite server outage. Retrieved June 19, 2018, from https://www.pornhub.com/insights/fortnite-server-outage (archived by WebCite® at http://www.webcitation.org/70HyYIZV5).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Starcevic, V. (2016). Tolerance and withdrawal symptoms may not be helpful to enhance understanding of behavioural addictions. Addiction, 111(7), 13071308. doi:10.1111/add.13381

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • World Health Organization. (2018). ICD-11 for mortality and morbidity statistics. Retrieved June 22, 2018, from https://icd.who.int/browse11/l-m/en

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation

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