SBC News Dr Mary Donohue: navigating the crossroads in an evolving digital landscape

Dr Mary Donohue: navigating the crossroads in an evolving digital landscape

Ahead of an expert panel session this Friday, Digital Wellness Centre CEO Dr Mary Donohue offers up this thought-provoking blog. The online industry, she warns, faces a challenge in showcasing its proactive strides towards safeguarding player well-being and enhancing the overall gaming experience. 

In the ever-evolving landscape of technology and digital entertainment, the online gaming industry stands at a pivotal crossroads. Much like the tales of prohibition and the anti-tobacco movement, the narrative of online gaming is being written today—not with data, but with opinion. Today operators are focussing on 8% of the population that has a problem with gaming, not the 92% of the population that doesn’t, but the challenge in any online industry is ensuring that that majority doesn’t fall into the minority category. 

The ghosts of prohibition and tobacco

Once upon a time, America grappled with two substances: alcohol and tobacco. Each tells a tale of societal struggle, of battles waged in the name of public health and moral integrity. The Prohibition era, driven by the noble yet misguided intentions of the Temperance Movement, sought to eradicate alcohol’s perceived societal ills. Without data to back its lofty ambitions, the experiment faltered, giving rise to unforeseen consequences like a surge in crime and a significant loss in government revenue.

Conversely, the anti-tobacco campaign’s journey from the fringes to the forefront of public policy showcases the undeniable power of data. Armed with evidence linking smoking to lung cancer, advocates catalyzed a paradigm shift, drastically reducing smoking rates and reshaping public health policy.

The digital age’s new battlefront

Today, the digital realm faces its own version of these historical challenges. “Hostile Solidarity” – a term coined by social scientists – encapsulates the burgeoning backlash against technology, fueled by a collective desire to retaliate against perceived digital threats. From parents rallying to dismantle giants like Meta to legislative attempts in Florida to shield minors from social media’s alleged harms, the push against technology’s influence is palpable.

Online gaming, much like alcohol in the days of yore, finds itself ensnared in a narrative dominated by skepticism and fear, overshadowed by a lack of nuanced data highlighting the joy, connection, and educational potential it offers to millions worldwide. In North America see the recent media in the Wall Street Journal and 60 minutes. 

A beacon of reason: our study

In response to this escalating narrative, we are embarking on a ground-breaking study. With over 44,000 gamer interactions as our compass, we aim to illuminate the true nature of online gaming. Our mission is clear: to arm regulators, politicians, and operators with the data necessary to distinguish between the vast majority who benefit from gaming and the minority who may be at risk.

This isn’t just about refuting criticisms; it’s about showcasing the gaming industry’s proactive strides towards safeguarding player well-being and enhancing the overall gaming experience. Our study stands as a testament to the power of data-driven dialogue, advocating for policies and practices informed by evidence rather than fear.

The road ahead

As we navigate this digital age’s complexities, let us not forget the lessons of the past. The Prohibition era and the anti-tobacco movement teach us that data, not fear, should drive change. Our study is more than just research; it’s a call to action for a future where online gaming is recognised for its positive contributions to society.


In the end, our journey through the annals of societal change, from Prohibition to the present day, serves as a reminder of the transformative power of informed, data-driven approaches. As we stand at the crossroads, let us choose the path of understanding and evidence, shaping a world where online gaming is embraced for the joy, connection, and learning it brings. This is our story, a narrative that grips not just gamers but all who believe in the power of data to write the next chapter in the saga of digital entertainment.

The stakes are high, and the time is now. Join us in this critical conversation, as we work to transform moments of stress into islands of calm, using science, data, and a deep commitment to digital wellness. Together, we can ensure that the legacy of online gaming is one of joy, community, and positive engagement. Email Richardson Amartey to learn how you can take part.

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