Game developers have been painfully aware of how to make their products incredibly fun, rewarding and ultimately – addictive. By qualifying gamers and knowing what they would expect from a game, studios have created an escapist world where you get to be an agile vigilante or a spell-casting sorcerer. However, now a new study has revealed that video games have another addictive side called loot boxes
Taking Your Bet on Pixels
A fresh survey conducted with North of 7,000 gamers has revealed that gamers spending habits on loot boxes hew closely to the symptoms exhibited by problem gamblers in traditional casino games.
The survey, le by the Australian Environment and Communications Reference Committee (ECRC), has been occasioned by an article published in respected academic journal “Nature Human Behavior”.
In it, the authors were citing evidence that spending money on loot boxes may indeed be symptomatic of problem gambling. However, the fact that loot boxes were considered part of a game meant they didn’t draw the same stigma nor did they raise the same red flags as did spending copious amounts on iGaming products. It’s worth mentioning that this has not been the first time that Australia has had to look at loot boxes closely.
However, presenting their results to the ECRC, Dr David Zendle and Dr Paul Cairns of York St. John University and University of York respectively, the pair revealed that there was firm evidence about addiction patterns. According to the researchers, spending on loot boxes and finding a related treat inside triggered the same pleasure centers in the brain as did winning money via wagering on video slots or sports betting.
With the report put out in the public eye, the researchers said that loot boxes stand a real chance of causing “gambling-related harm”. There has been a lot of regulatory shuffles undergoing – Blizzard have published the odds for every box in China and EA are still offering them in FIFA 19, but that is likely to change.
Raising a True Red Flag
What worried researchers in particular was the simple fact that loot boxes could be used to incite customers to spend larger amounts of money on uncertain rewards, which in turn could lead to deepening of an inherent flaw in a player’s personality, i.e. the tendency to wager money beyond one’s purchasing power.
Serving as a possible gateway to gambling, loot boxes have been coming under fire around the world. The Netherlands has outright banned them on the same fears that researchers in Australia are now citing.
Valve, the game developer, has largely changed its TOC regarding the boxes, and followed up with the ban disabling them not only in The Netherlands but also in Belgium where a similar move has been underway.
There has been a lot of pushback with proponents of loot boxes likening them to trading cards or Kinder Surprise eggs, which while true in essence works differently in real life. The fact that gamers can purchase with a single tap instead of going out to purchase chocolate eggs or wait to have them delivered is indicatory of how easy it is to tip into reckless spending habits.
More importantly, researchers argued, loot boxes bear too many similarities with other form of gambling. One reliable gauge is to check the amounts spent on separate products, meaning boxes. High amounts of money allocated to buying boxes is “associated with problematic levels of spending on other forms of gambling”, which is precisely why the digital containers of pixelated treats have become so dangerous.