Video game ‘loot boxes’ – boxes with randomised rewards inside that players can purchase – can meet the structural and psychological criteria for gambling, according to New Zealand and Australian researchers.
In a comment piece published today in Nature Human Behaviour, Massey University’s Dr Aaron Drummond and University of Tasmania’s Dr Jim Sauer wrote about their work examining 22 loot box-containing video games released in 2016 and 2017. The games all allowed players to purchase loot boxes with real money; ten met all the criteria for gambling and five allowed players to cash out their winnings.
Considering six of the ten games that meet the gambling criteria – and all of the games that allowed converting winnings into cash – were rated as appropriate for players aged 13-years-old or younger, Dr Drummond said “parents need to be aware that some games contain gambling-like mechanisms”.
“Understanding the psychological risks of mechanics such as loot boxes is essential to ensuring that the New Zealand game industry remains at the forefront of ethical and sustainable video game development.”
The publication has been covered by local and international media, including:
Radio NZ: Are video games introducing teenagers to gambling?
NZ Herald: Are video game ‘loot boxes’ making our teens gamblers?
The New Yorker: The rise of the video-game gambler
Kotaku: Psychologists Argue Loot Boxes In Some Games Are ‘Akin To Gambling’