Gaming ‘loot boxes’ pave way to problem gambling
CHILDREN who play computer games that offer random rewards are more likely to become problem gamblers in adulthood.
A study by the universities of York and York St John found adult gamers with a history of problem gambling spent more on paid-for features in video games, known as loot boxes, which dispense random items such as in-game weapons or characters.
Researchers said the findings, which came from surveys of more than 7,400 gamers, established a significant relationship between problem gambling and loot boxes. The features, used in popular titles such as Rocket League and Overwatch, could act as a gateway to problem gambling, they said. Loot boxes feature in games rated appropriate for anyone above the age of three.
It is estimated that this year £23billion will have been spent on them.
Paul Cairns, from the University of York, and one of the study’s authors, said the games industry had claimed that this was not gambling, it did not look like gambling, and that it was different from gambling.
“But what we are saying is, OK, whatever you can define gambling as, the behaviours are overlapping with problem gambling behaviours. And that’s an issue,” he said. In the study, researchers asked gamers how much they spent on loot boxes every month and then assessed them against the Problem Gambling Severity Index. The study reported: “The more severe that participant’s problem gambling was, the more money they spent on loot boxes.”
Loot boxes are currently not classed as gambling by the Gambling Commission, as the prizes are deemed to have no monetary value. However, the commission is currently investigating areas where it is concerned about increasingly “blurred lines” between video games and gambling.
Prof Mark Griffiths, of Nottingham Trent University, called on the Gambling Commission to alter its interpretation of the Gambling Act 2005 to include loot boxes. He said: “To me, loot boxes are gambling; they are akin to a lottery.”
Games such as Overwatch offer loot box rewards dispensing random weapons