Video game loot boxes are linked to problem gambling: Results of a large-scale survey

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Gambling addiction large-scale

Postby Arashimi В» 17.06.2019

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Loot boxes are items in video games that can be paid for with real-world money and contain randomised contents. In recent years, loot boxes have become increasingly common. There is concern in the research community that similarities between loot boxes and gambling may lead to increases in problem gambling amongst gamers.

It is unclear from this study whether buying loot boxes acts as a gateway to problem gambling, or whether spending large amounts of money on loot boxes appeals more to problem gamblers. However, in either case these results suggest that there may be good reason to regulate loot boxes in games.

Citation: Zendle D, Cairns P Video game loot boxes are linked to problem gambling: Results of a large-scale survey. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License , which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Data Availability: All relevant data are within the manuscript and its Supporting Information files.

Competing interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist. Loot boxes are virtual items in video games that contain randomised contents but can be paid for with real-world money.

They are available for players to buy in popular games like Overwatch 40 million players [ 1 ] , Rocket League 40 million players [ 2 ] , and Counter-Strike : Global Offensive Over 25 million players [ 3 ].

The widespread availability of loot boxes in modern video games has led to questions over whether they should be regulated as a form of gambling. As noted in [ 5 ], many of the characteristics of loot boxes are commonly associated with gambling.

Both when gambling and when buying loot boxes, individuals stake money on the outcome of a future event, whose result is determined at least partially by chance in the hopes of receiving a valuable reward. Various regulatory organisations have therefore had to recently decide whether they consider loot boxes to legally constitute a form of gambling. This has resulted in a broad spread of decisions. Earlier this year the Belgium Gambling Commission ruled that some loot boxes were in violation of national gambling legislation [ 6 ].

More specifically, they ruled that any loot box that can be paid for with real-world money constituted a form of gambling and have ordered that they be removed from video games in Belgium[ 7 ]. The Netherlands has similarly ruled that some loot boxes are a form of gambling.

However, in contrast to Belgium, they have classified any loot boxes whose contents can be redeemed for real-world money as a form of gambling [ 8 ]. Controversy over the legal status of loot boxes seems set to continue for the foreseeable future, with bills proposed in recent months in both Washington and Hawaii to regulate games that contain loot boxes [ 10 ] [ 11 ].

A deeper overview of the various legal issues surrounding loot boxes is presented in [ 12 ]. Connected to legal arguments about the status of loot boxes are questions about the effects of loot boxes on gamers. More specifically, there is concern in the academic community that similarities between loot boxes and gambling may lead to problem gambling amongst gamers.

Problem gambling can be defined as a pattern of gambling activity which is so extreme that it causes an individual to have problems in their personal, family, and vocational life [ 13 ]. These issues range from domestic abuse [ 14 ] and intimate partner violence [ 15 ] to involvement in illegal activities [ 16 ], increased medical costs [ 17 ], and suicidality [ 18 ].

Problem gambling is typically described as being both excessive and involuntary. Problem gambling is thought to often be caused by individuals being conditioned by the arousing features of gambling to the point that their need for the excitement of gambling becomes harmful both to themselves and to others [ 19 ].

There is reason to believe that such conditioning may occur because of loot box use. In [ 20 ], Drummond and Sauer analysed 22 games which featured loot boxes in order to determine if these games had characteristics of gambling that are necessary for such conditioning, and could therefore form a gateway for gamers to become problem gamblers.

Conversely, it may be the case that similarities between loot boxes and gambling are the root of a different relationship between problem gambling and loot box use.

As noted above, problem gambling is characterised by an excessive and harmful involvement with gambling activities. There are key similarities between loot boxes and gambling. These similarities may cause individuals who are already problem gamblers to spend large amounts of money on buying loot boxes in games, just as they would spend large amounts of money on other forms of gambling.

If loot boxes are attractive to those with problem gambling behaviours, they pose a serious moral question for the games companies who profit from them. However, criticism of loot boxes has been roundly rebuffed by representatives of the games industry, with the ESRB recently claiming that there was insufficient evidence to state that loot boxes had negative consequences for gamers.

The position that there is currently no strong evidence of a link between loot box use and problem gambling is tenable. Loot boxes, whilst extremely widespread, are a relatively recent phenomenon. In [ 22 ], Macey and Hamari found a potentially important link between problem gambling and loot boxes spending amongst eSports spectators. Aside from the research outlined above, there is no current empirical study in existence that examines the relationship between loot boxes and problem gambling.

Such work is urgently needed. In a recent editorial to Addiction [ 23 ], King and Delfabbro called on the community to immediately begin work that investigates whether there are any links between loot box use and gaming-related harm. These concerns about the effects of loot boxes on gamers are echoed by policymakers, with the Australian Senate recently authorising a committee enquiry into the extent to which loot boxes may be harmful to their players [ 24 ].

The research that is presented below addresses this lack of research and provides evidence that is of direct relevance to ratings boards and gambling regulators. With reference to spending, it is important to note that some games can also feature loot boxes that are not bought with real-world money. As the primary issue in the regulatory community is around whether loot boxes are gambling, we have focused on loot boxes which require monetary outlay by the players, and the spending associated with these loot boxes.

This is not our immediate concern. By doing so we established both the existence, the size, and the importance of links between purchasing loot boxes and problem gambling.

We conducted an online survey with a self-selected sample of gamers aged 18 or older. This survey was available only in English. Participants were recruited via reddit, a popular online bulletin board. The recruitment message stated that we were interested in understanding links between loot boxes and gambling, and that gamers could take part regardless of whether they had previously purchased loot boxes.

Participants were not remunerated for their participation. Demographic details about participants were collected, as were quantitative measures of problem gambling , loot box spending , and other microtransaction spending. John University. A statement from this internal review board to this effect is available from the authors on request.

This nine-item instrument contains a series of questions about how frequently individuals have engaged in a variety of gambling-related behaviours in the past 12 months e. These responses are each scored from 0—3, with their sum forming a total score ranging from 0 to Loot box spend was measured using a series of two questions.

This was the exact wording of the question, with no date range specified. For the purposes of analysis, those who indicated in the first question that they had never bought a loot box in a game were coded as 0.

Other in-game microtransaction spend was measured to check whether any observed relationship between loot box spend and problem gambling was due to the specific features of loot boxes, and not due to individuals who were problem gamblers spending more money in general.

This variable was measured in a similar way to loot box spend. For the purposes of analysis, as with loot box spend , those who indicated that they had never engaged in in-game microtransactions were coded as 0 No further filter questions were incorporated into this study. Two participants listed their ages as numbers greater than , were deemed non-serious and were removed from analysis.

They were deemed non-serious and removed from analysis. This left a total of 7, responses. Most participants had engaged in both purchasing loot boxes and buying other in-game items with real-world money. Whilst this sample may seem overly skewed towards the presence of young males, it is important to note that it is similar in composition to other studies of gamers in the literature e. There was no dominant group in terms of annual household income. Additionally, there were respondents from 92 other countries.

A box plot showing the relationship between loot box spend and problem gambling is presented below as Fig 1. A box plot showing the relationship between other microtransaction spend and problem gambling is presented below as Fig 2. Means and standard deviations for each variable are presented below as Table 1.

Hinges represent 25 th and 75 th percentiles. Whiskers represent 1. Cental line represents the median. Circles represent outliers. Standard deviations in brackets. The spend statistics reported here are mean categories, rather than a conversion into dollar figures.

Relevant categories for each mean score are given below each statistic. The effects of problem gambling non problem gamblers, low-risk gamblers, moderate-risk gamblers, problem gamblers on loot box spend were tested via a Kruskal Wallis H Test.

Pairwise comparisons were then conducted to measure the effects of problem gambling on loot box spending between all groups of problem gamblers via a series of 6 Mann-Whitney U tests.

Bonferroni corrections were applied to the results of these tests, lowering the alpha level of the tests to 0. The results of these comparisons are reported below as Table 2. The effects of problem gambling non problem gamblers, low-risk gamblers, moderate-risk gamblers, problem gamblers on other microtransaction spend in games were then tested via a Kruskal Wallis H-Test.

Pairwise comparisons were then conducted to measure the effects of problem gambling on other microtransaction spending between all groups of problem gamblers via a series of 6 Mann-Whitney U tests. Bonferroni corrections were applied to the results of these tests, raising the alpha level of the tests to 0. The results of these comparisons are reported below as Table 3.

The results of this study suggest that there is an important relationship between problem gambling and the use of loot boxes. This is not a weak or unimportant relationship. Effects of this magnitude commonly bear practical, as well as statistical significance [ 29 ]. Indeed, the relationship observed here is stronger than relationship between problem gambling and several common risk factors in the gambling literature.

If the relationship between loot box spending and problem gambling was of a significantly smaller magnitude than important risk factors in the literature, it would be possible to dismiss the effects of any link between loot box spending and problem gambling as trivial and of little practical importance.

However, this is clearly not the case. Furthermore, the pairwise comparisons that were conducted to clarify the effects of the initial analysis paint an even starker picture of the relationship between problem gambling and loot box use. They show that every increase in classification of problem gambling severity amongst gamers comes with an associated increase in loot box spending. The strength of the relationship observed here was specific to loot boxes. It did not apply to other kinds of spending in video games.

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Postby Metaxe В» 17.06.2019

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Postby Akile В» 17.06.2019

If loot boxes are attractive to those with problem gambling behaviours, they pose a serious moral question for the games companies who profit from them. The data was processed using SPSS v New York Gammbling on Problem Gambling

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Postby Nikolar В» 17.06.2019

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Retrieved June 7, Scores ranged from zero to seven and were divided into three groups. However, in either case these gamblimg suggest that there may be good addiction to regulate loot boxes in games. Both recreational and problem gambling have been associated with link social functioning and mental health in adolescence including poor school performance large-scale difficulties with aggression and mood [ 536465 ]. The results of these comparisons gambling reported below as Table 3.

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Author information Article addiction Copyright and License information Disclaimer. Archived from the original on July 16, A prevalence study of gambling and problem gambling in British adolescents. Please review our privacy policy. Third, the doses of naltrexone were higher large-scale those used to treat gambling or opiate dependence and, in conjunction with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, were found to be associated with high rates of liver function test abnormalities.

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New York: Springer US; Nevada Department of Human Resources. This phenomenon was initially described for alcoholism, but it has also been applied to pathological gambling. The family affluence scale as a measure of national wealth: validation of an adolescent self-report measure.

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Postby Kat В» 17.06.2019

In gambling, according to the adolescent risk behavior model incorporating youth gambling risk factors Dickson et al. Cavallo Principal Investigator for Italy. Results A box plot showing the relationship between loot box spend and problem gambling is presented large-scale as Fig 1. Table 6 Correlation matrix analysis Full more info table. In addition to genetic commonalities, similar neural systems have been identified addiction contributing to drug- and link behaviors.

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Postby Shaktira В» 17.06.2019

Our results also established that more intense psychological, social and financial consequences in gambling positively predicted problem large-svale. The paper examines the roles of sociodemographic traits, family quality gambling risk behaviour in adolescent problem gambling, with focus on large-scale psychological, social addiction financial consequences from the socio-ecological model approach. Discussion The results of this study suggest that there is an important relationship between problem gambling and the use of loot boxes. Table 1 Descriptive analysis on adolescent gambling preferences Full size table. New York: Springer;

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Postby Bataxe В» 17.06.2019

Double-blind naltrexone and placebo comparison study in the treatment of pathological gambling. However, in either addicion, this research provides industry bodies here as the Gambling with crucial evidence to use when determining whether there is still insufficient evidence of links large-scale problem gambling and loot box use. However, the evidence presented here clearly shows that there is a very real relationship between loot box addiction and problem gambling.

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