Report: New Study Links Video Game Loot Box Purchases To Gambling Addiction

So much for EA’s “quite ethical” “surprise mechanics”.
Could loot box purchases be linked to gambling problems in the youth of today?
Could loot box purchases be linked to gambling problems in the youth of today? Blizzard

UK researchers published a study earlier this week that showed strong evidence linking the current video game industry trend of loot boxes and randomized-loot microtransactions to gambling addiction in adolescents.

Published on June 19, the study is entitled “Adolescents and loot boxes: links with problem gambling and motivations for purchase” and its findings confirm a link between video game loot boxes and gambling behavior. While previous research has already found that current video game randomized-loot mechanics have lead to gambling problems in adults, this study is the first to show the effects of these mechanics on adolescents aged 16 to 18.

Without getting too much into the nitty-gritty of it, the study fundamentally says that loot boxes in video games share the same five characteristics that differentiates gambling from other kinds of risky behavior. Loot boxes and gambling both involve the exchange of money or something of value, with outcomes determined in a future event unknown at the time the bet is made. The outcome is determined by chance, with losses ‘avoidable by simply not taking part’, and with the winners gaining at the sole expense of the losers. While this was the basic premise of the study, the researchers went in-depth to discuss the psychology behind loot boxes and how they can be linked to gambling problems in adolescents. For the in-depth research published in the UK Royal Society, visit The Royal Society official website.

The UK Government has recently announced that it would be conducting a full-scale investigation into video games and the video game industry. Supposedly, the investigation is meant to help legislation come up wiith better practices in the regulation of the industry, and includes investigations into video game addiction and gambling.

Earlier this week, representatives from EA appeared in front of UK Parliament to defend their stance on the gambling mechanics employed in their loot boxes and randomized-loot business models. While Electronic Arts VP Kerry Hopkins stood firm in her stance that these were simply “surprise mechanics” similar to Kinder Eggs, Hatchimals, and other surprise toys enjoyed by children around the world, this recent study from the UK shows otherwise.

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