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Video Game Rewards Fit the Definition of Gambling

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“Loot boxes” in video games meet the structural and psychological criteria for gambling, according to a comment piece published in Nature Human Behaviour.

“Essentially, a loot box contains one or more random rewards that alter the game in some way,” write Dr Aaron Drummond of Massey University and Dr James Sauer of the University of Tasmania. “Rewards may allow players to personalize aspects of the in-game aesthetic (for example, alter their avatar’s appearance) or improve their in-game performance (for example, via powerful weapons). Possessing rare game rewards is therefore highly desirable. Of particular interest is the increasing trend to allow players to purchase loot boxes using real-world currency.”

Loot boxes are a relatively recent and increasingly common feature in video games, and have been criticised for their similarities to gambling. Concerns have been raised regarding their impact on younger gamers, with adolescents being most at risk for developing problem behaviours as a result of early gambling exposure.

Drummond and Sauer analysed 22 games released in the past 2 years that allow players to purchase loot boxes for real money and are rated as appropriate for audiences 17 years old or younger by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB). They scored each game according to five characteristics that distinguish gambling from other...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.