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'Loot boxes' in video games linked to problem gambling

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Video game 'loot boxes', which can be bought with real-world money, bear a striking resemblance to gambling as the contents of the boxes are randomised and their value can vary dramatically. Because many of these games are played by adolescents, researchers surveyed younger gamers and found a link between loot box spending and problem gambling. The researchers say games companies profit from young problem gamblers, in total generating up to US$30 billion in 2018.

Journal/conference: Royal Society Open Science

DOI: 10.1098/rsos.190049

Organisation/s: York St. John University, UK

Funder: None.

Media Release

From: The Royal Society

Adolescents and loot boxes: Links with problem gambling and motivations for purchase

Loot boxes are items in video games that are bought with real-world money but contain randomised contents. Similarities between loot boxes and gambling have led to concerns that they may form a gateway to problem gambling.

A large-scale preregistered survey (n=1155) found a link between loot box spending and problem gambling amongst older adolescents (η2 = 0.120).

Qualitative analysis showed that adolescents bought loot boxes for several reasons that were similar to motivations for gambling.

These results suggest that loot boxes may either cause problem gambling amongst older adolescents, or allow game companies to profit from young problem gamblers.

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