Treasure chests in video games that have all the hallmarks of gambling.
What are lootboxes or loot-crates?
A lootbox is like a present in a game. You can either receive it as a reward for playing the game or you can purchase the lootbox from the game’s online store.
The lootbox contains “virtual goods” or “skins”. These items are usually cosmetic. They change the look of your character or the look of your weapons.
“Skins’ have a value within the game and are usually purchased with microtransactions.
When you purchase a lootbox you don’t know which skins you will receive. The outcome of your purchase is randomised, making it very similar to gambling.
“The more individuals spent on loot boxes, the more
severe their problem gambling.”
Dr David Zendle & Dr Paul Cairns
“Loot boxes are again linked to problem gambling: Results of a replication study” March 2019
How lootboxes works
Your child plays a game and is rewarded with a lootbox.
To open the lootbox they must purchase a key from the store.
The player buys the key and opens the lootbox.
The content of the lootbox is revealed!
The value of the items won varies wildly. Some are really valuable.
The virtual items won in lootboxes can be traded in certain games.
Loot boxes resemble gambling slot machines because they
require no player skill and have a randomly determined
Dr Daniel King & Dr Paul Delfabbro, 2018
Why are lootboxes compared to gambling?
You pay money for an uncertain outcome
They use a variable reward schedule
They use near misses to keep you playing
They use all the bells and whistles
“The Australian government should improve regulation on lootboxes.”
Australian Gambling Research Centre at the Australian Institute of Family Studies
The Association of Heads of Independent Schools of Australia
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists
Australian Council On Children And The Media
Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation
Institute of Games
WHAT CAN PARENTS DO?
- Discuss the risks of gaming with your child and encourage your child to reach out for help when needed.
- Don’t give your children access to your passwords. Know which games are downloaded and played.
- Have a play of the game yourself. You’ll quickly work out if the game is appropriate or not.
- Monitor your credit cards and look for unaccounted expenses
- Ask your child how they can best balance screen-time and real life activities. It empowers them to do the right thing.
- Let game developers and government know that you expect games to be designed safely.
WHAT CAN THE GOVERNMENT DO?
- Introduce regulation that ensures that minors are not engaging in predatory lootbox mechanics.
- Fund Education Campaigns so children are aware of the risks of gambling and how they can infiltrate video games.
- Run an awareness campaign about how gambling is found in video games.
- Introduce clear consumer protection guidelines so children do not run the risk of normalising gambling.
- Provide ethical frameworks to the video game industry and engage them into long-term, supportive and collaborative conversations about safety online.
“31% of young people has paid money to open lootboxes.”
Dr Sally Gainsbury
“gaming-gambling convergence: research, regulation, and reactions” March 2019
Senate commission into lootboxes
In 2018 the Australian Senate ran a commision to review the legislation and regulation on lootboxes. (Link to the Senate Commission page)
Many organisations and Academics submitted written evidence on wether the government should review the legislation in order to prevent minors from gambling harm.
As mentioned above, the majority of health and wellbeing organisations and academics agreed that lootboxes should be constituted as gambling.
The organisations advocating for the commercial video games and Esports industries found that lootboxes are not gambling.
Outcome of the Senate Commission
The recommendation of this review was NOT to amend legislation or introduce new legislation.
The committee did recommend that the Australian Government undertake a
comprehensive review of loot boxes in video games.
RESEARCH AND EVIDENCE
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