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Home / Technology / The report says that the loot box is too similar to “problem gambling” and there is no regulation

The report says that the loot box is too similar to “problem gambling” and there is no regulation

A new study attempts to link the bits and pieces between opening a video game loot box and copying items
enlarge / A new study attempts to link the dots between opening video game loot boxes and copying “problem gambling” behavior.

Getty Images/Aurich Lawson/Sam Machkovech

We have a lot to say about loot boxes in video games, and as we comment and rant about their increasing importance, regulations and public scrutiny follow. Researchers have also entered the loot conversation in large numbers, but the researchers tried to answer a key question in a new report released on Friday, which is that it claims that other scholars have not touched this question: why Will players buy loot boxes?

In an attempt to answer this question, a report commissioned by BeGambleAware, a gambling protection advocacy organization, indicated that the motive for buying loot is directly related to “problem gambling” behavior. These data drove the report’s conclusion: Regulators should use the same rules for other forms of gambling to plunder the box, because although there are differences on the surface, they have enough in common to warrant stricter control.

From the Skinner box to FIFA brand

Much of this research was co-authored by four British universities and a private gambling research company. It outlined and described the history of loot box monetization and its subsequent rebound, whether it came from fans, critics or regulators. The report also outlines the number of internal regulations the game company has made in response. (We did not contact Ars prior to the release of this research report, so we did not know until today that we belong to one of the cited media.)

The research uncovered many common loot conversation topics. As demonstrated by the classic Skinner box scenario, the psychological impact of the “variable ratio reinforcement schedule” (VRR or expected reward is random) is related to the fact that the player fully knows what he wants to buy (the classic loot box feature). The psychological effects are different. In addition, it is not accidental that game makers have been hoping to clarify the aesthetic similarities between these boxes and real-world slot machines (such as flashing lights and satisfying sound effects).

However, today’s report points out that these piles of stories and papers rarely discuss “motivation for buying loot,” which surprised its authors. The researchers wrote: “This is in sharp contrast to the gambling research, where we know that gambling is driven by multiple overlapping motivations.” Therefore, the biggest findings of the report are in the two tables. The first method combines data from various existing studies in English-speaking countries/regions, totaling 7,771 adults and children, and “establishes a significant correlation between loot spending and problem gambling scores.”

By sending a questionnaire to 441 British players, you can dig deeper into their answers, which are as long as a single-sentence reply. After an hour of interview, 28 interviewees were detailed. Researchers analyze the answers to interviews through reflective thematic analysis to find out the motivations for spending money on loot boxes in video games.

BeGambleAware commissioned a page on the motivation for buying merchandise in the report released on April 2.
enlarge / BeGambleAware commissioned a page on the motivation for buying merchandise in the report released on April 2.


The summary image above is followed by specific quotes that support each type of reasoning. Among them, there is a famous saying that suggests that the purchase of “cosmetics” has a clear competitive advantage: “You not only want to compete with other players, but also with your skin.” A large number of quotations point out the social pressures associated with potential loot purchases. For example: “You can brag to the guy at work, for example:’I only installed this thing last night,'” or decide to buy a loot box at the same time in an online conversation with a friend.

“Current Gambling Regulatory Standards”

Although the underlying reasons for the table are different on a psychological level, today’s report points out a key unifying factor: perceived value. In other words, loot boxes are not easily written off as worthless points in the game.

Values ​​”have been consistent with [in-game] The report states: “Rare items, the less hauled, the higher the value. This may even have a direct financial impact, because some participants want to get lucky and unboxed items, which can be purchased directly in the item store , But usually too expensive. In some cases, this is the only way players may be able to afford the item. In other cases, they hope to exchange any lucky wins in the future for overall profit. These observations indicate that many The loot boxes are in compliance with current gambling control standards.”

The statement clarified that “there is no single dominant motive” attributable to why players buy loot boxes. Even so, value is also a factor, and the authors believe that there is a statistically significant link between the purchase of loot and problem gambling behavior (“better than problem gambling and recognized comorbidities (including depression, drug use and current alcohol dependence”). The report emphasized the author’s position that regulators should intervene quickly.

They came to this conclusion for several reasons. First of all, the authors of the report took great care to eliminate the assumption that a small number of players who buy small items (such as loot boxes, commonly called “whales”) must be rich people.Their data do It seems to indicate that 33% to 50% of the highest spending users who spend more than $100 per month exhibit a pattern of “problematic gambling”. In other words, the data seems to indicate that a large number of loot consumers are more likely to have a gambling-like tendency than their high salary.

The report continues: “The preference of the purchasers of the sale box, especially the preference of young people and young people, especially when people find that the high-spending sale box’whales’ are often problematic gamers rather than wealthy people. This is particularly worrisome.” “These demographic trends may overlap with psychological drivers such as impulsivity and gambling-related cognition. This relationship may lead to disproportionate risks for certain groups and groups of gamers, which implies targeting loot boxes. New legislation or control measures may help minimize harm.”

“Does not exceed the scope of a major country”

The report’s exploration of possible measures by regulators is somewhat vague, partly because it not only portrays inconsistent European legislation on loot boxes (e.g. FIFA Although it has been regulated, there is no similar market activity in Valve’s Steam storefront), but in the face of increasingly strict regulatory review, game manufacturers can also take sneaky measures.

The report said: “No matter what form of policy is adopted, we must remember that there is now a whole box of psychological techniques available to unethical developers.” “As mentioned above, to mitigate risks in the long term, more will be needed. Research, new educational methods and updated consumer protection frameworks. However, these recommendations do not preclude policy action on loot boxes.”

Therefore, the report tends to completely ban paid loot boxes in software-for example, the easily defined “any game-related purchase with chance-based results” practices-or at least a more completely transparent “odd” statement about The probability of specific in-game items in those loot boxes (instead of saying that the probability of “legendary” prizes is very low, but ignoring the sub-percentage of specific prizes, because not all legendary items are equal).

The report acknowledges that implementing such a rule will not immediately become a regulatory dunk. “At first glance, this observation suggests that managing all loot boxes as gambling may be a viable solution to avoid policy conflicts. It will place all loot boxes under the umbrella of existing gambling regulations. This is a lot of people. The preferred strategy., which includes more than 40,000 signatories in the recent UK petition. However, this approach will completely reform the gambling law, but again, life is not so easy when it comes to legislative fine printing.” Indeed, So far, the British Parliament’s call for a ban on loot boxes in 2019 has not led to widespread action.

Despite the potential pitfalls, the report believes that such regulations will at least address the specific “money value” claims of game manufacturers and provide more formal regulations for public research and education in manipulative in-game economies. Better supervision may also remind game companies: “When there is no other choice (when an industry cannot effectively self-regulate), these predatory monetization strategies are not beyond the control of the state.”

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