Loot boxes have been used in video games for many years, but they have become much more widespread since the rise of free-to-play games. These are free to download and play, but gamers are lured into spending money on loot boxes to monetize the game.
It appear everywhere, promising gamers items in exchange for in-game or real-world dollars. Many nations have begun drawing parallels between loot boxes and gambling, even going so far as to prohibit them outright. But are they truly dangerous?
What Is a Loot Box?
A loot box is a mysterious item acquired using real-world or in-game cash. It could include everything from a highly sought-after weapon or character to something practically useless. For example, consider a fortunate dip bag you may have carried as a child to the fair or a scratch card that could be your ticket to the jackpot.
The secret to loot boxes is that the buyer has no idea what they will receive in exchange for their purchase. They may receive something of equal or more excellent value, but chances are they will not.
Loot boxes are related to each game principle in that they both use the same high-risk, high-reward structure to tempt gamers to spend money in exchange for a chance to win precious and rare objects.
How Can a Loot Box Be Considered Gambling?
Gambling is described as doing a risky activity to achieve a desired outcome. When applied to the concept of a loot box, the risk is the player’s money, and the desired result is the rare item that the loot box may or may not include.
Loot box mechanics meet the definition of gambling like Cinderella’s glass slipper, but they aren’t the only shoe that fits the gambling pattern of loot boxes.
Loot Boxes Are Addictive
When a player wins their chosen item from a loot box, the brain produces dopamine, the joy neurotransmitter. This adds to the general pleasure that anyone experiences when they are surprised with something they truly desire, almost like a child opening their favorite toy on Christmas Day.
This adrenaline surge and tremendous dopamine spike can be incredibly addictive, drawing gamers back in to repeatedly experience that feeling, regardless of the chances.
Loot Boxes Dangle the Carrot in Front of Gamers
When it comes to loot boxes, the big win looks so close. They are delicious and inspire gamers to spend more money on them due to the ‘just one more’ effect. It also doesn’t help that certain loot boxes don’t state the chances of winning.
The reward in a game of chance always appears so close, as if it’s just one more box away. Unfortunately, this is frequently not the case, leading some gamers to pay hundreds of dollars in the real-world currency for a single reward.
Are Loot Boxes Gambling? Should I Be Avoiding Them?
It is online gambling in practically every sense of the word. Because of their addictive nature and just one-more impact, they lure gamers to spend their hard-earned money, in-game or elsewhere, on an item that may or may not contain something of worth.
Compared to purchasing a scratch card for a dollar to win more, there are few differences between these two circumstances.
It’s tempting to dismiss loot boxes and gacha systems as trivial games, but the reality is that they have all of the signs of gambling and can lead to other behaviors, such as skin gambling in video games or real-life gambling. Therefore, loot boxes should be avoided if you have an addictive personality or your child plays these games.
Everything in Moderation
Just because you occasionally purchase loot boxes does not imply you will become addicted to them and find yourself attending Loot Box Anonymous sessions every week.
They are, however, something to be aware of, especially if you find yourself lacking in impulse control or are concerned about your child being introduced to gambling behaviors at a young age.