Gaming and gambling link: Call for warning label over video game ‘loot boxes’

Gaming and gambling link: Call for warning label over video game ‘loot boxes’


Video games are putting children at risk of developing gambling addictions, experts say
A study published on Wednesday by UK researchers found a moderate to strong link between buying lucky dip “loot boxes” and problem gambling among teenagers
Loot boxes are crates of virtual prizes in online games that players can purchase using real money
They often contain items that will help players succeed in the game or improve their gaming experience
In many cases, the gamers don’t know what’s inside the loot box until they open it
Many online games popular with kids younger than 10, such as Fifa 18, feature loot boxes and the trend has worried addiction specialists
 Fortnite’s Save The World mode has llama-shaped loot boxes, but unlike in other games, players can see what’s inside before they buy them
Fortnite’s Battle Royale mode does not feature loot boxes. READ MORE: * Video game addicts seek help from gambling foundation as most health boards don’t provide treatment * Gaming addiction classified as world-wide mental health condition * Addictive games warning over children in the thrall of Fortnite * ‘My son’s addicted to gaming’: mum’s despair at how to curb habit Previous research has found a significant proportion of adult gamers who bought loot boxes showed symptoms of problem gambling
Now, for the first time, a similar problem has been identified among teenage gamers
A survey of 1155 16 to 18-year-olds who played games that featured loot boxes found players who bought them justified their purchases using similar reasons to those cited by problem gamblers
The study’s authors said the findings suggested buying loot boxes could lead to young people developing gambling problems and the gaming industry making “massive” profits off their addictions
New Zealand’s Problem Gambling Foundation is worried that buying loot boxes has normalised gambling among young people and could encourage them to spend more money and take more risks
“The mechanics of loot boxes are strikingly similar to pokie machines which are highly addictive and these games have been designed that way,” a spokeswoman said
​Since November last year, 10 people have contacted the Problem Gambling Foundation seeking support for video gaming addiction
The organisation wanted warning labels put on games that featured loot boxes to make parents and players aware of the risks and help them make informed choices
“We would also like games that contain loot boxes to be age restricted so players must be of legal gambling age to play them and it would restrict access to younger players
 We don’t want to see a whole new demographic of problem gamblers because of the ‘gamblification’ of games,” the spokeswoman said
Massey University senior psychology lecturer Dr Aaron Drummond echoed the foundation’s concerns
He said classification agencies should have to disclose whether games featured loot boxes
“As more evidence emerges about loot boxes, we need to consider whether it is appropriate to take stronger actions, such as age restrictions, or, as some countries have done, whether a ban on some or all loot boxes may be appropriate – but we need more evidence before we can make an informed judgement about the best course of action
” Netsafe chief executive Martin Cocker said while he understood why people were concerned about loot boxes, he cautioned against changing legislation until more research was conducted
“In the meantime, the message to the gaming industry is to use these mechanisms with caution
 In general terms, the gaming industry shouldn’t be encouraging young people to spend large amounts of money

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