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UBC research finds new links between video game ‘loot boxes’ and gambling

A British Columbia researcher worries about an increasingly popular feature in video games that he says could help create a new generation of gamers.

Psychology professor Luke Clark, director of UBC’s Center of Gambling Research, presented the results of a new study on the effects of so-called “loot boxes” at the New Horizons in Responsible Gambling conference on Tuesday. BC Lottery Corporation.

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Loot Boxes are mystery boxes in a game that, when opened, yield a random prize. Often players have to pay to access it, and the prize can be a valuable in-game item or character, or more often a low value or duplicate item.

They’re present in a wide range of modern games, from free mobile apps to platform titles from big names like Electronic Arts’ FIFA franchise.

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“A number of countries and jurisdictions around the world are concerned that loot boxes really represent a disguised form of gambling,” Clark told Global News.

“Researchers have seen this link in previous research, a correlation between higher levels of spending on loot boxes and higher symptoms of problem gambling, but so far we haven’t really understood the cause and why. effect behind these relationships.”


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UBC researchers warn against video game loot boxes


Clark’s team set out to better understand the relationship between loot boxes and the psychology of gaming. In particular, they wanted to try to understand whether young people who were exposed to random rewards in games were more likely to start looting. play, or whether adults who had experience with gamers were attracted to loot boxes in games.

Researchers interviewed more than 400 regular gamblers, ages 18 to 24, who weren’t involved in gambling, and followed them up six months later to see if any had started gambling.

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The results, he said, were concerning.

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“We can see this clear migration effect, people who spend more on loot boxes are more likely to start playing during this tracking period. And that link is really specific to random micro-transactions, loot boxes,” he said.

“This has a lot of implications for the age restrictions around this feature, given that gambling is an age-restricted activity.”

Some countries have already taken regulatory action on the issue.

Earlier this week, an Austrian court ruled that FIFA game loot boxes are a form of gambling.


Click to play video: 'UBC warns against video game 'loot boxes'

UBC warns against video game ‘loot boxes’


In Canada, a British Columbia law firm has filed several class action lawsuits against several video game companies, alleging that loot boxes are illegal, unlicensed gaming systems in violation of the Criminal Code of Canada.

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At least one of those lawsuits has been settled out of court.

And the connections between the world of gaming and gaming began to manifest in other ways as well.

The Twitch streaming platform, which has established itself as a place for gamers to broadcast their activities, has become an increasingly popular place to watch gambling.

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Raymond Wu, a graduate student in cognitive science at UBC, studied this link and said that despite Twitch’s efforts to suppress gambling streams, they continue to attract large audiences.

“Gaming is still one of the top categories on Twitch,” he said. “In fact, it’s the most popular 1%.”

Wu conducted a pair of studies aimed at identifying the characteristics of gamers who watch others compete online, and said the results raise concerns of their own.

“Gaming stream viewers tended to be young males who were more vulnerable to gambling problems,” he said.

“It’s concerning because when the players aren’t there and not playing, if they watch the streams, the urges that come from that can drive them to go play.”

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The two researchers say the studies show the need for better public education about the potential for addiction and problem gambling, as well as the role of parents in monitoring their children’s online activities.

© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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