So here’s an interesting case that could impact online game development in the US. Apparently, a few weeks ago the Ninth Circuit of U.S. Court of Appeals determined that a casual game, Big Fish Games’ Big Fish Casino, includes illegal gambling. You might be thinking, duh, it’s got casino in the name, of course it’s gambling, but that had nothing to do with the appeals decision, which returns the case to the lower district to reconsider. The ruling instead hinged on the fact that users have to keep buying chips (if they fail to come out ahead in their winnings of said chips, which they probably do because that’s how casinos work) to keep playing.
“Without virtual chips, a user is unable to play Big Fish Casino’s various games. […] Thus, if a user runs out of virtual chips and wants to continue playing Big Fish Casino, she must buy more chips to have ‘the privilege of playing the game.’ Likewise, if a user wins chips, the user wins the privilege of playing Big Fish Casino without charge. In sum, these virtual chips extend the privilege of playing Big Fish Casino.”
“It’s as easy as one, two, insert your credit card number here!” So begins the parody at the beginning of the first of two recent Game Theory videos all about 2017’s favorite-and-least-favorite topic, lootboxes. Rather than overtly picking a side, the vloggers attempt to sort out how lockboxes work – whether they’re just annoying business model glitches or deliberately manipulative end-runs around gambling laws, all by examine the science.
Now, contrary to the first video’s claim, lots of people are indeed talking about the science of lockboxes, but it nevertheless contributes a funny and clear-headed angle on the psychology of lockboxes from skinner boxes and dopamine to loss aversion, the sunk cost fallacy, and the illusion of control. The chilling idea is that we actually get our dopamine blast from opening the box – not from getting what we wanted. Lockboxes, like casinos, exploit the crap out of that, adding deadlines and exclusive loot to ramp up the pressure.
We here at Massively OP can’t get rid of lockboxes, but by gum, we’re not going to roll over and give up on fighting them. At the very least, we can help to educate the gaming public about the insidious nature of these gambleboxes.
In that spirit, we want to share this post on the psychology of lockboxes and gambling and how both casinos and video game studios use the same techniques to manipulate players into spending far more than they ever should. There are five tricks listed: the gambler’s falacy, the sunk costs effect, the availability heuristic, the illusion of control, and the near-miss illusion.
“Casinos long ago discovered that if they let a player make some kind of meaningless choice or tap a button to potentially ‘nudge’ a slot machine reel into a winning position, they would love it and gamble more,” author Jamie Madigan notes. “Even when the odds of winning are held constant. You could totally do this with loot boxes, too. Instead of clicking on a loot box to open it, let them choose between three boxes, all of which in reality have the same contents.”
If you are outside of the Counter-Strike Global Offensive community, you might not know what a big deal the whole “skin gambling” thing is in the game — or even what it is about. To provide a better context for all of the stories we occasionally post about the questionable legality of these practices, ESPN wrote an article about how this game has turned into a virtual (and unregulated) casino.
The piece covers the rise of the gambling market that centers around CS:GO’s weapon skins, which can be sold and traded for real-world money, thanks to Valve leaving open a backdoor that allowed third-party sites to extract the skins. These sites have become notorious for gambling the much-desired skins away, raking in huge profits. Since Valve ends up benefiting from this market, the company has been slow to crack down on the formation of these illegal casinos.
It also focuses on the human aspect, in particular the story of a teenager who became a compulsive gambler in the CS:GO skin market and racked up serious debt. It’s a sobering read and a good overview of how Valve let this situation spiral out of control before taking steps to rein it back in.
. Thanks Anon!
It’s been a crazy, drama-filled week in EVE Online
, starting with a controversial change to the EULA that will ban all gambling sites using in-game currency or assets when the Ascension
expansion arrives on November 8th. The move comes alongside the banning of high-profile gambling kingpins Lenny Kravitz2 and IronBank, the two players who famously funded World War Bee
using the trillion-ISK profit fountains of a casino empire.
The gambling ban is expected to be a serious blow to player-run events, charitable organisations, and even some blogs, all of which have been funded in part by gambling sites for several years. With its main benefactor now banned, charitable organisation Care 4 Kids has come under renewed pressure from players questioning its profit-making activities and political motives. Over the past year, the group has erected a massive citadel structure, gained territory in nullsec, and even hired farming corps.
In this in-depth edition of EVE Evolved, I look at why the gambling ban was necessary, the impact that ISK from gambling has had on EVE, and the recent drama that’s bubbled up around the Care 4 Kids charity.