Game Theory explores the psychological exploitation at work in lockboxes


“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.

The second video ties into yesterday’s Daily Grind on how games are starting to ape casinos in collecting data on how and when you do buy lockboxes (and everything else), tailoring what’s offered specifically to individual players – you – to keep you in the game as long as possible. And yes, it does dive down the slippery slope into candy bags and collectible cards (complete with articles from the ’90s in the Times and WSJ lamenting Topps cards as gambling, which is precious).

We’ve included both below for your enjoyment entertainment howling frustration.

Source: Game Theory. Thanks, Karin!
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