UK’s Royal Society for Public Health issues report on lootboxes and their effect on gambling perception

    
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There’s a new log on the continually burning fire regarding gaming lootboxes, their association with gambling, and their effect on young people. A new UK report surveyed 1,100 people aged 11 to 24 about their views towards gambling, which found that many who participated in the study found lootboxes and cosmetic gaming skin betting to be “highly addictive” forms of gambling.

The report comes from the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), an independent health education charity and public health body in the UK that believes “everyone should have the opportunity to optimise their health and wellbeing.” The organization’s report, titled Skins in the Game, seeks to add its support for broader definitions of gambling in the UK, including classifying lootboxes as gambling in order to regulate the practice.

According to the report, 79% of those who participated find lootboxes as highly addictive, and 90% believe that buying lootboxes is a completely normal activity. 38% said that young people are likely to take part in gambling because they are unaware that activities they’re taking part in fall under the definition of gambling, while most consider that buying lootboxes (58%) or participating in skin betting (60%) is a form of gambling. Furthermore, 55% believe that playing a mobile or video game could lead to a young person gambling. Participating in gambling or gambling-like activities such as these could lead to further destructive behaviors like alcohol or substance abuse as well as increased depression or anxiety, according to study respondents.

What should be done about it? According to those who participated in the study, more information on the health risks of gambling should be taught in schools, teachers and parents should be given more information about gambling harms, and the purchase of lootboxes and skin betting should fall under the legal definition of gambling. The RSPH is also calling on game devs to create “a set of criteria and the technology required to identify problematic in-game spending.”

source: RSPH website, thanks to Phil for the tip!

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Robert Mann

90% believe that buying lootboxes is a completely normal activity.

I can only offer my palm to my face, and hope that our society can advance beyond falling for such obvious scams. :(

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Ashfyn Ninegold

Prohibition never works. Banning teenagers from smoking didn’t make teenagers stop smoking. Having a full-on educational campaign on TV and newsprint, and making it illegal to smoke in public areas like theatres, workplaces and restaurants, making it in-your-face obvious that smoking kills is what drove down the percentage of smokers.

And look how fast vaping, arguable as bad or even worse than smoking a cigarette, took hold.

People constantly engage in activities that are dangerous or bad for them. And there a plenty of organizations made for the express purpose of making money from it.

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Arktouros

If you read the report most underage gambling is over sports games in unofficial playground style settings so you’re exactly right.

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Danny Smith

The whole thing kind of reminds of prohibition speakeasys where it was a ‘public secret’ where there was so much money involved everyone knew about it but nobody wanted to talk about it.

You don’t need a degree in psychology, Graphics Design or marketing to use basic human reasoning to look at lootboxes and everything from hidden rates to the opening animations often showing one frame of the highest rarity to form those ‘so close, maybe next time’ false positive dopamine edging functions and say “This is one hundred percent designed to be a random chance mechanic that forms a habit in addictive personalities. Which in many countries is the dictionary definition of gambling.

Sure you see some lockbox addicts fearing the loss of their fix going “b-b-but you can’t earn things for real money” to which i always say “let me introduce you to the yakuzas pachislot scam that exists for that very reason in japan to get around gambling laws and lets throw in the good old CSG:Lotto hustle to tie it into videogames”.

This shit is poison. From the moment Todd said “heres exclusive, shiny horse armour for your single player game for a few bucks” videogame publishers have gotten exponentially more greedy year over year and this stuff is no different than Cigarette Companies paying HB an obscene amount of under the table money to make an animation of Fred Flintstone “enjoying the relaxing, mellow flavour of a laramie cigarette”. Its a hustle. A malicious scam to feed their wallets off vulnerable personality types. Even if you desperately tried to looplawyer your way to calling it “funpay minibuys” or “mirth engaging surprise mechanics” like a greaseball it is exploitation. Plain and simple.

But thats not new right? we know it. As sure as i can say the sun will rise tomorrow morning saying these things are a scam predating on easily influenced people is a given right?

But here we are in the dark cyberpunk future of 2020 and we have these umm, aahh wishy washy comments like people are afraid to call a square a square because theres so many revenue potentials in calling it a circle.

These articles should be more accurate nowadays and be something like “yeah another research group points out these are malicious slot machine mechanics targeting children, but we know theres too much money in it sooooo” because at this point if there are backroom payments for tobacco lobbylists i’m genuinely starting to think years down the line we are going to hear them about people pushing microtrasnactions in videogames. Just think of how much money media corp giants stand to lose if pc, console and especially mobile games are restricted and don’t allow them anymore. Odds are pretty good theres people that dont want to lose the most heinous revenue stream in this medium.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

When it’s finally revealed that a lot of these LLCs and other types of investor companies that have put millions of dollars into gaming studios are primarily run by criminal organizations, I will not be the least surprised.

Gaming is now a multi-billion dollar global industry, and one of the least regulated in the world. Of course it’s full of gangsters.

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Adam Russell

Why is he playing computer games wearing a hoodie? Cant afford to turn the heater on?

umdiddly
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umdiddly

The UK should take a deeper look at their entire financial system. FTSE, S&P and markets in general are all training us to gamble away our futures. Take a look at /r/wsb. whether its real or not, there’s enough stories there to fill any perspective you want to take on this issue.

According to the report, 79% of those who participated find lootboxes as highly addictive, and 90% believe that buying lootboxes is a completely normal activity.

I’m not surprised that gambling is now a part of gaming culture, it is so obviously a key component of human nature.

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kjempff

Lootboxes may be the only mechanic that can be categorized as gambling, but it is not the only one that create addiction.
Most f2p games are designed to create desire to buy, through hooking players in various kinds of addiction-like schemes; you know them, cosmetics, pay walls, content/feature walls, convenience mechanics and so on.

Personally, I find lootboxes to be just one of those many schemes, maybe not even the worst because it is not trying to hide what its purpose is.
I am against all of this f2p driven crap, and it is litterally the reason we can’t have nice things (games).

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Arktouros

It’s not even just F2P anymore. All of those business tactics are shoe horned into every kind of title be it B2P or even B2P + Subscription. It’s a lot of money to be leaving on the table and most companies can’t bring themselves to do it. Even super popular companies like GGG with Path of Exile has basically said there’s no way they will voluntarily remove loot boxes they’re just way too profitable.

But yes games being addictive or games basically being gambling simulators is the long term argument going on here people tend to be ignorant of. The same RNG that powers a loot box is the same RNG that powers most of the MMO genre that we play.

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kjempff

Like the rating system that are in place for violence and sex (however silly or prude they are), I wish there would some rating for monetization.
I have no idea how that could be possible and I am sure it can not involve anyone involved in the games business, but I would love to see a “predatory score” for games. I mean it wouldn’t really make sense to base a age recommendation on such a score, because it crosses age boundaries… More like “is this healthy for me” info system.
Whatever, something.. this doesn’t need to make complete sense..it is just random thoughts. But in any case, there should be more awareness about how these systems work and why they are designed like they are… Information is the key rather than trying to legislate about one small part of the problem, lootboxes.

HalLundy
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HalLundy

So basically what should be done is add more responsibility to the customer to be aware of predatory corporate schemes.

Haven’t heard that one before.

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angrakhan

I don’t know anything about UK law but in the US “should fall under the legal definition of gambling” would give this significant legal bite. Depending on the type of gambling you have to be 18 or 21 to participate. There’s also a bunch of legal disclosure and regulations to deal with. The developer might have to apply for a gaming license and be regulated like a casino for example. Since these are games that run on your local device there would be a burden of proof that they are not marketing or selling to children. Most developers would probably choose a different monitization scheme over going through all that.

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Arktouros

Like you don’t even have to go that far. Online gambling is illegal in most states in the USA both the people doing it and the people operating it.

Most developers will just adopt the model Pearl Abyss has where they bake the RNG into the game itself and then use time gating to limit how much you can gamble and then sell you ways to remove that time gating in the cash shop. There are many ways to layer/obfuscate this so it’s less obvious that it’s just a time gate.

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bobfish

In the UK gambling is heavily regulated and adult only. Far more regulated than the US.

The sheer effort and scrutiny required to get a gambling license will turn off 99% of developers.

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Arktouros

Okay.

But what you’re not asking or considering is turn them off onto what? Let’s say the dream comes true, in six months from now loot boxes effectively become considered gambling. Do you think the same companies that employed these super predatory business practices are just going to go “aww shucks, I guess that’s that, we lost, better start just selling products for fair prices and just give up on our huge profit margins.”?

What games developers are going to do is put the RNG gambling components into the game itself and then add time gates that they will then sell you to ways to remove. Black Desert is my go to live example of a company who does this already. In BDO if you fail to go to +19 with a +18 weapon you fall back to +17 and you lose durability. You can use an item they sell in the cash shop to prevent going backwards. You can also use another item to repair the item durability quicker so you have to spend less in game funds. Does this all sound super confusing? Good. The more confusing, the harder it is to keep track of or think about too hard exactly how the system is designed.

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David Goodman

It’d at least cost the companies money while they re-tooled the entire game around the change. Kick ’em in the wallet :)

Some companies couldn’t afford to do that, or would lose too much doing so, and good riddance to them. It won’t impact the Activisions’ and EAs’, but NO regulation will impact them significantly. Once you reach a certain financial threshold, the money only matters as a way of showing your score off to shareholders.

But it could cripple the lesser predators, potentially significantly. And with updated regulations and laws that actually take into account the generation we’re actually in, maybe they could respond more quickly to people just trying to re-skin and re-sell their customers gambling.

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Arktouros

So bit of spite to hurt em in the wallet and long term they adopt an even more oppressive system that’s even harder to regulate without blowing up an entire genre of games….

I mean at least those companies will feel it in their pocketbook for that year before the major studios adapt and then smaller studios just regroup and copy them.

That’ll show em.

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bobfish

You will never get rid of micro transactions, but at the very least we should get rid of those that are essentially gambling.

Also, as long as the industry is competitive and profit driven, companies will continue to use aggressive design and marketing to maximise their success.

In regards to how things might change, well, lootboxes are the most profitable micro transaction, so whatever alternative will never be quite as good for them. There is a high chance as well that the initial reaction by the bigger companies will be to simply put the price of the game up to slightly compensate for this.

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Robert Mann

At which point gamers should simply say no. There’s plenty of option that don’t force you to buy such things. Plenty of GOOD options.

Accepting things like this is how they grow. What we need is not mere regulation, but a social uprising against the attempt to get every drop out of a person’s bank.

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Arktouros

Kids don’t like loot boxes and respond negatively them in a focus group discussing the topic and then negatively in a survey based on questions created from that focus group discussions. What a shocker. It’s so surprising. Who could have predicted this incredible turn of events occurring?

:|

No one likes loot boxes. They are company’s predatory business strategy to sell you something for more money than it’s worth. If you ask anyone about loot boxes, they’re going to respond negatively. They’re going to call them addictive. They’re going to call them gambling. They’re going to call them bad. The same reason why the video game industry is ridiculous for trying to make it sound like anyone likes loot boxes (surprise mechanics, etc) is precisely why you can’t have an impartial survey regarding loot boxes. We all know they’re terrible. At the absolute best case scenario, people will tolerate them.

Educating people is great and all, but studies have shown education is incredibly ineffective at stopping people from doing things. There was one study Bree linked a ways back where they literally taught people gambling fallacies and the math behind gambling and it had zero impact on the way people behaved towards gambling.

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Danny Smith

Honestly i think of microtransactions almost like i think of people being a dick in videogames. You always hear a throwaway line of “its them dumb teens” but every person i know being a massive asshole was pushing 35 and everyone buying ‘minibuy’s? it aint kids but its adults going “who has time for X?” doing it. We focus on stuff like “kid spends 10 grand in mobile game on moms credit card” because thats a legitimate horror story but for every 1 of those cases there is probably 100,000 cases on someone like the grown ass adults spending a grand on guild wars 2 gems or fifa card packs or something each month. But when its not kids its a lot less urgent in the general consensus to deal with something when its not ‘think of the children’ is it?

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Arktouros

But when its not kids its a lot less urgent in the general consensus to deal with something when its not ‘think of the children’ is it?

Generally speaking, most societies seem perfectly happy to let people self destruct themselves in a variety of ways. There’s nothing stopping the alcoholic from going to a bar. There’s nothing stopping a gambling addict from going to Vegas. If you want to put yourself in an unreasonable amount of debt you’re likely never to recover from have at it.

The “think of the children” argument is largely employed because of the logic only a monster wouldn’t want to protect the younger, weaker members of our society. It’s just a tactic that revolves around the entirely problematic nature of age verification.

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Robert Mann

I’m at the point of “Think of the other people”. Simply put, so long as we support and allow these behaviors to be acceptable in society we encourage more of these behaviors. So long as we tolerate things like scamboxes in our games, we will get more of that. Which harms those who do not want such things, solely for the gain of those who find them a convenience.

In short, I think we need to have a new game rating. Companies can have their product either fit into the AMT (Aggressive Monetization Tactic) designation or not. If it is an AMT game, then the rest of us can simply know to avoid it. If it is not, then by gosh and golly I’m probably going to be more interested in trying it!

P.S. AMT was intended to be similar to ATM, yes indeed!

Cadaver
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Cadaver

“Skins in the Game”. Top marks to whoever came up with that.