Loot boxes have become somewhat of a staple these last few years in gaming. Loot boxes raid your wallet and can swarm a credit card with fees and charges. In the age of the Loot Box, more and more people are buying in for a chance at rare items. Some of these items could be cosmetic, some could aid the player in crafting and some can also give an advantage in a multiplayer game. With more and more loot boxes purchased, we have to consider, are they actually dangerous?
WHAT ARE THEY?
Most gamers are already very familiar with the term “loot box.” Parents of young gamers may have no idea what they are and why their child keeps asking for more. A loot box is a virtual surprise box that are earned via in-game tasks or time, or purchased via real world currency. Most loot boxes in games have a set percentage of chance to contain a certain group of items. Most loot boxes will contain a set of common virtual items, or in rarer case, a rare or legendary item. The latter being the main goal for opening loot boxes. Think of getting one of these way less common items as hitting a jack pot.
Items earned from these loot boxes can be a cosmetic items, such as wings for the player’s avatar. The avatar in game is normally a way for players to show they have earned said “Jack Pot” via a loot box. Think of this as winning that huge monkey at the carnival and carrying it around. Everyone is going to point and think how skilled they had to be to earn it. This is where we get into the real and borderline dangerous nature of these loot boxes.
THE ADDICTIVE NATURE
Imagine yourself buying a loot box right now at this very moment for any game that contains them. Do you feel like you would keep it a secret from your family, friends or significant other? One of the first signs of addiction is keeping your gambling a secret, such as not mentioning your purchases of loot boxes. Let’s face the facts here, trying for a rare item is a form of gambling. You are sinking money into the hopes of winning something with a set chance.
According to www.addictions.com, over 80% of American Adults are addicted to some form of gambling. This is a staggering number to take in and consider. It makes me think about how many loot boxes I bought for Overwatch over the years. I have tried for set skins during in game events such as the Overwatch anniversary event. When I was buying for the hopes of these skins, I was gambling for them. The one difference between that and a casino is that I have to be old enough for a casino.
KIDS AND LOOT BOXES
For a child who honestly has little access to large sums of cash, a loot box purchase can be done with allowance. However innocent the purchase seems to you, it is a gateway to more. The fact that literally anyone can purchase a loot box which can be considered gambling is a revelation for myself. Again, www.addictions.com shows that gambling addiction effects 750,000 kids and young adults, aged 14 to 21.
Introducing young minds to games of chance could be harmful to development. It could teach them that it is common, or ok to do. This is not proven completely and is only my personal opinion, but it could be harmful in later years.
TAKING A STAND
Games such as Dauntless, Clicker Heroes and even Fortnite, have measures in effect to counter act the random and gambling nature of loot boxes. Dauntless allows players to purchase the customization items without randomization. Clicker Heroes has opted to change the second game in the series from free-to-play to purchase to play. Fortnite allows players to see the contents of the box before the purchase is made. These are just a few games making a change in their loot for real world money system.
Just recently the United States has also put forward a bill that would make the inclusion of Loot boxes or any pay-to-win function illegal. The Bill itself states that if the game is minor-oriented or if the publisher has constructive knowledge minors play the game, it cannot contain loot boxes.
Loot boxes can indeed be considered a form of gambling. It is a game of chance after all and involves the use of real currency to buy in. The question stated was if loot boxes were indeed dangerous, and in my own opinions, yes. Loot boxes are a gateway drug into an entire new world of gambling. However I do not see gambling as terrible thing, just as long as it is done responsibly. Be honest with yourself, how responsible are you or were you as a young person?
Banning them outright seems like a harsh stance to take. With the current state, it is hard to come to another solution. I personally think that if given the right attention, we could fix the gambling nature of it with a little brain storming on new and better ways to implement the feature.
Free-to-play games that rely on this feature are a good thing for gaming, as they give everyone the chance to play. The loot boxes are what fund the game and keep it free-to-play, and without it, the game would need a purchase price. This is where the line is a bit muddy, as I see it as a good thing to make games free. This double edged sword is a sharp one indeed, and one that will take some time to dull out and make ‘E for everyone.’