Loot boxes are arranged by random number generators. The rarest items are harder to get, while the basic items are more common. My friends and I have spent a good amount of money into purchasing loot boxes that some might say that the addiction is real. Professionals have said that kids who are addicted to video games have a higher risk of becoming addicted to gambling. The idea of “one more round” keeps players coming back for more. Businesses have created plans to convince players to continue to buy loot boxes. While some might argue that it is a form of gambling, they can legally prove that it is not.
Towards the end of 2017, loot boxes have stirred up controversy because of big video game businesses encouraging gamers to buy them. A loot box is an in-game mystery box that rewards the player with items ranging from cosmetic appearances, to items that give the player advantages. These items are called skins because it changes the character’s appearance. There are item rarities within these loot boxes that rank from Gray to Gold. Loot boxes are purchased with money or in-game currency that is bought with actual money. Although players can receive loot boxes while playing and leveling up through rank rewards, many prefer to buy them. However, video game businesses have implemented a pay-to-win system where players are forced to purchase loot boxes to stand a chance against those who have purchased loot boxes already. A question is formed when looking at loot boxes: are loot boxes considered a form of gambling?
Loot boxes became a big thing in video games because of how addicting they are. Not only is it a problem for older players but it is more dangerous for younger players to get addicted to them. Daniel King states “similar to gambling, electronic gamers may find themselves continually playing until they get to that next reward which may or may not come” (King 422). The idea of “one more game” is what gets players into continually purchasing loot boxes because they are so sure the next box is going to contain the item they are looking for. With that in mind, I interviewed my friend Edward Zepeda about purchasing loot boxes, and he said, “The excitement from seeing a legendary [gold] item appear in front of me, and the relief I get knowing that I don’t have to hunt for that item anymore is worth the amount of money I’ve put into [purchasing loot boxes]” (Zepeda). Edward has spent more than $300 purchasing loot boxes in the popular game Overwatch. Overwatch is a massive multi-player competitive game, where the object of the game is to defeat the enemy and capture a point. Most purchases were five loot boxes for $4.99, or if that isn’t enough, twenty-four loot boxes for $19.99. Those are considered fair prices for loot boxes; the more boxes, the higher the reward.
No matter how hard players work for that new item, they won’t achieve it until their RNG gets better. RNG, or Random Number Generator, is what connects loot boxes to gambling. RNG is implemented into all sorts of video games, from the enemies’ position and how they’ll react to the player, or a game of chance to acquire valuable prizes within the loot boxes. Some lucky players may obtain the items they were looking for from beginning, however, others aren’t fortunate enough to receive that luxury. In an article by the magazine Rolling Stone, writer Trevor Ruben states that “shifting away from a single purchase to the damning temptation of tiny in-game purchases [ . . .] is a destruction of that honest transaction and the inherent trust built into it” (Rolling Stone). Essentially, Ruben is comparing loot boxes to an unnecessary evil within video games because they are taking away from the main purpose of the game, and tempting people to pay money in order to complete the game in a quicker manner.
Another question is raised when accessing the differences between loot boxes and gambling: in what ways can loot boxes not be considered gambling? It is important to first realize that loot boxes and gambling are very similar. However, the Entertainment Software Rating Board, (ESRB) the people who rate video games from family friendly to a mature audience only, say that loot boxes are not considered gambling. In response from an email from the gaming news source Kotaku, the ESRB states,
“[The] ESRB does not consider loot boxes to be gambling. While there’s an element of chance in these mechanics, the player is always guaranteed to receive in-game content (even if the player unfortunately receives something they don’t want). We think of it as a similar principle of collectible card games: Sometimes you’ll open a pack and get a brand new holographic card you’ve had your eye on for a while. But other times you’ll end up with a pack of cards you already have.” (Spokesperson).
When a person gambles, they have the option to cash out and receive all of their earnings in actual money. This cannot be done in loot boxes. With loot boxes, the player either gets hits the jackpot and gets the item they needed, or they’re out of luck and get something that they did not want. In the case that they get something they didn’t want, there is no way for them to exchange the item or to get another chance without purchasing another loot box. Although loot boxes and gambling are very similar, there are still distinct differences that allow the two to be categorized differently.
Loot boxes have helped people like myself improve our odds within games like Overwatch and Fortnite. Although most players can succeed within the games without using loot boxes, there is nothing wrong with using them. Loot boxes were created to assist players within video games and for personal customization of their characters. Loot boxes can be worth paying for for some people, but for the most part, many people still do not support buying them.
King, Daniel, et al. “Illusory Control, Gambling, and Video Gaming: An Investigation of Regular Gamblers and Video Game Players.” Journal of Gambling Studies, vol. 28, no. 3, Sept. 2012, pp. 421-435. EBSCOhost, dio:10.1007/s10899-011-9271-z
Ruben, Trevor. “Why Microtransaction and Loot Boxes Are Destroying Games.” Rolling Stone, Rolling Stone, 13 Oct. 2017, www.rollingstone.com/glixel/features/theres-no-such-thing-as-a-good-loot-box-or-microtransaction-w508742.
Vance, Patricia. “ESRB Response to Senator Hassan.” Scribd, Scribd, 27 Feb. 2018, http://www.scribd.com/document/372542036/ESRB-Response-to-Senator-Hassan?secret_password=vXc44fI2qdRQEZMjtsta#fullscreen&from_embed.