A recent study published in the Royal Society Open Science journal has warned that there is a strong link between loot boxes and problematic gambling in minors. The paper is titled “Adolescents and loot boxes: links with problem gambling and motivations for purchase” and was published on June 19th. They found that teens age 16-18 who purchased loot boxes were more than twice as likely to show signs of problem gambling than adults who purchased loot boxes.
In the abstract, before you even dive into the study there is quite an alarming statement made. “Overall, these results suggest that loot boxes either cause problem gambling among older adolescents, allow game companies to profit from adolescents with gambling problems for massive monetary rewards, or both of the above.”
The conclusion of the study also has a couple of very alarming statements. “The more money that older adolescents spent on loot boxes, the greater their problem gambling severity. Older adolescents who spent money on loot boxes displayed more than twice as high measurements of problem gambling than those who did not. Adolescent problem gamblers spent more than five times as much money on loot boxes than those who did not have a problem.”
“There is one clear conclusion that can be drawn from these results: when video game companies allow adolescents to buy loot boxes, they are potentially exposing them to negative consequences. It may be the case that loot box spending in adolescents causes problem gambling. It may be the case that loot boxes allow games companies to monetize problem gambling in these vulnerable populations for 11-digit annual profits. We believe that both relationships may potentially lead to serious adverse consequences for younger gamers.
Loot boxes may have generated up to $30 billion in 2018. It is unclear how much of this revenue has come from adolescents. We would argue that regardless of the profitability of the loot box trade, the risks associated with them are worryingly high.”
The study was conducted by David Zendle, a media effects researcher and lecturer at York St. John University. The teens who took part in the study were gathered from more than 100 popular gaming subreddits in late 2018. Because it was reddit some survey results had to be excluded including those calling the researchers names and one who claimed to spend 1 million a month on loot boxes.
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