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Loot boxes mess up kids

by on30 November 2022

Financial and emotional harm

A three-year study into the impact of video game loot boxes on young people has discovered that they cause "financial and emotional harm" to teenagers and children.

The report, published by Newcastle and Loughborough Universities, tracked the gaming habits of 42 families with children aged five-17 and interviewed another 30 parents, carers and video game designers.

The report found that children and teens could not track spending in video games where "highly alluring" digital items were advertised using techniques borrowed from regulated gambling.

Boffins observed patterns of compulsive spending, including among children who used adult credit cards without permission. The study also recorded children expressing shame for having spent beyond their limits and frustration as they encountered disappointment after paying without receiving the items they wanted.

The report calls for loot boxes to be restricted within games to those aged over 18 and that virtual currency is replaced with regular money instead.

The report asks for the gaming industry to be regulated by an independent body.

The research also highlighted how children are tempted to spend to obtain items with "significant social currency" that can be shown off to others or because some games offer paid-for ways to speed up the acquisition of rare items or collectables.

All of this was exacerbated by mechanics that borrow from real-world gambling machines, the report continued, or apply time-limited offers that generate a fear of missing out.

"There are clear parallels between the visual and auditory design of chance-based mechanisms in digital games and the design of regulated gambling machines and systems," the report stated.

In July, the UK government called for the change to better protect young people from loot boxes - and said that games companies and platforms needed to do more. This conclusion followed a lengthy enquiry into the matter by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, which recommended that loot boxes were not available to children without the consent of parents or guardians. However, despite all that, it did not do anything.


Last modified on 30 November 2022
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