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What do you think about loot boxes in video games?

JustVJustV Community Manager Posts: 5,217 Part of The Furniture
edited January 16 in General Chat
Been a fair bit of discussion online recently about loot boxes in video games.

For anyone that doesn't know, a loot box is something you can win or purchase in some video games, which offers random rewards depending on the 'level' of the loot box

So you might get a chance of winning a certain skin, a piece of clothing for your character, maybe a weapon or an XP bonus. But you don't know what's in it until you buy and open the box.

For any card game fans here, it's a bit like when you open a new pack and you get a % chance of getting higher rarity cards.

Lots of people have compared this to gambling and have commented on how addictive it is. With that also comes some extra worries because children are using these things too.

Do y'all have any opinions on this? Do you play anything with loot boxes, or have friends/family who do? Do you think it should be restricted or regulated in some way?
All behaviour is a need trying to be met.
Amy22Matthew_04ebyrne556

Comments

  • JustVJustV Community Manager Posts: 5,217 Part of The Furniture
    Personally, as an ex-Hearthstone player, I feel the addictive nature of these things quite deeply! I remember that game having way too much of a hold over me when I played it.
    All behaviour is a need trying to be met.
    Amy22
  • JJLemon18JJLemon18 Community Champion Posts: 1,876 Extreme Poster
    I feel obligated to answer this because of how its affected me personally, but also the fact that last semester my lecturer spent like a week or two discussing this exact issue and even based one coursework on this!
    But I'm currently at uni so expect a reply some time later (which could be today, or next week lol)
    Believe in me - who believes is you
    JustVAmy22
  • Matthew_04Matthew_04 Moderator Posts: 58 Boards Initiate
    My friend was talking to me about this recently and he agrees that they can be quite addictive. I think it can be quite harmful for children because loot boxes often try entice you with flashing lights and rare skins etc, Quite harmful for the parents bank accounts too ahaha.
    AnonymousToeAmy22
  • JustVJustV Community Manager Posts: 5,217 Part of The Furniture
    Almost like they're trying to hack your brain to access your parent's wallet @Matthew_04, haha. I've noticed my nephew is quite addicted to this stuff and he's v young, gets really worked up if he doesn't get something in-game on Fortnite or whatever. A little scary.
    All behaviour is a need trying to be met.
    Amy22Matthew_04
  • MaisyMaisy Moderator Posts: 589 Incredible Poster
    I don't play any games with loot boxes in though I understand roughly how they work and can see that it's always exciting to see what you might get, which keeps you wanting to get more loot boxes in the hopes of getting something better.

    My main concern with it really is if it requires the use of real money. It's so easy to get carried away and not realise how much you've spent and I imagine it can be quite difficult to cut back. I imagine this would cause problems between children and their parents, especially if it's their parents money or if they need to keep 'borrowing' money to pay for loot boxes.

    It can seem like a waste of money in the sense of because it can be quite addictive and you can spend a lot, if you totalled up the cost, you could probably buy something 'real' and 'whole' (as opposed to what literally is a bunch of pixels on a screen and something you have to keep paying to get rather than paying once for...it's the same reason I can't stand things you have to subscribe to....it really is just money making in my mind).

    It pretty much is like gambling for young people, and while it might be harmless fun for some, for others, it's really not a road they should be going down.
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    AnonymousToeAmy22Matthew_04
  • AzzimanAzziman Moderator, Community Champion Posts: 1,798 Extreme Poster
    I've played a few games with loot boxes, though I've never spent money to get them. I'm not against games having loot box elements, but the issue for me is, as @Maisy says above, when you have to use real money to get them. If they're available to free players using in-game earned currency, then you're still gambling, but it doesn't impact your real-life situation (within reason). But when it involves real money, that's when you get more serious problems - debt, borrowing from others, withdrawing due to shame etc.

    Many "freemium" games are set up so that while you could play for free, you're incentivised to spend money on loot boxes because all the best gear is either impossible for a free player to achieve, or is so difficult that paying a few pounds becomes worth it. Often, these best items actually make a big difference in gameplay, so you're disadvantaged as a free player that way. It's designed to make you spend money to not feel behind (and again, when any new item/character is released).

    Definitely agree that the affect on younger kids is an important consideration here. Often, their understanding of money is not as mature, so you'll hear stories of kids spending a month of their parent's wages on a loot box splurge because they're not as aware of what impact that has. And getting into that habit at such young age might influence the way that their brains work during a period of life where it's still developing.
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    lunarcat522
  • Amy22Amy22 Posts: 3,792 Community Veteran
    I feel like I may have played games which have involved loot boxes but honestly can't remember now. I don't think I actually play those games because I would find it too tempting or addictive to open boxes or even pay real money to play. I find that nowadays not all games are free, for example with Minecraft on the switch for certain skins, you need coins, don't have enough coins and you have to pay money for access to those virtual coins in order to get the skin you want. Only a certain amount of skins are free.

    I think the thing with loot boxes are that they are designed to be colourful and exciting. Technically I personally feel like companies are trying to be appealing to a younger audience trying to get them to spend money on things that may not neccessarily be needed to enjoy the game. I do feel like it can be quite addictive and whenever I play a game where it requires in-game purchases I don't buy any because I know that I don't really need to spend heaps of money to enjoy a game anyway.
    Just a person who likes pop culture and films
    lunarcat522
  • JustVJustV Community Manager Posts: 5,217 Part of The Furniture
    Interesting that all of you mentioned the real money purchasing as the bigger issue. I totally see what you mean - that particular way for the companies to make money seems quite exploitative.

    @Amy22 @Azziman @Maisy would any of you support legislation to regulate / ban that kind of money making in video games?
    All behaviour is a need trying to be met.
    Amy22
  • JustVJustV Community Manager Posts: 5,217 Part of The Furniture
    @JJLemon18 expecting some gold from you in this response btw :tongue:
    All behaviour is a need trying to be met.
  • AzzimanAzziman Moderator, Community Champion Posts: 1,798 Extreme Poster
    I'd be more supportive of legislation that bans these elements in games for children. And perhaps bringing those games that have loot crate elements in line with other gambling activity (e.g. betting) in terms of legislation. At the moment, it does feel like the regulation/law needs to catch up with the technology (which is often the case, to be fair!)
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    JustV
  • JJLemon18JJLemon18 Community Champion Posts: 1,876 Extreme Poster
    JustV wrote: »
    @JJLemon18 expecting some gold from you in this response btw :tongue:

    @JustV Oh no what have I done xD Sorry I'm taking so long with this. Brain has been malfunctioning recently, plus have a lot of stuff to work on so not had much time.

    Hope this can suffice for now:
    wdsdwfpmu7mc.png
    Believe in me - who believes is you
    AnonymousToelunarcat522JustVAmy22
  • Amy22Amy22 Posts: 3,792 Community Veteran
    @JustV I feel like there should be some form of ban even if it was like a safety block for children under a certain age to prevent them from spending real life money or even using parent's credit cards. I do feel and agree with what @Azziman said as I think the law/legalisation has been quite behind on these regulations and should be regularly updated to prevent certain things like this happening. I have heard lots of news stories where parents can end up in credit card debt because of their child/children finding their card and using it to pay for in game purchases.
    Just a person who likes pop culture and films
    lunarcat522JustV
  • JJLemon18JJLemon18 Community Champion Posts: 1,876 Extreme Poster
    Maisy wrote: »
    It can seem like a waste of money in the sense of because it can be quite addictive and you can spend a lot, if you totalled up the cost, you could probably buy something 'real' and 'whole' (as opposed to what literally is a bunch of pixels on a screen and something you have to keep paying to get rather than paying once for...it's the same reason I can't stand things you have to subscribe to....it really is just money making in my mind).
    Absolutely!!


    A lot of really good points have already been made by others, but I'll still add a bit from from myself.

    First of all, gambling is essentially a game of chance, where you hope of getting a desired result. Often it requires you to pay money, in the hopes of getting more money back (which is rarely ever the case). But when it comes to video games, the best thing you're usually getting is some cosmetic/upgrade/in game 'thing'. These aren't really tangible, and aren't really 'yours'. Very often such games which provide loot boxes are 'live-service' games. This means that at any moment they could announce the shutting down of their servers and all your 'stuff' is gone, no refunds! So basically you're paying money for pretty much nothing. And so by buying loot boxes you're spending more and more money in the hopes of getting better 'nothing' lol. And yeah I know its not really 'nothing'; I could argue that as much as people want too look good irl, say by buying a cool shirt for example, others would want too look cool in-game, by buying a virtual shirt. But that's beside the point - you don't really gamble for shirts irl do you?

    Companies have started coming up with creative, but pretty evil ways of getting people to spend more money on their games:

    One example is giving you a couple loot boxes for free, just to show you how cool they are and how much cool stuff you can get, just to entice you to buy more for real money.

    And speaking of real money, another sneaky psychological trick they use is making the loot boxes cost in-game currency. "Its okay, I'm not spending real money" Right? Especially when you can get such currency for free by playing the game - but the amount you get is only enough to get like 1 or 2 loot boxes if you're lucky, and require a lot of grinding to get. So what do they do? Give the player the option to buy the currency for real money... "but nah I'm only spending in-game currency..."

    I also wanted to talk about a specific example that personally affected me. The game called Apex Legends. They have loot boxes there and they have a big big problems with trying to squeeze as much money out of their players. They use the two strategies I mentioned above as well as an extra evil one (in my opinion at least). They have a cosmetic called a 'heirloom' which is essentially a super rare customisation item which changes the way your punches look like (where instead of punching with your fist you use a weapon of sorts). And the only way to get those is getting them in a loot box, where the probability is so small that it would take you roughly £500 to get one!!! If that isn't gambling then I don't know what is. (There are cheaper ways to get these 'heirlooms' but that's a whole other evil scheme, could talk about it anyone's interested tho). But since these cosmetics are so rare, many people actually pay a lot of money to get them. And fun fact, there was once a glitch in the game where everyone could play with these, and I admit they're pretty cool xD But damn that's a LOT of money for something so worthless almost.
    I do have to give them one thing though. There is pretty much nothing in the game that actually gives an advantage by spending money (also known as pay-to-win), its all purely cosmetic. So you're not missing out by playing for free.

    In Belgium there is a ban on gambling, therefore loot boxes in video games are also banned. Which means if you play Apex in Belgium, instead of getting loot boxes you get currency which you can spend on whatever cosmetics you want (well its a lot more complicated than that but that's the main gist of it). This meant you could change your account location to Belgium and skip the whole gambling part of the game, but in turn all the stuff is slightly more expensive to buy.

    Now what I think could be done. Well I'm not a fan of gambling at all, I think its detrimental to everyone taking part in it (except the company you're paying of course), and isn't great for your mental health either. Unless its a sort of charity thing where the money goes for a good cause.
    So I believe there should be a ban on loot boxes altogether. Do it like Belgium did.

    Also last thing I wanted to mention. Many people blame parents for not looking after their children in terms of what they're playing or buying in games. And yeah its partially their fault if their child becomes addicted to gambling through loot boxes. But I think the companies should be held most responsible for all this. Many games are directed at children and sort of teach them how gambling is sort of fun, or that its okay. But its not just kids, older people too, people who pay for stuff with their own money as opposed to their parent's. They are the ones who pay the most money for such stuff.
    But it is my fault after all, that I'm choosing to spend money on a game and gamble my money away, right? Yes, but not really. In a way, I see this as a sort of manipulation. Companies with all their tricks and sneaky tactics doing everything just to get as much money as possible from people. Gambling is so popular because of how much money it can make for companies, it is literally addicting for people. And loot boxes (in my opinion) are a form of gambling made available for a different, perhaps wider audience.

    ...or maybe I'm just trying to reason myself spending too much money on games xD

    So anyways. Sorry if this was too short or if anything didn't make sense. Don't gamble guys, its bad for you! ;)
    Believe in me - who believes is you
    Matthew_04Amy22
  • JustVJustV Community Manager Posts: 5,217 Part of The Furniture
    edited February 1
    Makes total sense @Azziman (and everyone who agreed!) that the legislation needs to catch up. Seems to be a pattern where technology advances a lot faster than law does. @Amy22 I think you both suggested bans targeted more at children's services/games, which seems fair.

    @JJLemon18 I had no idea that Belgium did that, but it makes so much sense! That way I guess it's no different to earning XP or something and getting rewards as you gain it. The maybe it's no more or less addictive than a regular (non-gambling) progression system.

    Your post also really made me think about how predatory these systems can me. You're totally right that you don't even 'own' the thing you buy - it's like paying real money to borrow a digital asset (which probably has virtually no production cost) for as long as the lender wants. Then when you change real currency to digital currency, there's another layer of removal.

    I suppose we're only in control of these things to an extent - if people prey on your psychology, and when huge corporations hold the power, there's only so much you can 'choose' to do or not do. It's a bit like social media addiction in the sense that, in theory, we could choose to opt out of it altogether, but it's also public knowledge that they design these things to be addictive.

    Gaah, so much food for thought. What an interesting convo.
    ...or maybe I'm just trying to reason myself spending too much money on games xD
    No, I feel you! When I played Hearthstone I spent an embarrassing amount of money on card packs to get certain cards or decks, but because each pack is randomised, the psychology behind it is exactly the same. It's so surprising how much power it can have over you.
    All behaviour is a need trying to be met.
    Amy22JJLemon18
  • JustVJustV Community Manager Posts: 5,217 Part of The Furniture
    JJLemon18 wrote: »
    JustV wrote: »
    @JJLemon18 expecting some gold from you in this response btw :tongue:

    @JustV Oh no what have I done xD Sorry I'm taking so long with this. Brain has been malfunctioning recently, plus have a lot of stuff to work on so not had much time.

    Hope this can suffice for now:
    wdsdwfpmu7mc.png

    Also this really gave me a laugh, thank you :lol:
    All behaviour is a need trying to be met.
    Amy22JJLemon18
  • Amy22Amy22 Posts: 3,792 Community Veteran
    JJLemon18 wrote: »
    JustV wrote: »
    @JJLemon18 expecting some gold from you in this response btw :tongue:

    @JustV Oh no what have I done xD Sorry I'm taking so long with this. Brain has been malfunctioning recently, plus have a lot of stuff to work on so not had much time.

    Hope this can suffice for now:
    wdsdwfpmu7mc.png

    ooo gold bars!
    Just a person who likes pop culture and films
    JJLemon18
  • JJLemon18JJLemon18 Community Champion Posts: 1,876 Extreme Poster
    JustV wrote: »
    The maybe it's no more or less addictive than a regular (non-gambling) progression system.
    Eh, I'm not sure. Its more or less just normal shopping at that point - you spend money to buy yourself something specific. Though to be fair shopping can also be addicting for some people haha.
    JustV wrote: »
    I suppose we're only in control of these things to an extent - if people prey on your psychology, and when huge corporations hold the power, there's only so much you can 'choose' to do or not do. It's a bit like social media addiction in the sense that, in theory, we could choose to opt out of it altogether, but it's also public knowledge that they design these things to be addictive.
    Yeah exactly. You explained it a lot better than me. And the social media comparison is just perfect! Like we all know social media is bad for your mental health (generally speaking), yet its hard to live without it. You'd be a lot healthier yes, but you'd also be like an outlier in our society, where everyone uses social media. I've stayed away from social media for wayy too long lol. I remember there was a survey they asked to fill out in my school, where everyone had to do it, and it was asking about which social media you use and some other questions about it - I was so embarrassed because I had to go to my teacher and tell him that I can't fill it out because I don't use any social media at all. Its like "no social media" wasn't even a option they considered possible! But okay thats a bit off topic.

    I guess this could relate to FOMO, the fear of missing out on 'stuff'. And having loot boxes is just a predatory way of making you spend more money on that stuff, while feeling like you're only spending a little.

    Fun fact regarding loot boxes that I've totally not taken from one of my lecture slides:
    Epic Games ordered to pay £419 million in penalties and refunds – breaching child privacy and payment methods that “tricked players into making unintended purchases”
    I didn't look into this. But holy crap thats a LOT of money...
    JustV wrote: »
    It's so surprising how much power it can have over you.
    It is. But I guess realising this, and being more aware of it is a great step to avoiding it in the future. I do regret a lot of the money I spent - but because of it I now know better, and will try my best to avoid such 'scams' (what I like to call them sometimes) in the future... Can't promise tho hehe.
    Believe in me - who believes is you
    Amy22
  • JJLemon18JJLemon18 Community Champion Posts: 1,876 Extreme Poster
    JustV wrote: »
    JJLemon18 wrote: »
    JustV wrote: »
    @JJLemon18 expecting some gold from you in this response btw :tongue:

    @JustV Oh no what have I done xD Sorry I'm taking so long with this. Brain has been malfunctioning recently, plus have a lot of stuff to work on so not had much time.

    Hope this can suffice for now:
    wdsdwfpmu7mc.png

    Also this really gave me a laugh, thank you :lol:

    @JustV My pleasure ;)
    Believe in me - who believes is you
    Amy22
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