Loot Box Addiction

“The internet and digital media have resulted in the mainstreaming of certain behaviors once considered to be more deviant or profane. This is a change at the cultural level. For example, gambling is increasingly tolerated and promoted as a positive social activity for adults and even children.” (Chayko, Mary; Superconnected, 2017)

Lootbox purchase page in Overwatch

Hi I’m Charlee, and I’m a loot box addict.

Loot boxes, gachapons, lucky pouches, prize crates, etc. – They’re all the same. It’s gambling within the confines of a video game. But, no. I don’t consider myself to have a gambling addiction. Why? Because I don’t really get the same rush in buying bunches of lotto tickets in hopes I succeed some day nor do I feel the need to go blow my cash at a casino’s slot machines. In general, I don’t like making bets with people because I don’t like feeling as if I lost something and gained absolutely nothing in return.

It took me a LONG time to get over it: the need to spend real cash on in-game mystery items to engage in the excitement of maybe getting my hands on rare items. I told myself, “Eh… It’s fine if I don’t get the item I want this time around. At least I still get other lesser items out of the boxes that I can resell for in-game currency. So I still get something out of it.” As a result, I’d just keep buying more and more to fulfill my urges to accumulate virtual prizes. During my teenage years, I’d even go to the effort of tucking away the physical game cards I bought to purchase loot boxes throughout the house where my parents wouldn’t find them. (I threw them out slowly over time, but if I visited their house back in Florida and looked hard enough, there might still be some laying around.) It was as if I were an alcoholic hiding my empty bottles to keep anyone from finding out about my problem. I kept justifying my actions for years, spending almost $2000 on a single game within the span of 5 years.

It took all my online friends leaving for bigger and better things in the game I mentioned in my other post for me to realize that I’m spending money on what amounts to very little in the end, especially if nobody I care about is around to even show my spoils off to. I’ll still let other people purchase loot boxes for me, but I won’t spend the money myself, so it’s rare I even get them nowadays. I’m glad many places around the world are starting to crack down on loot boxes because hopefully other young impressionable people can be saved from the same addiction I formed so many years ago. I think gaming companies just need to find another way to make additional profit. Loot boxes are a predatory practice, and like any other former addict, I’m always fearful that I’ll fall down that spiral once again.



4 thoughts on “Loot Box Addiction”

  1. There’s nothing quite like ripping open a fresh pack of Pokemon cards. As someone who browses a lot of game related content online, this debate whether or not lootboxes are ethical comes up a lot. As a game developer myself I thought I’d chime in.

    In my opinion, lootboxes were a scapegoat that was unfairly targeted after the public outrage over EA’s Battlefront 2. I don’t think we need laws to pursue the issue of lootboxes because gamers speak with their wallets: https://www.gamerevolution.com/news/358057-ea-loses-3-billion-stock-value-battlefront-2-debacle

    videogamedunkey summed it up nicely (offensive language): https://youtu.be/DTBu4tigSDo?t=44
    just watch until ~1:45.

    As a player, I think it is fair to include lootboxes in games, so long as the lootbox only contains things that do not give an unfair advantage. I also prefer it when is a way to earn lootboxes without spending money.

    There’s a difference between letting players support the game and it’s content by buying skins (or lootboxes with skins in them, as with Overwatch), and using every strategy available to keep players addicted and spending money; as is the case with games like Candy Crush or Clash of Clans. Especially because games on mobile are oftentimes marketed towards children. There are so many more strategies to keep people coming back than just lootboxes: daily login rewards, timers that bar you from playing (unless you pay) for their duration, in game events like double xp weekends, and more.

    I think the best solution to this is teach this part of digital literacy- proper decision making while online and in games- and get people to focus on what aspects of a game are designed to make them feel a certain way. Having this discussion with a child before allowing them to download or play games on a smart phone is a good idea. Have them ask themselves, “Is this game manipulating me into spending money?”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You make excellent points! (I remember watching the whole Battlefront II spectacle crash and burn online!) I feel less guilty about playing Overwatch and having someone buy me loot boxes because they’re all just aesthetics and they allow you to obtain loot boxes simply by leveling up. It’s when games have loot boxes that contain necessary content that affects game play (especially without giving you an alternative way to obtain those boxes without spending real money) that it really starts to bother me. I don’t think loot boxes need to be banned, but regulation would be nice to have.

      Also, thanks for the huge write-up! I appreciate you putting the time in to add to the topic. Your comment could be its own post on your blog! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Exactly, I don’t think regulation would necessarily be a bad thing, but any regulation put into place should tackle the overarching problems (not specifically lootboxes) and focus primarily on predatory game design directed and marketed towards kids and teenagers. Thank you for the excellent blog post that incited my comment!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I did not grow up with computer technology; this is why I probably never felt an urge to play online games nor had the opportunity to get addicted to them, until recently. While I was trying to download Instagram on my phone for creating one of my weekly plays, I came across online mystery games offered on my phone’s app store for free. Those mystery games caught my attention because of their rich mysterious graphics. Along with Instagram, I have downloaded a few mystery games and since then have not been able to stop playing them. I am worried that I might be developing an addiction that Chayko (2017) discussed in Superconnected. The only thing that is stopping me right now from spending more time playing those mystery games is all the responsibilities I have this quarter. And I recalled what Rheingold (2012) had to say in regards of exercising “mindfulness” while surfing through social media.

    Liked by 1 person

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