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Are Loot Boxes Under-Age Gambling?

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Are loot boxes considered under-age gambling? Please note, the definition of gambling can be applied to any situation related to chance with 'desirable result' vs. measured resulting value. It was just annoying seeing people quote the dictionary to draw this line.

In recent news, Belgium is considering banning the loot box mechanic altogether, and Hawaii is interested in doing the same. Please also note, 1 politician's opinion probably doesn't represents Hawaii. Articles these days...

The rationale: We don't want our kids exposed to gambling. These game makers are predators to young children, messing with their psyche and exploiting them for money.

The voices are coming from maybe a couple of old people that have never seen gaming in a good light. As far the internet goes, it is a controversial topic, with many expressing how much they hate loot boxes, and if this is what it takes to get rid of them, they will gladly support the idea.

Re-occurring themes or analogies come up:

 

1.) Gambling is gambling. And so is going to the zoo or new York. There's a chance of it not going well. But we can't ban everything... Time to move on from Dictionaries... But gambling is gambling. AHH!

2.)

Card Games like MTG or baseball cards is similar to lootboxes for kids. This is often refuted by saying that when you buy a booster pack, you get physical material. In a game, you get a virtual item in which the integrity of its existence varies.

Also, physical cards are tradable and can be sold or bought individually, allowing people to have an alternative option to obtain certain cards.

Loot boxes in online games have various alternative ways to get them, but often not for the box contents, individually. For example in Overwatch, you can obtain loot boxes for free by playing more often. In others, you can buy skins individually, but at a much higher price.

Trading items that come from loot boxes are rarely found in online games. In games like Dota 2, you get random items as an award for progression, and you can sell/trade these items, creating a sort of small marketplace.

In my opinion, the trading element of virtual items actually adds more value or integrity to the item. You can sell these items for real money, which is something very measured in terms of gambling.

Virtual items from most loot boxes can't be traded or sent, which really limits how you measure what is more value or less value. They are all equally the same value in this regard. The only reason why you might value something over the other is based on your personal preference, or what the developer labels as "legendary." Although there is intrinsic value like, what there is less chance of getting is considered high value - this notion is nothing less than an opinion or preference. There's probably better way of explaining this.

To put it simply, my train of thought is that, it is not gambling because all items coming from a lootbox, or booster pack, or whatever is not gambling because each card all has the same value. For them to have value is if you can sell/trade/buy loot boxes, single cards, etc. Is there any big holes in this logic?

I mean, what EA did for their SW battle front game sucks. That's why I don't play it. People shouldn't pay for that stuff. But the kids don't know this stuff, they take their parents cards, they buy and stuff.

Well, as you can see, I think this is another case of bad parenting.

The reason why I'm strongly against banning loot boxes is because it is another controlling measure that limits the profitability of the gaming industry. I'm all for consumer protection and stuff, but I think in this case specifically, it comes down to a choice - unless it is decided by everyone that the choice to buy something should be controlled by the government for kids and not their parents.

The other reason is I think monthly subscription sucks. Single player games are hailed for not containing loot boxes, while online games are criticized for having them. There's a difference in the cost of selling a product and running a service. Online games require the cost of servers and data management to operate their games. I was one of the kids that couldn't afford monthly subs and I always thought it was more "leeching" toward my wallet since it is often automatic. I would rather play for free, and have the rich kids buy stuff, to keep my participation free.

What are your thoughts. Are you concerned for the aggressive buying and spending of the underage?

 

Edited by Bed

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3 hours ago, Bed said:

In my opinion, the trading element of virtual items actually adds more value or integrity to the item. You can sell these items for real money, which is something very measured in terms of gambling.

This is a very interesting point, as obviously it's a desirable thing for the consumer to be able to resell "content."

3 hours ago, Bed said:

But the kids don't know this stuff, they take their parents cards, they buy and stuff.

Well, as you can see, I think this is another case of bad parenting.

This is the key point in my mind. These purchases should be controlled by parents, ie requiring parental approval. The logic breaks down, because you're still teaching the child that the purchase is okay, but it's still the critical point in my mind.

I'm not sure where my personal stance falls. I definitely prefer a system of buying in-game items/etc outright or in bundles. I also think it may be easy to skirt potential laws by including a guaranteed item in each crate. After all, that's very similar to card game tournaments, where entry often comes with booster packs and winning earns part of a prize pool. I'd be really curious to hear the sports comparisons by those more knowledgeable on that subject.

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I personally don't consider them gambling, and I think I may be doing mental gymnastics to get to this. I'm definitely agreeing with your points, Bed, and may end up parroting them in my own way.

Gambling, for me, is betting on something, with the potential of getting what you wagered back and then some. You've added to the prize pot, which you can win the entirety of, just a little bit of, or simply just lose more. Where with Lootboxes, you've exchanged money for the box itself. Not the items inside. You've made a purchase and you know precisely what you've purchased. The Box.
Gambling and Boxes perhaps run closely parallel to each other, but I can't bring myself to consider them as the same thing.
Plus, as mentioned, you're not forced to purchase these boxes. It's completely your choice to buy boxes. You could just play the games normally, and earn them that way. Even in Battlefront 2, who's entire progression system is based on boxes, you still didn't have to buy them. It's just BF2 created such a poor pay-to-win environment that people felt they had to just to have an edge in multiplayer.

That's not to say they're not dangerous. Especially for the credit cards of parents. But that's on them for not watching their children. They need to be supervising their children. They need to make sure their credit card or paypal details are not hooked up to these games by default. There should be a number of protections in place to stop kids from ruining their parents in just a few hours when left alone with a game featuring microtransactions.

1 hour ago, Shattered Rift said:

The logic breaks down, because you're still teaching the child that the purchase is okay,

To me, the purchase is okay, even more so if the parents talk to their children about what it is they're doing and establish clear boundaries if it's a real concern.

Battlefront 2 may have really spurred this conversation on recently, but it's actually the people who just don't care to spend time with their children and know what they're up to that's the problem and threatening to ruin the option to purchase boxes for the rest of us. Boxes are actually a convenience for me at the end of timed events in Overwatch. If I didn't have the time to play regularly for any reason, I can just drop 10 dollars on boxes and walk away with some of the items I was coveting. Or I can choose not to, wait a year, and get them at an in-game currency discount. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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4 minutes ago, Nebiros said:
2 hours ago, Shattered Rift said:

The logic breaks down, because you're still teaching the child that the purchase is okay,

To me, the purchase is okay, even more so if the parents talk to their children about what it is they're doing and establish clear boundaries if it's a real concern.

I was unclear. What I mean is that, if it can be defined as gambling, you're still endorsing it as a parent. I absolutely agree that the discussion with children is the most critical component regardless.

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Let's start with a few statements I believe to be true:

 

1. The cost of making games has increased over the years.

2. The cost of games has stayed at $59.99, in most cases for the last decade. 

3. Game developers and publishers have to find new ways to increase the return on their investment. If they don't increase the base price of the game, they have to find other ways like DLC and Loot Boxes.

 

I am very against regulation. If you don't like what a publisher is doing, you don't have to buy the game. 

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On ‎11‎/‎22‎/‎2017 at 5:46 PM, Shattered Rift said:

 I also think it may be easy to skirt potential laws by including a guaranteed item in each crate. After all, that's very similar to card game tournaments, where entry often comes with booster packs and winning earns part of a prize pool. I'd be really curious to hear the sports comparisons by those more knowledgeable on that subject.

That's an interesting idea. So when you buy a pack, you're not participating in RNG/Gambling if one of the items is always the same. The rest can even be considered 'bonus' items. This is very deceptive and I would assume this kind of loophole would be fixed right away since it would be applicable to many other serious gambling scenarios.

On ‎11‎/‎22‎/‎2017 at 7:58 PM, Nebiros said:

To me, the purchase is okay, even more so if the parents talk to their children about what it is they're doing and establish clear boundaries if it's a real concern.

I think one of the least talked about parenting topic is about how to talk to children about money.  Adults themselves are not that great at money. I'm not really either... Maybe because they weren't raised with anyone talking about that to them. Games introduce currency to kids even before they can even talk these days. Which is good I think. It's when there are mechanics to Cheat your way to the top, (pay to win), or sometimes (pay to look good) isn't such a great life lesson.

Kids learn more from games than their parents, obviously. But parents give them access. I think one of the root issues is that typically, parents, or people of old age are not tech savvy. When a product is rated "FOR KIDS," I think the general idea is that less parenting is involved.

But I still don't see this as an issue, because micro transactions are only enabled if the card number is entered after purchase, manually. And if not, it should be this way.

For a kid to buy online content without permission, they would be subjected to stealing... which is very different than 'gambling.' Stealing is the issue here, and it's no different than a kid stealing a firearm which might make a parallel that is controversial and I'm only thinking of it now.

Anyways,

It seems like when I was thinking that gambling is not gambling if it is not tradable is very similar to how the UK parliament defines gambling. I feel like the first time I was on the right track. :P

From UK gambling commission:

Quote

"A key factor in deciding if that line has been crossed is whether in-game items acquired 'via a game of chance' can be considered money or money’s worth. In practical terms this means that where in-game items obtained via loot boxes are confined for use within the game and cannot be cashed out it is unlikely to be caught as a licensable gambling activity. In those cases our legal powers would not allow us to step in." 

 

Edited by Bed

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On 11/23/2017 at 9:33 AM, Red said:

Let's start with a few statements I believe to be true:

 

1. The cost of making games has increased over the years.

2. The cost of games has stayed at $59.99, in most cases for the last decade. 

3. Game developers and publishers have to find new ways to increase the return on their investment. If they don't increase the base price of the game, they have to find other ways like DLC and Loot Boxes.

 

I am very against regulation. If you don't like what a publisher is doing, you don't have to buy the game. 

I find points one and two pretty irrelevant. Developers choose to spend more money than they did in the past, presumably because they believe it will result in a better ROI for them. The price of games remaining stable is downright fascinating (especially since they were more expensive during the 8 and 16-bit eras), but that's due to the market. Ultimately, I only really agree with point three (and your general stance on being against regulation).

The question I want to ask you, to tie back into the key point: what's your stance on the legality of gambling? Or even your definition for gambling.

3 hours ago, Bed said:

That's an interesting idea. So when you buy a pack, you're not participating in RNG/Gambling if one of the items is always the same. The rest can even be considered 'bonus' items. This is very deceptive and I would assume this kind of loophole would be fixed right away since it would be applicable to many other serious gambling scenarios.

But in this case I have to ask, why aren't card game tournaments gambling?

3 hours ago, Bed said:

I think one of the least talked about parenting topic is about how to talk to children about money.  Adults themselves are not that great at money. I'm not really either... Maybe because they weren't raised with anyone talking about that to them. Games introduce currency to kids even before they can even talk these days. Which is good I think. It's when there are mechanics to Cheat your way to the top, (pay to win), or sometimes (pay to look good) isn't such a great life lesson.

I learned quite a bit of economics from gaming (first in learning to save up for games, and later on Neopets). Even in pay-to-win formats, I think there are still things to be learned. Persistence, if the child grinds out items. Or reflecting upon "wasted" money down the road if they actually did put money into a game. Not all learn these lessons, but of course not all learn from gaming anyway.

 

So the UK draws the line as being able to sell an item outside of a game. That still seems problematic. Is this limited to being able to sell the item? What if I choose to sell an account that has obtained rare item(s) via loot crates?

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