Podcast 47: Loot Boxes and Gambling

The debate over loot boxes has been going hot for a few years now. As a monetization tactic, loot boxes have been so successful that it has spread to many types of games where they never existed. It’s not something you find in just free to play phone games. But at the same time, people have raged against loot boxes to the point where “Our game has no loot boxes!” is a bullet point on the marketing material of several upcoming games.

Some people –including some lawmakers– dislike loot boxes because they feel that they’re exploitative and akin to gambling. It’s not hard to see the form of their argument: You spend some money, you click a button, and you hope to get something awesome. Most of the time you don’t. For these critics, the question is whether loot boxes in video games should be considered gambling, or at least if there’s a relationship between loot boxes and problematic gambling.

This episode’s guests: Hawaii state Representative Chris Lee (left) and Dr. David Zendle of York St. John University (right)

So are they? Is there? Could loot boxes encourage gambling behavior? These are the questions that I will tackle with the help of my guest experts on this episode of the Psychology of Games Podcast. I talk both to a politician trying to create laws to curb loot boxes, and a researcher who has looked at the relationship between loot box spending and problematic gambling.


Show notes:

Music credits:

  • Robot Motivation” by The Polish Ambassador, licensed under Creative Commons: CC BY-NC-SA 3.
  • “Acid Trumpet” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

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