By: Kevin Allen Jr.
When someone thinks of gambling, the first place that pops in their head is a casino, which only permits people over 21 to play, but casinos are not the only place where gambling is made normalized. If you have a smartphone, a laptop, or a video game console, gambling is a lot closer to your youth than you may think. As many parents know, video games, whether its on consoles, computers, and mobile phones, are an extremely popular time-killer for youth, teenagers, and young adults, and some games may be subtly influencing their players to gamble. Video games can be a fun pastime for youth, but it is important that parents know exactly what their children are playing and to make sure they are playing with moderation.
At the beginning of modern video games, all the consumer had to do was purchase the console itself (including controllers) and the games to play. In today’s video game community, it is not so simple. Many popular video games have large amounts of microtransactions, which are purchases made within the game itself that players buy in addition to the original game. These in game purchases include items known as “loot boxes”, which are items that can be purchased that give the player a chance of collecting rare character outfits or more powerful upgrades for their character. These loot boxes can be found in popular games such as Call of Duty, Overwatch, Madden, and many more, all encouraging the player to put in extra money to have a chance at an in-game reward, essential working like a virtual slot machine. The rewards that players can get can either be extremely rare or extremely common, and of course the more rare the item is the less chance the player has of obtaining that item from the loot box. This is where the promotion of gambling starts to form. Younger players are spending more and more money so they can have a higher chance of getting something rare within their games, despite the chances of that happening being slim to none.
According to research conducted by SuperData.com, individuals who play PC games spent an estimated collective $22 billion dollars on in-game microtransactions throughout 2017, which is double the amount spent in 2012. This increase shows how prevalent these forms of gambling in video games have become and how willing individuals are to spend real money for a chance to obtain virtual goods. The spending trend is not going to diminish anytime soon, so it is important that parents understand what purchasing options are truly present within video games, as well as how these loot boxes and microtransactions can influence players to gamble for virtual goods regardless of their age. The Southwest Council, Inc. provides educational programs to students across the Cumberland, Gloucester, and Salem counties, introducing youth to various character building skills such as how to cope with stressors in their lives, how to understand media around them, and how to make smart decisions, all which can be useful when it comes to discouraging addictive behaviors. If you are interested in learning more about what the Southwest Council provides for your community, please contact us at (856)-794-1011 or learn more about the strategies we use here.