I'm a gambling addict. In the last 10 years I have probably lost >£10,000 in bookmakers here in the UK on machines called fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs).
Recently a conservative minister resigned in order to force the government to regulate the machines (which helped me quit gambling). This seems like an extreme measure over some machines in bookie's shops, no?
Well it was justified. FOBTs were called the 'crack cocaine of gambling'. They are insanely addictive, as every single part of the experience of using one is designed to get you hooked.
Here's an article:
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MPs rebelled, a minister resigned and the UK government was forced to change tack. No, this is not Brexit. It’s fixed-odds betting terminals(FOBTs), the incredibly addictive machines that are often found in betting shops.
The government had promised to reduce the maximum stake that people playing FOBTs would be limited to just £2 per play from April 2019. This is the figure recommended by the Gambling Commission regulator – a dramatic reduction in price from the current £100 limit. But the chancellor announced in his budget that this reduction would be pushed back to October 2019. This would have allowed bookmakers to make an estimated £900m extra from FOBTsin the meantime and the government a lot more in tax revenues.
The move prompted sports minister Tracey Crouch to resign from the front bench of British politics and a growing number of MPs from across the political divide to call the government out for its decision to delay. It has bowed to the pressure and will once again reduce the maximum stake to £2 from April 2019.
The fact is, FOBTs are so addictive that they have been labelled the “crack cocaine” of gambling methods, encouraging gamblers to play quickly and continuously.
What's this got to do with loot boxes?
Having used these machines for 10 years I am very used to the specific way n which the software works, from the user's POV. There is a specific routine to spinning the roulette wheel, for example.
You make your bet, then press go. There is then a short pause which is slightly different in length on each spin. The spin animation is different in different software, but lasts 4-8 seconds.
There are two possible outcomes, win or lose. If you win, you get some flashing lights and a happy sound. If you lose, you are taken quickly back to the 'place bets' interface.
Either way, within seconds you are back at the screen where you can continue betting.
Here's a video:
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And here's how FIFA loot box opening has changed over the years. Notice the implementation of the same techniques over time:
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Now, it would be foolish to think that there isn't a science behind each stage of this routine. The main developer of FOBT software is called Scientific Games for God's sake.
Now, loot boxes and in game purchases, from my experience, use EXACTLY the same routine to get people addicted to the rush of buying the loot box itself. It is NOT the reward or search for the reward that the designer wants you addicted to, it is the animation, the sound, and most importantly, the TENSION of waiting to see what your money has got you that they want you addicted to.
Bear in mind I'm using the only experience I have of loot boxes to draw the comparison (FIFA, Battlefield and UFC 3).
So what's the problem here? Well there isn't too much of one when a game is aimed at adults, as adults can give consent and are able to understand the consequences of getting addicted to something.
The problem is when games are not given an 18+ rating (like FIFA for example) and contain these exact mechanics. They are designed to get kids addicted to a specific routine which can end up costing huge amounts of money and have serious, long lasting psychological consequences.
I know loot boxes are already hated by most people, but I don't know how much people understand about what it is that they are aiming at, and how they work.