The emerging trend, known as ‘gamblification’, was discussed by industry professionals at a Westminster Forum gambling regulation conference in London last week.
Gamblification is known as the insertion of game mechanics such as paid in-game extras called “loot boxes” into video games such as Minecraft, FIFA, and Roblox,
Analysts warn that young players don’t realize they’re actually playing when they buy or win the digital containers – as they involve spending money on a chance-based reward of uncertain value.
Virtual items, normally in the form of weapons or special abilities, help enhance or advance a child’s play experience.
Now experts from the UK Addiction Treatment Group are warning that some youngsters are racking up bills of hundreds of pounds by playing free video games.
Nuno Albuquerque, UKAT’s Chief Treatment Consultant, said: “More parents than ever have been in contact over the past six months asking for help and advice for their children who they believe are developing behaviors unhealthy gambling due to gambling.”
“A parent told us his 13-year-old son used his debit card and racked up hundreds of pounds while playing a free video game.”
“It goes without saying that the lines between gambling and gambling are now blurred.”
“Video games are designed with the game in mind; gamers are almost encouraged to play to progress and perform better, but the fact is that progression or improved performance is never guaranteed, it’s based on whether the player wins or loses.”
In April, a report from the Journal of Behavioral Addictions found that buying loot boxes was significantly linked to problem gambling.
The organization found that the practice increased the odds of problem gambling by 3.7 to 6.0 times and risky gambling by 2.8 to 4.3 times.
Long-awaited government proposals to reform gambling laws are due to be published in July.
Mr Albuquerque added: “We don’t know if the new gambling law white paper will address gamblification.”
“Instead, we believe it will focus on the more eye-catching changes such as affordability controls and limits on gambling advertising; both would of course be welcome changes, but we are concerned about how we can protect our young people from the game becoming the norm.