There has always been a debate about how dangerous video games may be when it comes to addiction. On the one hand, there have been links to obsessive behavior and dependencies on the programs themselves. But more recently, a new alarming detail has been uncovered. One that lets online players bet and lays the seeds for a dangerous gambling addiction.
The Guardian recently published a telling expose on the world of video game betting and the damage it is causing to players around the world. One such program, titled Final Fantasy: Brave Exvius (FFBE), is available as a “free” download for iPhones. But it has been shown to come with a dangerous cost, as real dollars are spent within the game.
FFBE, for example, comes with a “loot box” system, which charges players money through their credit cards and allows them to wager on items within the Final Fantasy universe. It recreates the same kind of randomness and “excitement” as a roulette wheel and can offer a big in-game reward if the loot works in your favor. But just like real gambling, the loot can always work against you; creating the itch to deposit even more money for another spin.
Though the game makers adamantly deny links between their product and gambling, Guardian scribe Alex Hern feels otherwise. As he writes in his article, titles like FFBE use many of the same tricks as a common slot machine.
“The system is a sort of weaponized behavioral psychology, perfectly pitched to exploit all the cognitive weaknesses that make people so susceptible to addiction and compulsion,” Hern said. “They pull all the standard strings of problem gambling: the desire for one more go, the misplaced belief that an unlucky streak must come to an end, the hope that continuing to bet will reverse the losses already incurred.”
Many of these games come with a hook as well, designed to entice new players to spend. For example, the first few FFBE loot box experiences are free; giving newbies a taste of virtual excitement. Just enough artificial money is dispersed to get the appetite whet, then, as Hern explained, “the spigot is turned off” and players need to whip out their credit cards for more thrills.
Even worse, many of these games are geared towards children and teens (who often use parents’ charge cards without their permission). From what we can see, this is laying the groundwork for dangerous addictive behavior and we certainly hope more regulations are put in place to prevent future downward spirals.