Do Video Game Loot-Boxes Lead To A Gambling Addiction In Children?

Star Wars Battlefront 2 was released in 2017 on PS4 and Xbox One as a first person shooter based on the beloved movie series. The game is also a remake of an old PS2 game which was one of my favorite games, but I didn’t get the remake in 2017. Keep in mind that I have not played the game, but I’m basing this article on what I have heard and read about the game. Based on what is being said about the game, there is a specific gameplay mechanic that has been at the center of debate and controversy. This gameplay mechanic is the loot boxes.

When one begins playing Battlefront 2, most of the content is locked behind in game currency. The player can’t play characters like Darth Vader until they have earned enough money from playing matches to purchase those characters. On average, it can take up to 30 hours of playing to earn enough money to buy Darth Vader, and even more time to buy better weapons. One could do all of that or use loot crates, which give you three different items at random, thus giving a small chance of  getting Darth Vader. The way to use those crates would be to buy them with real money. On top of the $80 that the game costs you, you can spend more money for a chance to get better weapons.

This is where the controversy arose. People who have demonstrated outrage against this not only include politicians and news reporters, but video game journalists, like Jim Sterling, and various YouTube channels, like The Act Man. The problem is the  design of a game like Star Wars Battlefront 2. When you play a match, you are given points to spend on either a hero character or a loot box. The hero characters are units you can play in matches, but loot boxes give you a chance to purchase various items that mostly include beneficial perks, like increased health regeneration. A lot of the player progression involves using the loot boxes for a chance to get better items, equipment and abilities, making it a mandate to get those better abilities and perks to do well in multiplayer matches. What can happen is that players will opt to buy the loot boxes with real money to get better items, which is a problem due to how luck-based the loot boxes are. It has been compared to gambling, and thus we have a game where gambling is the core of the gameplay experience for players. It is on this that I want to make a comment.

I do not hold the position that a game like Battlefront 2 is encouraging gambling addiction. I do believe that it is game of gambling when it comes to how it does rewards and perhaps not a beneficial way for players when they are rewarded, but I am not convinced of this fear that our children will become gamblers when they grow up by playing these games. I believe there is a difference between enjoyment and addiction.

When it comes to enjoyment, certainly gambling can be enjoyable. One of my family’s pastimes at Christmas is a card game where we put some money on the table and the objective is to get the best card out of everyone else. It’s entirely chance-based and we even let the young children play if they like, although they usually have to borrow money from their parents. These sorts of games are very enjoyable, even addictive, because that is what games do to you. To some degree, one can say I’m addicted to video games due to how much time I spend on them. Perhaps I’m justifying myself a bit, but I would consider that as more of a hobby. It’s the activity I like to spend my free time on and that I enjoy consistently. Mind you, that’s a type of addiction, but it is not the sort of addiction I would say is harmful.

The sort of addiction I consider harmful is what most people would think of as harmful. The one where a husband spends all his finances on gambling or drinking, which impedes his progress in life. The child who would rather play video games than listen to his parents. The sort of addiction that impedes our daily activities and responsibilities. The ones that enslave our minds and souls to physical things. It is why addiction to weed is always bad, because the sole purpose of weed is to impede and enslave oneself to a drug. It’s also why I don’t put activities like video games and gambling in the same category as weed, since it is simply an activity that is very enjoyable to engage in, but never with  the intention of enslaving you away from your real life responsibilities. This is what I believe can be forgotten about entertainment and the implication is made that gambling is wrong all the time. I see it as a religious notion of holiness that looks upon certain activities and practices as dirty and evil and we must protect our children from them at all cost. It seems like this analogy to gambling comes from a Western mindset that has had problems with these sorts of activities, so we naturally do not want children to be gambling. We have to keep in mind that this sort of dangerous addiction comes about when the person has deep-seated issues or desires that are disoriented to be satisfied in an activity that can’t do that.

This is, perhaps, anecdotal but in my years of meditation and seeing other people with this sort of problem, gambling addiction – as with any addiction, is just a way for us to satisfy a deep longing.  We have a deep desire for worth and things that last and we will gamble everything we have in order to achieve some resemblance of it. We seek something eternal that will last beyond our physical existence. Addiction is when we sacrifice our God-given souls for perishable things, yet where do we go? We have rejected God, the Creator of our soul, and thus seek inferior things, things that were fashioned by God. We go away from worshiping God, whose image we bear, and His image-bearers worship things that are to be in submission to man. Woe to I, who strayed from Your decrees and sought those things which I could not even dream of, and did not see my Lord, the One who knows every fiber of my being far better than I.

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