Youth Gambling – Video Games: From Gaming to Gambling

Group of children playing video games

Video games

Many Youth enjoy video gaming as a form of entertainment – the sights, sounds and content is often fun and engaging.  Video games are available in a variety of genres that appeal to everyone – they can be digital sports games, card games or boardgames.  They can be simulations (like flight simulators) or can be games that simulate everyday life.  Video games can also be interactive movies or TV shows (fiction and non-fiction) created and named after popular mainstream movies and shows.  Some video games are created to display their artistic genius in cinematics/music or exist in augmented or virtual reality platforms.  In essence video games are digital entertainment programs that are interactive in nature – this means that you can “play” them (alone, 1-to-1, in small or large groups, in-person, online and in augmented or virtual reality) using a phone, tablet, computer, or a popular video game console like a PlayStation, Xbox, handheld portable gaming system or virtual reality device.  

Recognizing Gambling in Video Games – Here are some ways gambling is simulated in popular video games:

  1. Loot boxes or loot crates – a loot box or crate is a reward you can acquire (by winning or buying it) during a game.  The player does not know what is in the box/crate so it is like gambling in that you are taking a chance in exchanging something of value for an unknown item.  Since the item in the box/crate may or may not be useful, youth may be curious and continue to purchase them with in-game currency or real money.  The cost can add up quickly when buying loot boxes with real money.
  2. In-game upgrades (better weapons, armor, strengths, skins etc.) – players often seek to win or purchase upgrades while gaming.  When many upgrades are obtained, a character becomes more desirable and powerful while playing and could even be traded with others or sold for real money online.
  3. Simulated casino games – Simulated casino games look, sound and work like games you would see in a casino but instead of playing with real money, you may win in-game currency like coins, jewels, points or other valuables.  There may also be opportunities for players to spend more in-game currency or real money to unlock additional special features or collect more points in the game.

Why is it important?

Youth see value and purpose in loot boxes, accessing in-game upgrades and playing simulated casino games in that it helps them gain competitive advantages in the game:

  1. helps them to develop favorable assets
  2. can earn them additional assets
  3. can be traded or sold for other in-game currency
  4. can be sold for real money
  5. can help them speed up the game
  6. can add ongoing excitement.

The potential for progression from video games to online gaming for money and then to gambling can cause harms such as addiction.  The way that youth behave while gaming reflects the connection between gaming and gambling in some games.  Studies have found that young people who participate in free-to-play games, purchase loot boxes and play games that simulate gambling are more likely to gamble.  In 2018, some countries like Belgium have decided that loot boxes are gambling products and have banned them.

Learn more about youth gambling and video game addiction as Cam Adair shares his story.