Further confirmation from the research of two English universities
The microtransactions and the loot box they have been under fire on an ongoing basis in recent years. We well remember the accusations against large publishers who abused them, the political discussions in various countries to define whether these elements could be assimilated to gambling and the proposals to clearly indicate their presence on the packaging and in the descriptions of video games. Now, a new study conducted jointly by two British universities further underlines the dangers of microtransactions and prize funds for children and young people.
Microtransactions: harmful especially for children
The research was carried out by Loughborough University and from Newcastle University And can be viewed in its entirety online. The initial goal was to define the approach of the very young to paid reward systems, which include gameplay mechanics based on randomness, in-game currencies, season passes and microtransactions for item purchases
As expected, the results of the study led to confirm how the so-called loot boxes have a harmful effect on children. The damage is both emotional and financial and depends on the difficulty of having a clear management of expenses within video games, given that the tender age and the virtual gaming environment do not allow for a correct perception of the value of money.
Among other things, the items that are offered in microtransactions or that are promised within the prize boxes are, by their nature, very attractive for the younger ones. This applies to aesthetic elements, but it is even more true and serious in the case of game objects that can accelerate certain game dynamics, improve the performance of a character or represent any type of advantage.
The problem is that many games seem deliberately constructed to make les desirable microtransactions. Since several games find their target audience in the youngest, mechanics attributable to gambling and which leverage the birth of a certain addiction are even more effective, but also much more dangerous.
Microtransactions and loot-boxes: which solutions?
The study also proposes a possible solution. The world of video games should equip itself with a regulatory body capable of strongly defining and enforcing age limits for certain qualifications. The value of in-game items should also be stated in real currency and not disguised under fictitious names. Finally, case-based mechanics should be independently scrutinized by an external body to validate that the systems are fully legal and legal.
The discussion is far from finished and we will probably continue to see games that are managed at the limit of fairness. The simplest and most immediate solution would be careful monitoring by the parents of younger players, in order to direct them towards correct money management and to keep them away from mechanisms that could have more serious implications in adulthood.