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Are Video Games Conditioning Children to Develop Gambling Disorders?

Parents in Parsippany know to prohibit their children from smoking marijuana and gambling. But believe it or not, video games and gambling disorders have a lot in common these days. However, if you aren’t a gamer or someone who is in touch with gaming culture, you would never recognize it at first glance. Some gamers — especially teens and children — cannot discern when they are participating in activities that mirror disordered gambling. Because, for them, it’s just part of the game. They don’t view their behavior as problematic.

What Video Games & Gambling Disorders Have in Common

You might be rolling your eyes at this notion because gambling involves real money at stake. But many popular video games offer in-game purchases for downloadable content (DLC). That is where the issue lies. Now, the problem isn’t simply that kids are spending too much money on DLC in their video games to gain an advantage — it goes much deeper than that. The real problem is the nature of certain DLC purchases, the “benefits” they offer, and how some gamers react to them. Have you ever heard of “loot boxes” or “skin gambling?”

What Are Loot Boxes?

Loot boxes are DLC that gamers can purchase in certain video games. But unlike most DLC, users do not always know what they are going to get when purchasing a loot box. Loot boxes contain a mix of random items that can be used by players in the game. Sometimes they contain rare, highly sought-after items, and other times they contain items that are worthless. So, the best way to quickly get the prize you’re going after is to simply keep buying loot boxes until one of them contains the item — sort of like how a slot machine works.

What Is Skin Gambling?

Now, skin gambling is different than loot boxes because it is not necessarily a feature that gamers use or purchase in a video game. They do sometimes pay real money for virtual “skins,” which are items that change the appearance of a gamer’s avatar, the weapons they use, and more. Skins can be earned for free through in-game achievements, but extremely rare skins are predictably extremely difficult to obtain. There are websites that act as a virtual bank for gamers to store their skins, and the in-game items have ultimately become a form of real-world currency. There are many unregulated websites that even allow users to bet their skins in virtual casinos.

How to Address High-Risk Behavior

Parents from Wildwood to Parsippany know the dangers of disordered gambling and drug use. But how many parents know about loot boxes and skin gambling? If your child has been using your credit card to make in-game purchases for video games, you might want to ask them about what they purchased. If someone else in your family is struggling with disordered gambling, you can find the support, treatment, and hope you need at CCGNJ. Dial 800-GAMBLER to reach our help line.