The release of Battlefront II, a popular Star Wars video game, has prompted the most down voted Reddit post in history as some of the features offer gambling-style experiences. Is there a relationship between video games and gambling, and if so, what is the potential harm?
What springs to mind when we think about gambling? The sessions that we run in schools indicate that bookies, fruit machines and scratchcards seem to be at the forefront of young people’s minds when they think about gambling. It’s unusual that video games are thought of by young people as a type of gambling. As a result, many of the conversations that parents and practitioners have with young people about gambling may not include this topic.
As highlighted in the controversy around Battlefront, the integration of gambling style games into other types of entertainment might mean young people are engaging in gambling practices without recognition. A player in a video game can bet in-game “chips” on the outcome of a fruit machine style loot crate containing advantages for the game. Investing large amount of time and energy, and in some case money for more chips, into playing games means players may feel a sense of gain or loss based on the outcome. This is similar to the sense of gain and loss felt in conventional forms of gambling. Experiencing this without being able to contextualize them in relation to gambling means that players may not realize the potential harm of more risky forms of gambling.
There are conflicting views on this. Some organisations suggest that since the player can not win or lose real-world money in these features, it can not be defined as gambling. Moreover, using the phrase gambling to define this may in fact be detrimental to minimizing harm done by other types of gambling.
Whichever point of view is taken, many players are concerned about theses features. The Battlefront video games are part of the Star Wars franchise, and attracts many young people as players. The loot crate features of the game have been harshly criticized by players, believing that it is unfair to monetize the potential to make progress or set people back in a game that takes a lot of dedication to succeed in. There is also concerns about how these features might affect people who already have problems with more conventional types of gambling.