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The Future of Gambling

Gaming-gambling mergence: A mixed-methods investigation into the gaming/gambling interface
University of Wolverhampton; University of Plymouth

The Research

This project focusses on online computer gaming. It builds knowledge and understanding of the harms which may exist within chance-based elements within gaming. It focuses on ‘loot boxes’ in computer games that people pay to access, with the contents of the box (virtual game upgrades) dictated by chance.

Loot boxes in video games have become increasingly common in the past decade, with their estimated prevalence in market-leading games having grown from under 1 in 20 in 2010, to more than 7 in 10 in 2019.

There is some evidence that people experiencing problem gambling are more susceptible to the mechanics of loot boxes; however, there is considerably less research focusing on whether these people experience the same harms that can be associated with traditional gambling. The project specifically focuses on the similarities of these with gambling-related harms.

The project will be a first of its kind: it will examine how behaviours and motivations regarding gaming loot boxes mimic, and diverge from, those of traditional forms of gambling.

The project will build understanding of the motivations behind purchasing in-game chance-based items, and develop knowledge of the psychological profiles of the adults, children, and young people involved.

Data and analyses will be driven by in-depth, qualitative, semi-structured interviews, and will be complemented by a quantitative survey of people with experience of gaming and other stakeholders.

GambleAware funded the University of Plymouth and the University of Wolverhampton in their work on loot boxes. Their paper entitled ‘Secondary analysis of loot box data: are high-spending “whales” wealthy gamers or problem gamblers?’ has been published in Addictive Behaviours and is available as a pre-print here.


The project will make use of both qualitative and quantitative methodologies, triangulating results of surveys, qualitative interviews, and literature reviews.  

Project lead
Dr James Close, University of Plymouth Dr Joanne Lloyd, University of Wolverhampton
Spring 2020 – Summer 2021