Video games accused of creating a gambling habit

Star Wars wars: Battlefront II has created a lot of controversy since its release last month. © EA

Are video games like casinos? Games such as ”Star Wars Battlefront II” let players spend real money on random rewards. Some say that kids who play them may as well be on the slot machines…

What’s happening

A popular Star Wars video game promotes gambling, an American politician has said. Chris Lee is one of a growing number of people criticising games which encourage players to pay real cash. He described Battlefront II as a "Star Wars-themed online casino designed to lure kids into spending money”.

Find out more

In Battlefront II, players can unlock special features by opening crates. To do so, they either have to use credits collected in the game or spend real money. The prizes are random – some are far better than others.

Crates like these, known as “loot boxes”, do not only exist in Battlefront II. The system is often found in free mobile games like Angry Birds 2. But it is increasingly common in expensive console games like Battlefront II as well.

Campaigners argue that loot boxes are like slot machines. As the gambling age in the UK is 18, they say that children should not play such video games.

Governments around the world are looking into the issue. For now, the UK’s Gambling Commission has declared that loot boxes do not count as gambling.

Some say…

Loot boxes are nothing like gambling. As the Gambling Commission points out, you are guaranteed to get something for your money, which is not true of slot machines. Anyway, using real money is optional – you can complete the game without spending a penny. Under-18s are not stupid. They can be trusted to play these games.

Others think…

Battlefront II may not make you spend money, but it gives you strong incentives to do so: the gameplay is slower and more boring if you don’t open loads of crates. These games exploit our psychological weaknesses. This is what casinos do too. Gambling is highly addictive, and it can affect anyone, clever or stupid. Loot boxes should be banned.

You Decide

  1. Should loot boxes be banned?

Activities

  1. Imagine you have been asked to develop a video game to teach players about the dangers of casinos.
  2. In groups, come up with an idea for a game that is both fun and informative.

Some People Say...

“Quit while you’re ahead. All the best gamblers do.”

What do you think?

Word Watch

Battlefront II
The game is available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Microsoft Windows.
Lure
Tempt.
Campaigners
People who work hard to draw attention to a particular cause.
Gambling Commission
The government body in charge of overseeing the gambling industry.
Incentives
Things that encourage people to act a certain way.
Exploit
Make the most of something.
Psychological
“Psychology” is the scientific term for how our minds work, and how they affect our behaviour.

Subjects

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