Loot boxes: Gambling-like reward mechanisms in video games
Associate Professor Jim Sauer (University of Tasmania) is a psychological scientist with an interest in the effects of video gameplay on cognition and behaviour.
Since 2018, working with colleague Dr Aaron Drummond (Massey University, NZ), he has had a particular interest in the effects of engaging with loot boxes (gambling-like rewards in video games) on player’s gaming behaviour and wellbeing. Together, they published the first empirical evaluation of the psychological similarities between loot boxes and gambling (2018), a second paper establishing that loot boxes meet some important legal criteria to be considered gambling (2020), and the first meta-analytic demonstration of the positive association between loot box spending and problem gambling symptomatology (2021).
Since 2018, Sauer and Drummond have authored seven peer-reviewed publications on loot boxes, and provided oral and written testimony to Australian, UK, NZ and US governmental inquiries on the issue. Their work has contributed to loot boxes being added to the US Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) and European (PEGI) classification descriptors.
In March 2021, this work informed expert testimony given before the Consumer Protection Committee of the Illinois General Assembly (US). Sauer and Drummond have contributed to public information endeavours with presentations on the issue being provided to Te Tari Taiwhenua (Department of Internal Affairs NZ), Hāpai Te Hauora (Māori Public Health), Atareira Mental Health Support, and the New Zealand Psychological Society, and to a public awareness campaign about loot boxes in collaboration with Te Mana Whakaatu (Classification Office NZ) and the Problem Gambling Foundation of New Zealand.
They have also contributed to the dissemination of public information about loot boxes to consumers by acting as expert panellists at the largest technology and gaming convention in the Southern Hemisphere: PAX Australia (attendance approximately 70,000-90,000).