Are Loot Boxes Gambling? Random reward mechanisms in video games

Research output: Conference Article in Proceeding or Book/Report chapterArticle in proceedingsResearchpeer-review


In this paper we investigate the phenomenon colloquially known as “loot boxes” or “loot crates”. Loot boxes became a hot topic towards the end of 2017 when several legislative bodies proposed that they were essentially gambling mechanisms and should therefore be legislated as such. We argue that the term “loot box” and the phenomena it covers are not sufficiently precise for academic use and instead introduce the notion of “random reward mechanisms” (RRMs). We offer a categorization of RRMs, which distinguishes between RRMs that are either “isolated” from real world economies or “embedded” in them. This distinction will be useful in discussions about loot boxes in general, but specifically when it comes to the question of whether or not they represent instances of gambling. We argue that all classes of RRMs have gambling-like features, but that only one class can be considered to be genuine gambling.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDiGRA '18 - Proceedings of the 2018 DiGRA International Conference : The Game is the Message
Number of pages20
Publication date2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018
EventDiGRA 2018: The Game is the Message - University of Turin - Campus Luigi Einaudi, Turin, Italy
Duration: 25 Jul 201828 Jul 2018


ConferenceDiGRA 2018
LocationUniversity of Turin - Campus Luigi Einaudi
Internet address


  • gambling
  • random reward mechanisms
  • gaming
  • addiction
  • Internet gaming disorder
  • classification
  • taxonomy
  • loot boxes
  • loot crates


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