Video game loot boxes are psychologically akin to gambling

Video games are increasingly exposing young players to randomized in-game reward mechanisms, purchasable for real money — so-called loot boxes. Do loot boxes constitute a form of gambling?

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.


  1. 1.

    Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry (Entertainment Software Association, 2017);

  2. 2.

    Newman, J. How loot boxes led to never-ending games (and always-paying players). Rolling Stone (2017).

  3. 3.

    Knaus, C. Gambling regulators to investigate ‘loot boxes’ in video games. The Guardian (2017).

  4. 4.

    Griffiths, M. D. Gaming Law Rev. Econ. 22, 1–3 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    King, D. L. & Delfabbro, P. Comput. Hum. Behav. 55, 198–206 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Lussier, I. D., Derevensky, J., Gupta, R. & Vitaro, F. Psychol. Addict. Behav. 28, 404–413 (2014).

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Rachlin, H. Psychol. Sci. 1, 294–297 (1990).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Ferster, C. B. & Skinner, B. F. Schedules of Reinforcement (Appleton-Century-Crofts, New York, NY, 1957).

  9. 9.

    Griffiths, M. Adolescent Gambling (Psychology Press, London, 1995).

  10. 10.

    Johansson, A., Grant, J. E., Kim, S. W., Odlaug, B. L. & Götestam, K. G. J. Gambl. Stud. 25, 67–92 (2009).

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Aaron Drummond.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Drummond, A., Sauer, J.D. Video game loot boxes are psychologically akin to gambling. Nat Hum Behav 2, 530–532 (2018).

Download citation

Further reading