Comment | Published:

Video game loot boxes are psychologically akin to gambling

Nature Human Behaviourvolume 2pages530532 (2018) | Download Citation

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 optionsAccess 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).

  5. 5.

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

  6. 6.

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

  7. 7.

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

  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).

Download references

Author information


  1. School of Psychology, Massey University, Manawatu, New Zealand

    • Aaron Drummond
  2. International Media Psychology Laboratory, Massey University, Manawatu, New Zealand

    • Aaron Drummond
    •  & James D. Sauer
  3. Psychology, School of Medicine, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

    • James D. Sauer


  1. Search for Aaron Drummond in:

  2. Search for James D. Sauer in:

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Aaron Drummond.

About this article

Publication history


Issue Date


Further reading

Newsletter Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing