Along with the surge in loot boxes this fall there have been calls for the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) to classify games with loot boxes as gambling on the back of the box. However, I do not believe loot boxes are gambling, they are closer to something I loved as a child; collectible card games.
Loot boxes have dominated the news lately, Glixel just published an article titled, “Why Microtransactions and Loot Boxes are Destroying Games.” Kotaku also released some thoughts on loot boxes “Loot Boxes Are Designed to Exploit Us”. I highly encourage you to check out both articles for some other points of view, (after reading this article of course!)
Spoon Deep is stronger with a diversity of opinions, and I do not expect everyone to share my opinion on loot boxes. (I’m sure that publishers love the idea of including loot boxes in games.) But while talking with others the sentiment came up that:
“Every game now days has micro transactions. Just gotta get used to it”
Loot boxes are designed to exploit gamers. Just like a mystery box, they tap into the psychology of human nature to encourage you to spend real money on the chance to get something good.
Even if you don’t buy them, they are there. Advertised at the home screen. Marked with Quest Icons. You might even get a free one once in a while, to try and get you hooked. Even if you don’t buy them, someone else might; and that someone might be spending money they can’t afford.
I have an addictive personality. I am impulsive and find it hard to resist quick pleasures. It’s the reason why when I start one of my many new hobbies, guitar, violin, running, biking, Magic: The Gathering, reading, even new video games, I burn out quickly. In my attempt to get as much enjoyment out of a new activity as possible, I burn out hard. It’s also why I try to avoid alcohol, drugs, and too much candy.
And now I try to avoid loot boxes.
Just like the Pokemon Trading Card Game, you might get that holographic that you have been searching for or you might be compelled to spend money on an entire pack of duplicates. You never know what you get, and sometimes the excitement of opening a pack of unknown is worth the price, or worth a second purchase.
Loot boxes are exploitation at their core. It is not okay that they are a normal and expected mechanic in every new game.
We need to hold our peers, developers, publishers, and society to a higher standard.
Even if you don’t spend money on loot boxes, you might spend time grinding for another free one. Time that you could be spending exercising, with friends and family, or recording a podcast.
Now with original Xbox games emulated on Xbox One, we can finally play classic great games; without loot boxes.
Maybe I am living in the past, but The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time did not need loot boxes to be financially successful and considered one of the greatest games of all time, and neither does Middle-earth: Shadow of War.
Personally I am always much happier spending $50 and my time on a complete experience like Portal, a Zelda game, or Bioshock; than playing a free game that encourages me to buy a loot box to unlock the coolest costumes.