Video Gaming (credit: YGAM)

Academics from the University of Plymouth are linking up with an award-winning education charity to develop educational material focused on the financial and psychological harms related to loot boxes and videogaming monetization.

A report by researchers at the universities of Plymouth and Wolverhampton found that loot boxes are "structurally and psychologically akin to gambling" and that large numbers of children are opening loot boxes.

Now Dr Helen Lloyd and Dr James Close are working with the team at the Young Gamers and Gamblers Education Trust (YGAM), to examine how best to translate the knowledge generated from their work into educational and interventional materials aimed at those most vulnerable to harms, including children, young people and at-risk cohorts such as those with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

Loot boxes are video game-related purchases with a chance-based outcome, with half of the £700 million of total revenue generated in 2020 coming from just 5% of the buyers. Due to similarities with gambling, they have come under increasing scrutiny from media, academics and policymakers, leading to several jurisdictions – including The Netherlands, China and Australia – to introduce legislation on loot boxes. However, they are not covered by the 2005 Gambling Act in Great Britain, due to the lack of perceived monetary value of potential winnings. YGAM contributed to the UK Government’s call for evidence on loot boxes in 2020 with a decision on any new regulation expected this year.

As well as the development of additional PSHE materials for schools, the new partnership will also see the development of tailored educational approaches for specialist service providers through a series of engagement and planning workshops, aimed to design, tailor and customize educational delivery for each context. Each group will comprise of up to 15 key individuals representing relevant organisations and community groups to learn, develop and create a knowledge exchange action plan facilitated by the University of Plymouth team.

Dr Helen Lloyd, who is leading the project, said:
“We are grateful to the University of Plymouth for funding us to work with YGAM and providers of services for vulnerable adults and children in the Southwest. Working in partnership with our wider stakeholders to use research generated knowledge helps us support the important work that they do, but also makes research relevant and timely. Working in this way we can tackle some of our most pressing societal issues whilst also creating local benefit.”  
Dr Helen Lloyd and Debra Westlake Re-thinking Post Recovery Space screenshot

Kev Clelland, Director of Programme Engagement at YGAM, said:

“We’re delighted to be working with the University of Plymouth team. The study supports our commitment to ensuring all our programmes are evidence-led and external evaluations are used to further enhance our work. The subjects of loot boxes and videogame monetization feature heavily in the public and political conversations on gambling and they also form a key part of our education workshops and our resources. The conclusions of this important piece of work will help to strengthen our approach.”

The collaboration continues YGAM’s commitment to an evidence-led approach to its education programmes aimed at preventing gambling and gaming harms. The charity provides training and resources to a range of professionals who have influence over young people including teachers, youth workers, health practitioners, university staff and community leaders.

The project will begin in May 2022.