Exploring the relationships between psychological variables and loot box engagement, part 1: pre-registered hypotheses: Pre-registered hypotheses

James Close*, Stuart Gordon Spicer, Laura Louise Nicklin, Maria Uther, Ben Whalley, Chris Fullwood, Jonathan Parke, Joanne Lloyd, Helen Lloyd

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Loot boxes are purchasable randomized rewards in videogames that share structural and psychological similaritieswith gambling. Systematic review evidence has establishedreproducible associations between loot box purchasing andboth problem gambling and problem video gaming, perhapsdriven by a range of overlapping psychological processes(e.g. impulsivity, gambling-related cognitions, etc.) It has alsobeen argued that loot box engagement may have negativeinfluences on player financial and psychological wellbeing.We conducted a pre-registered survey of 1495 loot boxpurchasing gamers (LB cohort) and 1223 gamers whopurchase other, non-randomized game content (nLB cohort).Our survey confirms 15 of our 23 pre-registered hypothesesagainst our primary outcome (risky loot box engagement),establishing associations with problem gambling, problem gaming, impulsivity, gambling cognitions,experiences of game-related‘flow’and specific‘distraction and compulsion’motivations for purchase.Results with hypotheses concerning potential harms established that risky loot box engagement wasnegatively correlated with wellbeing and positively correlated with distress. Overall, results indicatethat any risks from loot boxes are liable to disproportionately affect various‘at risk’cohorts (e.g. thoseexperiencing problem gambling or video gaming), thereby reiterating calls for policy action on loot boxes.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number231045
    Number of pages19
    JournalRoyal Society Open Science
    Issue number12
    Publication statusPublished (VoR) - 20 Dec 2023


    This work was supported by funding from the charity GambleAware (a UK-based independent charity and strategic commissioner of gambling harm education, prevention, early intervention and treatment), and thus (via the funding model for GambleAware) the work was indirectly supported by voluntary contributions to GambleAware from the gambling industry.

    FundersFunder number
    National Institute for Health and Care Research


      • addictive behaviours
      • digital harms
      • gambling
      • loot boxes
      • video gaming
      • wellbeing


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