Gaming and Gambling: What is it? Posted On

There is a growing number of people with curiosities about gaming and gambling.  They’re asking questions about whether their loved one is gambling while gaming and wondering if gaming is a safe activity.  This can be confusing, but we can break it down together.

What is Gaming?

Gaming is referred to as “playing electronic games, whether through consoles, computers, mobile phones or another medium,” according to Techopedia.  As we speak about gaming, we will refer to the act of playing an electronic game that requires a screen, which excludes things like board games.  We also speak of gaming as a means to enjoy an entertaining activity without risking anything of value, other than time. 

There are many types of games available, and many ways to play games.  Whether using a console, a computer or a smart phone, people enjoy games all around the world every day.  Many games are free and are simply used as a means to soak up time, but some of these games include forms of gambling.  Although many people struggle with an addiction to gaming, we’ll be focusing on the connection between gaming and gambling.

What is Gambling?

We define gambling as risking something of value on a game of chance for a desired outcome.  Anytime someone chooses to risk something, like money, on a situation they cannot guarantee the outcome of to win something else, they are gambling.  So, the first thing to helping gamers make healthy choices is to help them understand what gambling is. Gambling always involves risking something of value, a game of chance, and the hope for a desired outcome.  

Gambling Activities in Electronic Games

In many video games, there are opportunities to gamble that didn’t exist before.  In the past, video game gambling only took place using in-game currency.  In-game currency is any type of money that exists in a game, but not outside of the game.  Now, with the use of the internet, gamers are connected to the net, to people worldwide, and to their credit cards or bank accounts through their games. 

This connection to the internet has allowed for gamers to purchase upgrades to their games, and upgrades for their characters or items.  Upgrading the game can help it run smoother, which means the game runs faster with less (or no) pauses for loading.  Upgrades to a character gives them a better playing experience, such as a character who is faster or stronger, or has better items to help them more quickly achieve the goals of the game. 

On the flip side, this connection has introduced gambling availability within these same games.  Two of the most known ways gamers are gambling is through loot boxes and on esports.

Dangers of Loot Boxes

 Loot boxes, or cases, are a simple box that a player can choose to purchase in the hopes to gain better in-game items – such as weapons, survival items, extra lives, etc..  These items are typically anything that would improve the gamer’s experience in the game. 

So how are loot boxes a form of gambling?

The gamer chooses to purchase a loot box with money in the hopes of gaining some great items.  That falls exactly into our definition of gambling, which is to risk something of value on a game of chance for a desired outcome.  The gamer is RISKING money on the CHANCE that he/she will GAIN a helpful or better item.

People who choose to gamble on loot boxes are having the same experiences as someone gambling on a casino game.  They are feeling a rush between the purchase and opening the box.  This rush gives their brain a feeling of excitement.  Science has shown that the anticipation and experience of rush and excitement can be as addicting as drug use.

Esports & Gambling

Esports refers to competitive tournaments where the players play video games against each other, especially among professional gamers.  This means that esports is not specific to video games like soccer or football, but the electronic versions of those are certainly included.  Gamers enjoy esports competitions the same way that athletes enjoy the competitive feel of a sporting tournament.  Esports in and of themselves are not a form of gambling, but gambling does take place around them.

Many gamers love to watch other more proficient players play.  They watch to learn and to be entertained, just as spectators love to watch football or soccer games.  And, also like some football and soccer spectators, some esports spectators have begun to gamble on these tournaments. 

Esports gambling can take place between the actual competitors and/or the spectators.  This gambling can take place using real money or items, or in-game currency and in-game tradeable items.  They can transfer these items hand to hand, through wiring money using things like PayPal or Facebook, or at in-game chat rooms similar to other social media platforms where gamers who play a specific game can pass on in-game currency or items to other gamers. 

Is There A Problem?

Just as the internet seems limitless, so are the available options to gamble while gaming.  Many people are unsure whether their loved one enjoys gaming or if there’re struggling with a gambling problem within the video games they play.  Knowing the warning signs of problem gambling is important.  Some of these signs include:

  • Increased tolerance towards gambling. This means the person gambling feels the need to gamble with more money and for longer periods of time to feel the same enjoyment.  For instance, purchasing more loot boxes to feel like they’re having fun.
  • Withdrawing from previously enjoyed things. These can include withdrawing from friendships and time with loved ones, or from previously enjoyed hobbies or interests. 
  • Being preoccupied with thoughts about gambling. The person may seem daydreaming about winning money from the next esports tournament and forgetting important things and events, or frustrated when pulled out of thoughts of gambling.
  • Choosing to gamble as a way to escape problems, or avoid troubles.
  • Gambling as a way to win back what they’ve lost in a current or previous gambling activity. This is referred to as chasing.
  • Lying about how much they’ve gambled, or about how long they’ve been gambling.
  • Feeling a strain or finding increasing problems in relationships with loved ones or in their relationships with people from their work.
  • Requesting a bailout.
  • Loss of control.

Taking Action

While there is help and hope for those struggling with problem gambling, the important thing for readers to take away is to talk with their loved ones.  Show interest in their gaming by asking questions and being supportive.  They may have a problem or they may see gaming as one of the many ways to enjoy leisure time.  The important thing is to have an open-minded conversation to be supportive should your loved one need help.