Not all games are created equal: Adolescents who play and spend money on simulated gambling games show greater risk for gaming disorder

Nerilee Hing, Alex M.T. Russell, Daniel L. King, Matthew Rockloff, Matthew Browne, Philip Newall, Nancy Greer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Research reports positive associations between gaming disorder (GD) in adolescents and loot box purchasing but has not examined this relationship for other types of simulated gambling. This study examined whether greater engagement and expenditure in three types of simulated gambling were associated with meeting the criteria for GD in adolescents. A sample of Australians aged 12–17 years (N = 826) was recruited through an online panel aggregator. It included 646 gamers (57.7% male) with 89 being classified as having past-year GD, as defined and measured by the Internet Gaming Disorder Scale. Independent variables comprised past-month engagement in three simulated gambling activities (games with ‘mini’ gambling components, social casino games, and loot boxes), loot box purchasing, other microtransactions, impulsiveness, and demographics. Logistic regressions first examined whether engagement in each of the three simulated gambling activities was individually associated with GD, then with all three in the same model, and then controlling for demographic variables and impulsivity. Logistic regressions also examined whether microtransactions and purchasing loot boxes were individually associated with GD, then with both in the same model, and then controlling for demographic variables and impulsivity. Adolescents who had engaged in each simulated gambling activity in the past month were more likely to report meeting the criteria for GD. These relationships remained significant when controlling for common demographics and impulsiveness. Past-month engagement in social casino games increased the odds of GD 2.5 times (95% CI: 1.54; 4.02), 2.4 times for games with ‘mini’ gambling components (95% CI: 1.42; 3.90) and 2.0 times for engaging in loot boxes (95% CI: 1.22; 3.21), but only social casino games remained significant when controlling for engagement in all three activities. The likelihood of meeting the criteria for GD increased 3.8 times with expenditure on microtransactions (95% CI: 2.32; 6.27) and 4.6 times for buying loot boxes, and each remained significant when both were included in the model. Compared to digital games without simulated gambling elements, simulated gambling appears to attract adolescents who report GD. Implications of the results are discussed in detail.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107525
Number of pages10
JournalAddictive Behaviors
Volume137
Early online date18 Oct 2022
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 Oct 2022

Keywords

  • Gambling-style games
  • Games with gambling components
  • Internet gaming disorder
  • Loot boxes
  • Problematic gaming
  • Social casino games

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