A loot box is a consumable online package with a randomly generated number of virtual prizes, or “loot”. Loot boxes can consist of anything from character skins, weapons, sprays, or icons, including many more items depending on the type of game.
The history of loot boxes starts with card games, where packs could be physically bought with a chance for one of the cards to be rare, indicating higher value. Many games followed suit with their own collectible card games, but with the creation of the Internet and online gaming, other games took up the mantle.
Many massive multiplayer online (MMORPG) games had loot systems where players could defeat a boss and receive loot of varying rarity, creating the concept of randomly generated items coming from a crate or box. The advent of loot boxes themselves occurred in MapleStory, a popular MMORPG in early 2000s Japan where players could buy tickets to gain in-game items. Along with MapleStory, the most prevalent examples of loot boxes in the west are from Team Fortress 2, where players could get unique guns as well as creative hats to put on their character of choice, or CS:GO where the weapon skin market became lucrative for players.
Why are loot boxes controversial?
All types of loot boxes employ randomly generated chances to get loot of higher rarity, resulting in the belief that loot boxes are a form of gambling. Although most games have a system where loot boxes can be gained by leveling up or completing certain objectives, real currency can be traded for the potential to get a rare item - instead of the item itself.
There is also concern about game publishers rigging the odds against those who often spend money, encouraging addiction, as well as concerns that loot boxes are primarily marketed to youth. These concerns range from questionable to outright unethical, but video games are unregulated as of right now due to how new they are.
What should parents know about loot?
Loot comes in many forms, not necessarily just randomly generated loot boxes. Parents should be careful about what monetary accounts are connected to their childrens’ devices, particularly when it comes to mobile gaming. Within just a few clicks, anyone with a phone or desktop could be in possession of digital currency, items, or loot boxes. Be careful to monitor the purchasing of any kind of in-game items, and be safe out there!