Abstract

Loot boxes in Virtual Worlds

Loot boxes are purchasable items in video games that are consistent with items of randomized rarity. Current studies on loot boxes have only covered the possible effects of loot boxes and habitual gambling. However, my work explores how loot boxes affect virtual economies and player experience. As many games have integrated loot boxes into their core gameplay, loot boxes have also helped establish virtual marketplaces that allow players to sell and purchase items. The purchasable items on these online markets can vary in rarity and are bought by using in-game currency that gamers can eventually work towards. Gamers engage with this economy by grinding, which may be viewed as labor; players can spend hours trying to obtain enough materials to purchase items on the market to become more viable within the game. Without access to rarer materials, players who do not indulge in loot boxes are at a disadvantage, having to play longer and to reach the same levels as people who spend money. Contributing to economic anthropological theories of commodity and gift exchange through virtual ethnography, this paper will look into divisions of statuses among gamers based on the differences in Free to Players versus those who pay for loot boxes.

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