Video Game News & Discussion 2.0


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I’m of two minds about loot boxes. One, I am an adult who can make decisions about the risks I want to take with my money. I have bought loot boxes for Overwatch, about $25 in total, and don’t regret it. But two, there are some really gross predatory practices especially in mobile games that target people who don’t know better (kids) or are prone to addictive behavior. I think some of the really egregious stuff in mobile needs reining in, and maybe even pretty tame stuff like Overwatch needs some kind of rethink. I’d really rather see games like OW just have straight purchase available for rare skins in addition to them being available in earned boxes.


Yes, it is clear that some are more egregious than others, but morality doesn’t care about magnitude. It’s more egregious to steal $1000 than it is to steal $0.01, but both are equally immoral. While the odds of craps may be better than the odds on a slot machine, both are evil gambling mechanisms. While one lootbox may be less heinous than another, they are both still wrong.

I’m done with Google’s “don’t be evil”. We need to move to a situation where anything less than “be as good as possible” is not acceptable.


I don’t subscribe to the idea that gambling is inherently immoral, nor to the idea that the same act is necessarily equally immoral regardless of magnitude. Your assertion that stealing a penny and stealing $1000 is equal in moral turpitude is absurd. By that logic you’re saying I should go to jail for the same amount of time in either case. How is gambling is conducted of course can be immoral, like rigged machines or the phone games that hire addiction researchers to help make the game more addictive. But in and of itself if people of the age of consent want to play games of chance, whatever the form it takes, that’s their choice. Put age restrictions on it, put rules on the mechanisms to make them fair, or on how you’re allowed to advertise or incentivise so consenting players know exactly what they’re getting into.



Pandante using all the rules minus the last page detailing seriousface gambling mode = morally fine and awesome
Pandante using all the rules plus the last page detailing seriousface gambling mode = immoral and evil even when betting $0.01


Scott did say “evil gambling mechanisms”. It’s very easy to draw a line between anything with and without a house.


That is fair. My dad has a family based poker group with a core of about like 6 guys and it’s really hard to argue it’s immoral due to the lack of a house and because it’s literally how the family that was growing apart due to distance really came together around the shared experience of playing hold’em around the kitchen table every few weeks.


Gambling itself isn’t immoral for the gambler. They aren’t hurting anyone other than themselves. It’s not any more immoral than doing drugs. It’s bad, it’s self-harm, but it’s not immoral. Running a gambling establishment, dealing drugs, encouraging others to engage in self harm, these are immoral acts.

Giving fair warning does not make harming others OK. Imagine I’m standing in a room. I say to you, “Fair warning, if you come in this room, I will beat the shit out of you and rob you blind.” You come in the room. I do as I warned I would do. Am I now innocent? Obviously not! How is putting a warning sign on a casino or pack of tobacco any different?

As for “put rules on the mechanisms to make them fair” that is impossible. If gambling were fair there would be no profit. Imagine a casino where the odds of red/black on the roulette wheel were actually 50/50 and paid out accordingly. No casino is going to run that game! Gambling fairly is unprofitable. If lootboxes had to be fair, they would make no money for the people selling them.

I never said that a person who steals $1000 vs someone who steals $0.01 should have the same punishment under the law or anything like that. Stealing is equally wrong to stealing. Just because someone steals $0.01 doesn’t somehow not make them a dirty thief.

The point is that just because some lootbox sellers are less greedy than others, doesn’t mean we should absolve the ones who are less greedy. We definitely shouldn’t praise them or view them as good. They are still bad, and don’t get off the hook just because their boxes are cheaper and have better payouts. The person selling $0.01 lootboxes is also a bad guy. Don’t mistake them for a good guy just because someone else is selling $1000 lootboxes.


When I say “fair” I mean that odds are known, or at least knowable ideally through disclosure but also other means. I knew walking into my friend’s bachelor party at a reservation casino or when I used to play bingo at the local firehouse, that in all likelihood I was better served warming myself over a fire started with the bills in my wallet. But I did it anyway, as an informed decision, knowing I could look up the odds on machines or card games if I wanted.

Arguably loot boxes could do better even than that. You always get something from a loot box. Casino gambling has a very good chance of getting you jack shit. If loot box drop rates are disclosed and I choose to risk my money that’s on me, and even then I still get -something.-

To address the analogy of you beating me up and taking my wallet if I walk into a room, if I consent you have a defense at the very least.


If I cheat you, and tell you exactly how I’m gonna cheat you, I’m still cheating you. Yes, nobody is forcing you to play it, but I’m enticing you to do so. I’m advertising and using every trick in the book to get you to go into it. Just telling you that it is a trap doesn’t help.

Think about all the people who still believe in bullshit things like fake medicine even though they are told it is fake. Same thing. A casino has no problem telling people that they are going to rip them off. They still get them hook line and sinker.

It is wrong to setup a trap, period. Lure or no lure, Warning or no warning. You are building a mechanism which harms whoever it ensnares, and that is wrong. A casino is such a trap.

Lootboxes do not always get you something. They always get you NOTHING! They just flip some bits in a database somewhere. Completely worthless. 100% of your money is gone every time. At least in a casino you have a chance greater than 0% to get some actual real money back! Lootboxes you are literally buying nothing. And then when the game shuts down you have less than nothing.


Gambling is fine on an ideological level. I’ll ignore the pragmatic level for now.

You wager money with known odds to try to win more money. But, you can also get more money in other ways (jobs, crime, etc…)

Loot boxes, independently of any amount of “gambling,” are specifically exploiting the psychology of the variable reward schedule to trick (mostly children) into spending more money in a game. Their sole purpose is to extract more money than equivalent microtransactions.

In Overwatch, there is no other way to get skins. You must engage with the loot boxes.You can’t just buy skins.

Anyone who says they implemented loot boxes because they’re fun or engaging is lying. Their sole purpose is to feed addiction and exploit psychology to extract more money from players.


I said a lot about this stuff in two older panels that is worth revisiting in 2017.


At their best, lootboxes are a way to invisibly and deceptively charge more money for the same thing.

Check out these pusheen blind boxes. How could even the cutest Pusheen be evil?

If you just want one, and don’t care which one, then it costs $8.50, that’s fine. But what if you want a particular one? Even assuming the odds of all of them are even, you are going to have to spend way more than $8.50 to get the one you want. If you want to collect them all, you have to pay way more than 8x8.5, which is $68. By distributing in random sealed boxes, you are just milking customers for more money for the exact same product.

That is without even including the psychological manipulation Rym has mentioned.


Perhaps, now that I think on it, I might be coming from a slightly different perspective on gambling than a lot of people. When I think of gambling, what comes to mind are card games and mahjongg where there is a barrier to entry of at least knowing the rules, and there is at least the skill of being able to judge the odds based on the strength or weakness of your position and also having the ability to bluff your opponent or retreat. Knowing when and how to do so to attempt to improve your position is a skill. This is opposed to the complete randomness of a slot machine or dice games or a loot box, and also without the built in targeted variable reward schedule tricks. I never found the systems in Overwatch objectionable, but I never found them interesting or engaging either. The $25 I spent in OW was on a whim to try and get some of the Halloween skins last year. I got what I wanted and never spent another dime and had no urge to do so again. But my point is that perhaps because other than my very brief to dip into loot boxes my experience with gambling is not the type being implemented in these games, I wasn’t as aware of the insidious nature of these systems other than the egregious outliers like Battlefront.


Although mahjong is a game of all luck if all players know how to play and do not cheat, and meets the semantic definition of gambling, that is not the kind of thing we are talking about. Mahjongg, or even poker, are played between players on all equal footing. There is no house tricking anyone into playing an unfair game.

Imagine if we were going to bet on a coin toss. I bet heads, you bet tails. The coin is a fair non-cheating coin. Are you willing to bet real money on that? That’s mahjonng.

Ok, so now we are betting on a roll of a d4. I win on 1, 2, and 3, you win on 4. I pay out less than 4-1, so assuming you roll each number 25% of the time, you are mathematically guaranteed to lose money to me over time. You would have to roll 4 significantly more than 25% of the time to win money.

Do you play this d4 game against me? No? Then why do people play games way way way worse than that against a casino?


I basically agree on your definition of the institution of gambling being immoral.

Where we disagree is in gambling personally with no institution being akin to drug use or self harm. I don’t really see betting $1 on heads with a friend as self harming.

Like many things it in its extreme form it can be harmful but in it’s base form it’s just another activity adults can do for entertainment.