OpenITU: Loot Boxes - Gaming or Gambling?

Should loot boxes in video games be considered gambling? Join us for a public debate with representatives from academia, the game industry, Center for Ludomani and the Danish Gambling Authority.

Loot boxes - virtual boxes with random content that players can purchase in video games - became a hot topic towards the end of 2017 when several legislative bodies proposed that they were essentially gambling mechanisms and that games such as Star Wars Battlefront II should therefore be legislated as gambling games.


In this OpenITU talk, Paweł Grabarczyk and Rune K. L. Nielsen argue that the term “loot box” and the phenomena it covers are not sufficiently precise for academic use and instead introduce the notion of “random reward mechanisms” (RRMs). They offer a categorization of RRMs, which distinguishes between RRMs that are either “isolated” from real world economies or “embedded” in them. This distinction will be the starting point of an open panel debate with Johan Eklund, psychologist at Center for Ludomani; Daryl Hornsby, Product Manager at Hugo Games; and Maria Skovlund Kronborg, jurist and officer at the Danish Gambling Authority.


The research presented in this talk is funded, in part, by the ERC Advance Grant Project: Making Sense of Games, and on forthcoming research from the project.


The event will be hosted by tech journalist Anders Høeg Nissen.

About the speakers 

Daryl Hornsby is a Product Manager who’s worked on a number of mobile game projects at MovieStarPlanet, Lohika Games, and in his most recent role at Hugo Games. At Hugo, he managed the development of a number of free-to-play titles across different genres. Using player behavior analytics and A/B testing, he experimented with a number of monetization strategies, including the composition of loot boxes as both In-App-Purchases and rewards.


Johan Eklund is a psychologist with experience with helping both excessive gaming behavior and gambling addiction. Historically gaming has been seen as primarily skill-based games and gambling as randomness-based games. But randomness-based mechanisms, in the form of variable ratio schedules, has increasingly found its way into gaming. Last year Center for Ludomani helped 33 young people under the age of 18 who primarily had a problematic gambling behavior with “skin betting” (third party gambling sites which accepts CS:GO skins as stakes).


Maria Skovlund Kronborg is an administrative officer at the Danish Gambling Authority, where she is part of the Illegal Games Unit that handles cases of illegal gaming activities in Denmark. Among other things, the unit handles cases of skinbetting and loot boxes.


Paweł Grabarczyk is a philosopher of language and mind. He received his PhD at University of Lodz, Poland and is currently working as a postdoc at ITU. Paweł is mostly interested in the intersection between philosophy and game studies (especially game ontologies and VR). He is the editor-in-chief of Replay: Polish Journal of Game Studies. Paweł is affiliated with the ERC Advanced Project: Making Sense of Games.


Rune K. L. Nielsen is Assistant Professor at the IT University of Copenhagen’s Center for Computer Games Research. Rune is a scholar of addiction, psychology, youth, and games. He holds M.Sc.’s in psychology and game studies from University of Copenhagen and ITU University of Copenhagen, where he also earned his PhD. Rune is affiliated with the ERC Advanced Project: Making Sense of Games.

Seats will be "first come, first served".