Loot boxes are virtual items in many video games that let players "gamble" on an item of chance. Loot boxes bring an element of gambling into video games, which might prime video game users to engage in online gambling activities. However, few studies have focused on this emerging issue. The present study investigated the relationships between loot box purchases and both problem video gaming and problem gambling severity. Cross-sectional, self-report data were collected from 618 adult video gamers (M = 27 years of age, SD = 8.9, 63.7% male) via an online survey. Nearly half of the sample (44.2%) spent money on loot box purchases in the past year. Loot box purchasers played video games and gambled online more frequently, reported more extended gaming and online gambling sessions, and endorsed higher levels of problem video gaming and problem gambling severity as well as greater mental distress relative to those who did not buy loot boxes. Results from a series of path analyses revealed that loot box purchasing was directly related to problem video gaming and problem gambling severity as well as indirectly through increased video gaming/online gambling engagement, which in turn is related to elevated psychological distress. The present findings provide insight into the role of loot box purchasing in the transition from recreational engagement in video gaming and online gambling to problem video gaming and/or problem gambling.
Keywords: Internet gaming disorder; Loot box; Mental distress; Online gambling; Problem gambling; Problem video gaming.
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