A Whole New Ball Game: The growing prevalence of video game-related gambling

Tutkimustuotos: VäitöskirjaCollection of Articles


Recent decades have seen the parallel trends of the growing liberalisation of gambling practices and the increasing significance of games as both entertainment media and cultural reference points. It is, therefore, unsurprising that there has been a rapid convergence between video game play and gambling; it is a process in which traditional distinctions are becoming increasingly blurred, creating not only new activities and driving the development of new social relationships and consumption practices.

The convergence of gaming and gambling facilitated by digital technologies has become the subject of growing academic attention in in recent years, spurred by the rapidly growing social and economic impact of these digital media products. Much attention has been focused on the in-game items known as loot boxes, however, there are many more examples of gambling, and gambling-like mechanics, being used to drive player engagement and, consequently, monetisation. Concerns have been raised about such developments, with commentators arguing that they are inherently exploitative, that they normalise gambling and gambling-like interactions, and that they encourage problematic consumption.

At the time this research was conducted, there existed a significant and notable dearth of empirical work addressing video games and gambling, with what published works there were predominantly focusing on legal and regulatory issues. The aim of this dissertation, therefore, is to investigate the emerging phenomenon of video game-related gambling (such as esports betting, virtual item lotteries, loot boxes, and other emergent practices) and its connection to video gaming habits, maladaptive cognitions, and motivations for consumption of online services. The work is divided into a series of complementary perspectives that, in unison, provide both depth and breadth to the investigation.

This dissertation constitutes the first empirical work dedicated to the study of video game-related gambling as a distinct topic; previously, work in this area had addressed individual activities, for example SCG or esports betting. In particular, the articles included as part of this work were among the first to address the role of loot boxes and other virtual items in facilitating gambling related to video games, an issue which has since gathered significant attention from within academia and beyond. Furthermore, this work provides a record of video game-related gambling at a key period of its development, a time of significant change and increased attention from those both inside and outside of the video game ecosystem.

Whereas prior works had examined populations of video game players, esports fans, or gamblers, this work is the first to identify those who reside at the intersection of these groups: those who participate in video game-related gambling specifically. A particular contribution of this work has been to highlight the presence of under-age individuals in the video game-gambling ecosystem. This is a group who are often absent from such studies, despite the increased risks known to be associated with early exposure to gambling.

Building upon these areas, this dissertation includes one of the first studies of gambling-related cognitions among video gamers who gamble; as a result of this work it developed the first measure for identifying such cognitions in this population. At the same time providing knowledge which can improve established measures used to identify gambling-related cognitions in traditional gambling populations, for example in reference to the ways in which luck and skill are conceptualised.

The knowledge generated by this body of work, both practical and theoretical, has contributed greatly to understanding the relationships between video game play and gambling behaviour. It has added to the growing body of evidence which questions the perspective that playing video games contributes directly to the development of problematic gambling. Instead, it highlights the influence of contextual factors, such as the surrounding consumption cultures associated with particular games or media formats, which are of greater significance to the development of gambling behaviours, rather than simply playing games.

All four articles included in this work employ quantitative methodologies in order to gain high-level insights into the phenomenon; they are among the first empirical investigations of video game-related gambling and its varied manifestations and, as such, provide a foundation upon which further research into specific phenomena can be built, while also serving as a record of activities and behaviours during a period of notable change in the field.
KustantajaTampere University
ISBN (elektroninen)978-952-03-2191-8
ISBN (painettu)978-952-03-2190-1
TilaJulkaistu - 2021
OKM-julkaisutyyppiG5 Artikkeliväitöskirja


NimiTampere University Dissertations - Tampereen yliopiston väitöskirjat
ISSN (painettu)2489-9860
ISSN (elektroninen)2490-0028


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