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West Virginia Problem Gamblers program cautions parents on pay-to-win features in video games


The Register-Herald

BECKLEY, W.Va. — A West Virginia problem-gambling program is warning parents about potential dangers associated with certain features in video games.

As Christmas lists are oftentimes filled with video games and tech devices, the Problem Gamblers Help Network of West Virginia, which operates West Virginia’s 1-800-GAMBLER program, urges parents to be aware this holiday season about “pay to win” features.

Program Director Jennifer Davis-Walton says many popular video games, such as Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Overwatch, and Star Wars Battlefront, incorporate these features.

“Loot boxes” are in-app purchases that offer a chance, though not a guarantee, to purchase a sought-after item. These items are presented as a mystery box, which means the player may purchase several boxes and still not receive their desired item.

Davis-Walton says that the intermittent reward system used is similar to the way slot machines are programmed, designed to maximize continuous play. Lawmakers and regulatory bodies in several countries, including the U.S., are examining the legality of the system.

Davis-Walton says that in addition to the money the kids are spending, her concern is that these micro-transactions are reinforcing kids’ need for instant gratification and grooming them for future tendencies toward problem gambling.

She urges parents to monitor the amount of time their kids are spending online, and to take note of the activities in which they are engaging.

She said it’s very important for parents to pay attention to any activities that look like gambling, even if real money isn’t yet being spent, and talk to their kids about it.

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Email: [email protected]; follow on Twitter @WendyHoldren

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