Microtransactions and the Dangers of Gaming for Teens

Microtransactions+and+the+Dangers+of+Gaming+for+Teens

Andrew Bourn

Like many high school students, nights and weekends are often filled with gaming experiences. Lately, the gaming world has been taking advantage of our passions and finding new and creative ways to siphon a family’s hard-earned money from them. Gaming company giants such as Activision-Blizzard, Ubisoft, 2K, and Electronic Arts are no stranger to honing their tactics in increasing gaming across campuses and America. Electronic Arts, however, is more infamously notorious in the gaming industry by gamers and lawmakers which we will be examining.

Reports state that Electronic Arts had a profit of $1.459 billion dollars this year of 2020. The vast majority of the net revenue stems from their live services of at least $1.103 billion dollars. However, some believe that the live services revenue isn’t always gained in the most ethical ways. Their live services involved ‘free’ updates on their established games at the inclusion of artificial barriers, which spawns egregious microtransactions in order to progress the game. 

Microtransactions are usually in the form of cosmetics, starter packs, or even experience boosts to progress quicker in the grind. Some games such as FIFA and Madden incorporate gambling mechanics within their microtransactions (such as card packs and loot boxes) that many research studies found to be the cause of developing problems within young adolescents. Financial distress within families was a major aftereffect that EA has no apparent method(s) in resolving or policing the age restrictions of purchases.

One such occurrence resulting from EA’s business model is a university student spending his entire savings of nearly $3,000 on FIFA Ultimate Team. The student, Jonathan Peniket, uses the FIFA Card pack as a coping mechanism to feel a sense of buzz and dopamine after his mother contracted cancer in 2017. “I was spending £30 at a time, then £40, then £50. By the time my (credit) card began to block my transactions, I was throwing £80 into the game four or five times a night,” Jonathan stated as his money began to run out. His entire $3000 savings were contributed by his parents and grandparents for his future, but rapidly depleted in a short amount of time.

Jonathan developed his gambling addiction in the early 2010s with his purchase of a FIFA card pack that his father deemed as gambling, which at the time he found ridiculous that it was considered gambling. Parental regulations were enforced on his purchases and gaming time, but Jonathon became more secretive and addicted as he used vouchers (gift cards in the U.K.) to purchase packs and told his parents frequently that he’s not addicted to the video game. Things continued to go downhill when he received his first debit card at age 17. Purchases became instantaneous with a single button click without worrying about hiding vouchers and parents discovering his addiction to his gambling buzz. “I owe it to my teenage self, and to others who will regret spending money on loot boxes, to do what I can to end what is utter exploitation,” Jonathan remorsefully stated.

Electronic Arts on the other hand outright denies that FIFA card packs and other aspects of their games that have loot boxes would constitute gambling. Their loot boxes, ‘surprise mechanics’ as EA coyly renamed it, are considered ‘ethical and quite fun’ according to EA. When asked by the UK Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport Committee about limiting players’ game time, EA made it clear that they have no intention of limiting players from playing as they believe consumers should have a choice in deciding whether or not they should keep playing.