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Exploring the relationships between psychological variables and loot box engagement, part 1: pre-registered hypotheses

Close, James; Spicer, Stuart Gordon; Nicklin, Laura Louise; Uther, Maria; Whalley, Ben; Fullwood, Chris; Stiff, Chris; Parke, Jonathan; Lloyd, Joanne; Lloyd, Helen


James Close

Stuart Gordon Spicer

Laura Louise Nicklin

Maria Uther

Ben Whalley

Chris Fullwood

Jonathan Parke

Joanne Lloyd

Helen Lloyd


Loot boxes are purchasable randomized rewards in video games that share structural and psychological similarities with gambling. Systematic review evidence has established reproducible associations between loot box purchasing and both problem gambling and problem video gaming, perhaps driven by a range of overlapping psychological processes (e.g. impulsivity, gambling-related cognitions, etc.) It has also been argued that loot box engagement may have negative influences on player financial and psychological wellbeing. We conducted a pre-registered survey of 1495 loot box purchasing gamers (LB cohort) and 1223 gamers who purchase other, non-randomized game content (nLB cohort). Our survey confirms 15 of our 23 pre-registered hypotheses against our primary outcome (risky loot box engagement), establishing associations with problem gambling, problem gaming, impulsivity, gambling cognitions, experiences of game-related ‘flow’ and specific ‘distraction and compulsion’ motivations for purchase. Results with hypotheses concerning potential harms established that risky loot box engagement was negatively correlated with wellbeing and positively correlated with distress. Overall, results indicate that any risks from loot boxes are liable to disproportionately affect various ‘at risk’ cohorts (e.g. those experiencing problem gambling or video gaming), thereby reiterating calls for policy action on loot boxes.


Close, J., Spicer, S. G., Nicklin, L. L., Uther, M., Whalley, B., Fullwood, C., …Lloyd, H. (2023). Exploring the relationships between psychological variables and loot box engagement, part 1: pre-registered hypotheses. Royal Society Open Science, 10(12), 231045.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 27, 2023
Online Publication Date Dec 20, 2023
Publication Date 2023-12
Deposit Date Jun 17, 2024
Journal Royal Society Open Science
Electronic ISSN 2054-5703
Publisher The Royal Society
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 10
Issue 12
Pages 231045
Keywords video gaming, digital harms, addictive behaviours, wellbeing, loot boxes, gambling
Public URL