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Blurred Lines Between Gaming & Gambling

When we talk about gaming and gambling, it’s important to talk about how the lines between these two activities can get blurred. This happens in many games, such as Jumping Jamboree, and can be explained through 3 concepts: the Gambler’s Fallacy, the Variable Ratio Reinforcement Schedule, and the Illusion of Control.

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What is the Gambler’s Fallacy?

Another concept used in gaming that makes gaming activities similar to gambling activities is called the Gambler’s Fallacy, which means basing decisions on past patterns or experiences. Just because they did or didn’t win that particular prize in the past, players can fall into the Gambler’s Fallacy, thinking they are so close to getting that skin if they continue to play or pay to open the loot box one more time. This can show up in Jumping Jamboree, where our brains can trick us into believing we are guaranteed a win if we have lost several times in the past! However, each gambling activity is independent from the last, so it’s important for us to remind ourselves that we are never guaranteed a win.

What is the Variable Ratio Reinforcement Schedule?

The Variable Ratio Reinforcement Schedule is a theory that states that our brains become more engaged in an activity when there is an element of chance and the results are not known. The expectation of winning and the anticipation of reward are very strong motivators of behaviour, therefore players are enticed to continue to play for longer periods of time and more often. 

This can be explained if we take the example of loot box unlocking, which appears in our game Jumping Jamboree. In loot boxes, acquiring a rare prize is random. By introducing a chance to win that rare prize, developers make games more rewarding. Players won’t know when to expect the next win from a loot box; they’re randomly generated. This illustrates what the Variable Ratio Reinforcement Schedule is, and the very same process is used in gambling establishments, e.g. slot machines.

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What is the Illusion of Control?

Another way in which the lines between gaming and gambling can be blurred is through the Illusion of Control. In both gaming and gambling, the player may feel that their odds of winning can be increased, or believe that their odds of winning are higher. Gambling, by definition, involves a game of chance, and the odds of winning in chance-based games cannot be increased. This is especially true when we consider video games or social media games that have gambling simulations or activities within them. This is represented in Jumping Jamboree. If players feel knowledgeable about their skills and ability when jumping, they may feel due to this knowledge of their abilities they can influence other aspects of the game.

Risks of Gambling-Like Activities in Games

The blurred lines between gaming and gambling, as demonstrated through the Variable Ratio Reinforcement Schedule, Gambler’s Fallacy and the Illusion of Control, pose several risks to players. Mainly, as discussed in our definitions, these concepts can make stopping gambling feel that much harder, because not only are we excited about the possibility of the unknown but we also may believe that we are guaranteed a win soon and, as such, need to keep playing to achieve this. To reduce some of the potential risks of this, it is important for us to remember that gambling is a chance-based activity, meaning that the outcome will always be out of our control. Although our brains can begin to think that we have control over the outcome we, unfortunately, do not. Moreover, despite the past outcomes, each bet and play is independent from any before it, and the odds of any gambling activity will stay the same.