Jonathan Peniket, like many other adolescents, enjoyed purchasing random player “bags” for his Fifa football video game squad. However, when his mother was diagnosed with cancer, his spending on these “loot boxes” became an addiction he couldn’t contain, as he sees it.
The House of Lords Gambling Committee is pressing for immediate regulation of loot boxes, which are not currently classified as gambling. “Since I was a change, I’ve been a huge fan of video games. On weekends, I remember getting up early and sneaking straight downstairs to play Fifa 05 with the sound turned off so I wouldn’t wake my parents,” Jonathan recalls. “Now that I’m 21 years old, I’m lucky to have met some of my closest friends via the internet, and I believe that video games can be beneficial to any boy. “This is why I feel compelled to share my story of how ‘loot box gambling’ contributed to one of the most traumatic experiences of my life. EA Sports introduced the Ultimate Team game mode to their Fifa series in 2009.
Users can then introduce these players to their teams, similar to a large online football trading card game. Better players offer you an advantage, and these cards are exchanged in a virtual currency and market. You can purchase packs of cards that include a random set of cards.”
How I Progressed
“I recall asking my parents in 2012 if I could use my money to purchase packs and being frustrated when my father said the packs were “gambling” before eventually agreeing. It can be even worse if I decided to practice credit card gambling in the past. At the time, the notion that it was gambling seemed absurd to me. “I realized my chances of ‘boxing’ my favourite players were slim” Despite feeling slightly underwhelmed, I spent the money, opened my packs, got lucky a couple of times, and tried to stay optimistic. I thought to myself, ‘If I could only invest another £15…’ “After that, it was four years of investing more and more money on player packs, each time hoping for that buzz that only came once in a while.
As time went by, I became more and more private about it. To keep my parents from finding out how much I was spending, I would buy a voucher from a High Street store and hide it in my bed. I couldn’t think of anything else I’d rather spend my cash on at the moment. Every time, I hoped that this would be the time when I struck it rich.”
When I was 17, I received my first debit card, and the choice to spend money on the game became instantaneous, with no need to purchase vouchers or fear that my parents would discover them.” 2017 was the year in which everything in my life changed. I was in my final year of A-levels, with just hazy intentions to attend university. My mother passed away in September.
“I looked for some means of coping.” The excitement of opening packs provided an outlet for me. Any logical sense of moderation and the importance of money saved for my future by my parents and grandparents started to fade. I felt like I needed money right now to survive and that my older self would somehow appreciate it in years to come. At first, I spent £30, then £40, then £50.” I was putting £80 into the game four or five times a night when my card started blocking my transactions. After days of watching people open packs on YouTube when my parents thought I was upstairs revising, the money ran out a few weeks before my exams.”
This was money earned by my parents and grandparents and given to me as savings account for my future. I’d squandered nearly £3,000 in the process.
“I take full responsibility for what occurred. I made the decisions on how to invest the money. When my parents found out and read the bank statements, they were devastated.”
It Was Addictive
“When I think back on what happened, one of the things that stands out to me is how much money I spent without telling anyone in my family.”
“There was no lack of parental control because we had family rules with gaming time limits, and I regularly reassured my worried parents that I was not addicted to video games.”
“I still believe that, but when I bought boxes, I was addicted to the thrill of chance.” I now agree with my father’s remark from 2012, which enraged me at the time: video game packs and loot boxes are a type of gambling.
“With the recent House of Lords Gambling Committee pushing for randomized incentive transactions like these to be controlled under gambling laws as soon as possible, I want to do whatever I can to inform and prevent others from experiencing what I did.”
“I owe it to my adolescent self, as well as anyone who may regret wasting money on loot boxes, to do whatever I can to put an end to what is blatant exploitation.”