What we found in the research was that Pasifika youth (16-30 years) are engaging in loot box spending at a higher rate than non-Maori non-Pasifika (nMnP) youth when playing online video games. Pasifika youth were also shown to be over twice as likely to spend over $20 in a month on loot boxes in comparison to nMnP.
What was really interesting in our study was learning about the culture within the gaming community of young Pasifika. Peer pressure was evident, how you were perceived by your fellow gamers is an area of great importance. Gamers spoke of "putting in the hours" to gain the respect and acceptance of their peers, as opposed to "buying" their way there. This suggested a stigma toward youth who did not play the same way. This was particularly interesting because it showed how gaming has a strong sporting culture for Pasifika in New Zealand. And although this culture may sometimes advise against the purchasing of loot boxes and products alike, it presents as a risk factor for many other problem gaming behaviours. One focus group participant shared, "For gaming, I'd give up time to try and win. I'm down for squeezing in four hours of sleep if it means winning and earning stuff..." Sleep deprivation, anti-social behaviour and aggression were themes consistently shared by participants in our focus groups. Pasifika youth also described signs of gaming harm, including loot boxes, to be identical to that of gambling harm.
Mapu Maia are concerned with the development of products such as loot boxes and their availability to people of all ages. The process of purchasing a loot box involves money being spent, or bet, in hopes of winning an online item of value; however, the outcome is decided by chance. Thus it is our position that loot boxes need to be officially recognised by law as a mode of gambling, like countries such as Belgium have done. Young people (under-18 years) could be at serious risk of harm from products that employ the same techniques used by the gambling industry. Should loot boxes become an official mode of gambling in New Zealand, the Government can more effectively manage age restrictions of this product. Also, problem gambling services like Mapu Maia can actively start to support families experiencing harm and addiction to loot boxes.
More research is needed to dive further into the key drivers of certain behaviour for our young gamers and the underlying reasons for those drivers.