Lootboxes are Manipulative and Exploitative According to New Report
In this article, we look at how game studios manipulate players for Lootbox.
After addressing the relationship between gambling and lootbox in the first part of our Lootbox article , we will try to find answers to moral questions about how game studios use data analysis techniques and whether they try to manipulate players from this section.
How is Player Data Accessed?
As gamers, many of us go through a lot of texts before we start the game because we usually don’t care. However, if we look at these texts more carefully and read the texts, many games get approval from us in order to be able to examine, analyze, store and also share our information on many subjects such as spending, behavior and playing style in the game.
It is a mystery whether the companies that have data about the players use this data in the game making processes or in the selling of lootboxes. It is difficult to say that game studios are using this data to clearly manipulate the players regarding the situation in question. However, this situation still does not acquit the game companies.
While this method of data analytics used to be accessible and used only by large game studios, today this phenomenon is quite accessible and low-cost methods for many studios, but which can yield high returns.
Today, many companies, especially Amazon, sell data analysis packages to their customers and even interpret them for them. In particular , GameAnalytics has taken its place in this field and gives direction to the sector by providing both cheap and high quality services to its customers.
The aforementioned data about games and players can include simple data such as the number of downloads, as well as more complex information such as in-game behavior, duration of playing the game, frequency of playing the game, to studios.
Apart from the aforementioned data, it also stores and processes many games, geolocations, system features and spending habits. As you can imagine, game developers who have access to so much information, but especially AAA studios, have information that can manipulate players in order to manage their spending habits.
In the light of the said data, game studios can adjust which players have the potential to spend more money on lootbox content, how in-game ads should be placed and how they should be optimized, considering these criteria for the player.
What is Game Whales?
In addition to using data analysis, there are many softwares that directly interfere with the game experience of the players. At the top of these software is Game Whales.
Game of Whales software is designed to monitor the behavior of players in real time and interact with them in the best overall way. Game Whales interacts with users using their analytics values.
At this point, heads may have started to get a little confused. Let’s delve into this issue a little more deeply.
Software like Game Whales is designed to enable game developers, both small and large, to create conditions that increase gamers’ in-game spending. For example, while a high spender on games may show almost no ads at first to encourage the player to purchase an ad-free game package, after increasing loyalty to the game, it may constantly show ads to aggressively buy the ad-free package of the game and manipulate the player to get the ad-free package of the game. can. Likewise, for players who are less likely to make in-game purchases, they can make stable ad impressions and compare them with paid players, manipulate the players over the difficulty of the struggle or earn money by showing more ads.
Of course, although what I have said seems to be the methods that free-to-play mobile games will use in general, you can brainstorm about what methods can be guided in lootbox policies, especially in computer games, taking inspiration from the examples I have given.
Can Big Data Manipulate Gamers?
Many game studios, especially AAA game studios, insist that they do not use the data they have obtained about the players to the detriment of the players. However, many people do not agree that game studios, having players’ data, can interfere with and manipulate their spending habits.
Shosana Zuboff and Surveillance Capitalism
Zuboff’s theory says that surveillance capitalism is a new type of market and a distinctive method of capitalist hoarding. In his 2014 article, A Digital Declaration: Big Data as Surveillance Capitalism, he characterizes surveillance capitalism as “a radically hollowed-out version of information capitalism.” It is based on the commodification of reality and the use of behavioral data to be analyzed and sold.
In a subsequent article in 2015, Zuboff analyzes the social implications of this evolution of capitalism. Zuboff distinguishes between “surveillance goods”, “surveillance capital” and “surveillance capitalism” and their dependence on the mediation of computers as a global construct. This new form of expression of power, which is widespread, often accepted and composed of hidden mechanisms of inference, commodification and control, fundamentally jeopardizes freedom, democracy and privacy.
According to Zuboff, Google and Facebook are leading surveillance capitalism, making it the dominant form of information capitalism, just as Ford and General Motors led mass production a century ago.
In his Oxford University lectures published in 2016, Zuboff described the mechanisms and practices of surveillance capitalism. He introduced the concept of “dispossession of the surveillance side” and said that this contradicts the psychological and political aspects of self-determinism as it focuses on rights in the surveillance regime. This has been called a blow from the top.
Shoshana Zuboff’s book The Age of Surveillance Capitalism was published in 2019. In this book, he examines in detail the unprecedented power of surveillance capitalism and the willingness of companies to predict and control our behavior. Zuboff outlined the four main features of the logic of surveillance capitalism, based on the four main features identified by Google chief economist Hal Varian.
- Moving towards even more data collection and analysis
- Contractual advances in computer management and use of automation
- Desire to customize and customize the services offered to users on digital platforms
- Using the technological infrastructure to provide continuous experiences for users and customers
The Surveillance Capitalism Debates
Although surveillance capitalism is a grounded and sensible subject based on commodities, there is a lot of disagreement on this issue, as there are on many other issues. Lee Vinsel, primarily from Virginia Tech University, argues that the data in question does not deprive us of our free will. According to Vinsel, people have free will no matter what, and their actions after a few simple data analyzes will not be affected positively or negatively.
Lee Vinsel said in a statement, “Mark Zuckerberg can deal with data analysis and big data as much as he wants. At the end of the day, he cannot sell me socks”. According to Lee Vinsel and many other people, as a result of the data analyzed, companies show us products that we are likely to buy. However, the will of purchasing these products belongs to the people, and if a person does not want to buy them, no data can make people buy the product.
Are We Really Being Manipulated?
The main answer to this question is actually yes. However, as you can imagine, we, as humanity, are manipulated in many areas. As people, we are unfortunately exposed to manipulation in many different areas, from restaurant chains to grocery chains, shopping centers, theme parks and amusement parks.
At this point, I think the main issue that needs to be discussed should be the violence of this manipulation. Today, when you enter a grocery chain, there are many methods that encourage you to shop as long as possible and buy more things. What is important at this point is how much the manipulation and the applied technique affect our purchasing decisions and preferences.
In the growing developing world, capitalism is getting harder and harder every day. In this direction, while we are exposed to this as humans, we still need to be able to hold the strings. When we see a glowing candy in a beautiful showcase, it is more important to have the ability and will to buy it or not.
Why Are The Manipulation Techniques In The Games So Much Criticism?
The answer is very clear to me. There was no such thing in the past. As individuals who serve capitalism in every aspect of life, playing games was perhaps the most relaxing and distracting entertainment tool that we did not have to spend a lot of money on (I do not include our country in this regard).
As players, we used to enter the game we bought and have the opportunity to both socialize and have fun. However, the spread of capitalism to the game industry today caused the players to react. When we look at the concept of lootbox, it is called gambling in many ways and sanctions are brought. However, when we look at it with an objective eye, we come across products and situations that carry gambling elements in many parts of our daily lives.
Winning a car from an ice cream lottery, winning a scooter from a chips lottery, numerical lottery, scratchcards, national lottery and many other examples, as humanity, are faced with gambling elements. In this case, it is important to protect our will as humanity. However, it is important to remember that there is a small fine line at this point.
Aggressive advertising policies are not pursued for gambling items and data analysis is not conducted brutally. In this context, lootbox will become a reality of our lives, just like scratchcards, at the point where the game studios get the right setting. But if game studios force players to buy them or compel them in the name of competition, it will have to be subjected to much harsher criticism at that point.
As a result, we, as humanity, have been subjected to manipulations in many different areas for years. At this point, assuming that we are a user and a consumer in every aspect of life, being more conscious consumers will be the right choice. When the game or a different subject really starts to change our buying habits with manipulation techniques, we should unite and raise our voices on both forums and platforms such as Twitter for the correct adjustment of this violence.
However, we need to understand that companies are commercial organizations and they resort to such methods in order to maintain their continuity and profitability at the same time.
The most important point in this regard is to raise awareness of our children on these issues and to protect them from such situations until they reach a certain maturity. At this point, it is very important to pay attention to the age tags and user tags in the games and to make the right child supervision.
Finally, our children can be influenced and out of control much more easily than we are. That’s why, as parents, in this period when the world is getting more cruel with each passing day, it is the healthiest thing to control and control almost everything that our children access and consume without letting them know.