Game Theory: How Loot Boxes HACK YOUR BRAIN!

Do you love watching game theory
But don’t want the hassle of logging into YouTube and waiting for an upload that’s supposed to happen on Saturday
But it’s almost always late every week
Well now you don’t have to. Get all the satisfaction of putting together
mind-blowing theories of your own with
Theory crates. An exciting new feature that lets all you loyal theorists feel the pride and accomplishment of concocting a new theory out of literally nothing
Each box contains a random assortment of theory components and memes for you to make your very own game theory,
From common materials like Mario and Pokemon to super rare content like Doki Doki literature club and even YouTube
Meta theories. Now you too can prove that Pikachu is a sociopath or that PewDiePie is Sans It’s as easy as 1 2
Insert your credit card number here, and today to celebrate the big launch
I’m giving each of you loyal theorists a free crate to get the ball rolling
Let’s open it up and see what’s inside
Alright, we got purple guy a picture of me in a thinking pose, ooh
Blank was in a coma all along that one is super rare and a diet coke gag Damn it every time. Oh wait
There’s one more in here
Hello Internet welcome to game theory where at this point
You’ve probably surmised that this episode is all about loot box systems come to every Triple A game near you from Shadow of War to Battlefront 2
2017 generated a lot of strong feelings on this topic prompting enough gamer rage that government started to notice and question whether they’re technically gambling
Some countries are even in conversations about banning them entirely
But at the end of the day the debate over loot crate’s isn’t about how they make us feel
It’s about whether they’re objectively bad for players are they just an annoying business practice
Or is there something more sinister at work here do loot boxes
actually lie
Manipulate and steal by creating situations where gamers especially young gamers are tricked into gambling without knowing it
Actually a really complex question with major legal
implications and as such I’m not gonna come down on one side of the issue your
Opinions on loot boxes can only be decided by you
But what I am going to do though is take you through some information that no one is talking about when arguing over this topic
The science and science doesn’t take sides science just tells you how your brain responds to things like video games
How it responds to loot boxes gambling in casinos?
and then you can compare and contrast the results so today and
Also later this week on Saturday since there’s a lot to cover on this topic to do a justice
I want to stop and take a couple minutes to objectively look at the biological and psychological
Levers loot crate’s utilize to help you decide whether you want to roll the dice and hopes of making your epic soldier look like your
Dad at a backyard barbecue
We begin our little exploration with the concept of the Skinner box a device created by behavioral psychologist BF Skinner to studies
Psychological conditioning his box contained a button a button that when pressed
Caused a reward to pop out
Skinner’s goal with the box was to prove that it was possible to condition animals and eventually humans to perform certain
Behaviors like pressing a button when you reward them what he discovered though was a bit more
Interesting his studies show that if you provided a reward every time the button was pressed test subjects
Just eventually got bored or felt like they’ve gotten enough and as a result they stopped pressing the button
But if he only gave rewards to test subject some of the times either
Randomly or on a set timer they kept coming back pressing the button over and over again sometimes
Indefinitely for a guy who wasn’t a game designer Skinner is probably one of the single most
influential people in the gaming industry because if you’ve ever played an MMORPG
A timer based social or mobile game or any game that rewards your actions intermittently rewards your actions intermittently intermittent
Intermittent slee I can’t say it. Any game that rewards your actions at the regular intervals with anything from points to rare drops well,
You’ve been inside one of Skinner’s
boxes by making players
anticipate an eventual
Reward rather than giving it to him immediately a game makers can make them want to play just a little bit longer for one more
Level or just one more item drop the reason. The reason we respond this way is due to our brains favorite neurotransmitter dopamine now
I’ve talked about the dopamine pathway before in the context of mobile games, so I’m not gonna get too in-depth here
Just click the iCard in the upper right hand corner of the screen to see that episode
But your dopamine pathway is the one that controls your brain’s reward
Center to make you feel good for performing behaviors that your brain thinks are beneficial
But it’s actually a bit more complicated than I let on in that previous episode
It’s not just open crate, get spray, feel happy. dopamine isn’t released when you receive a reward
It’s released when you do something that your brain
Anticipates will result in getting a reward the pressing of the button is what sets off the dopamine not
Necessarily what you get when you press that button and this has everything
To do with how loot crate’s hack into your brain with loot boxes the rewards you get are randomized
Which means that suddenly your brain has something to anticipate and more importantly a reason to release dopamine.
Well sure you might be disappointed to get Hanzo saying
For the tenth time your brain has already gotten its dopamine reward in the seconds that it spent opening the box
Many loot box systems actually further heighten the sense of anticipation with timers or long
Animations of the boxes opening. Think of all the fireworks that go off every time you crack open a new pack of hearthstone cards
Or a new overwatch loot box because your brain is rewarding you for buying and opening these boxes
Regardless of what crap sprays you’re getting in you naturally feel an impulse to buy more ever wonder
Why kids channels have so much success opening kinder eggs? This is it.
This is why this psychological phenomenon is present from the time of your birth
Another key psychological factor in the success of most loot box systems is the psychological concept of loss aversion?
Which is well?
Exactly what it sounds like human beings hate losing even more than we love winning in fact studies have shown that the average
Human feels two times worse about losing some things than they feel good about winning something of equal value this psychological
Principle plays a huge role in casinos when it comes to all forms of gambling, but especially
Completely random games like slots once you start gambling
Loss aversion can make it very hard to stop many gamblers lose a small amount of money
Then keep putting in more and more money
Just trying to win it back
This belief that eventually you’ll net out ahead if you just keep on going is called the sunk cost fallacy
A failure in the way that our brains work that convinces us to keep going even when we keep losing simply because we’ve already
invested so much time or money into an activity if you’ve ever stayed in a
Relationship longer than you should have most of the time
It’s because of sunk costs your brain is
Subconsciously weighing the time money and emotional investments that you’ve put into that relationship
And the longer you go the harder and harder
It is to dig yourself out even if you recognize that she’s a ball and chain on your leg of life
Holding you back weighing you down or on a personal note for me
I’m really bad at calling or texting people back and the longer I sit on that text the harder and harder
It is for me to write back because it’s like well
They gotta hate me at this point, but here’s the thing about the sunk cost fallacy
It’s just that a fallacy in casinos the longer you play the less likely you are to net out a head
Casinos know people hate to walk away when they’re losing
But they also know that their brain is gonna convince them to keep playing longer
Which is really bad for you since all casino games have higher odds for the house to win
It’s like a vortex for your brains chemistry and your wallet
Which is why they always say to go into a casino with a set amount of money
You’re prepared to lose and in the case of my text messages. Well. Yeah the longer
I go without responding the more likely people really will start to hate me
So let it be known Nicolas if you’re watching this episode
I promise I will text you back as soon as I’m done
more to the point of today’s episode though in the case of loot boxes some costs is why they can be such a
Slippery slope once you’ve bought one and haven’t gotten the item you were looking for it’s much more likely that you buy two
Three five ten until you finally get the item that you wanted now
You might expect that the loss of version principle acts as a deterrent to gambling after all if people hate losing so much
Why would they ever bet anything in the first place well?
That’s where
Incentives come in
Casinos offer plenty of perks to get your cash flowing from dining credits to free buffets even free chips at the tables
And I don’t mean free potato chips. I mean free like Cash Money chips although free potato chips would also be appreciated
Thank you very much. I prefer salt and vinegar Pringles
Please not sponsored, but totally could be sponsored video games do the exact same thing you ever wonder
Practically every game with a loot box gives you some for free or enough premium currency to buy one or while you’re allowed to earn
Them through regular gameplay with drops becoming less and less frequent the more you play just look at any mobile game with
Microtransactions, they always force you to make a fake micro transaction in the tutorial
It’s all there to get you started
To overcome that aversion to pinging and once you amass a decent collection of skins or in-game items it can suddenly become
Very tempting to spend just a few extra dollars to roll the dice one or two more times to try and complete a costume set
Especially when those rewards are only available for a limited amount of time
Enter exclusive loot which puts a deadline on you making the decision to pay if you want it
You gotta get it before it’s gone forever all of it
It’s all there to make buying those items a normal part of your gameplay experience
But we’re still not done another way casinos and loot boxes exploit weaknesses in your brains is by creating what’s known as an illusion of
Control in Vegas many gamblers are more comfortable betting on games where they get to make the decisions themselves such as blackjack
since that makes them feel like they’ve influenced the game with skill, but even if you make a
Mathematically optimal play on every hand in a game of blackjack your odds of winning are still only 42 percent
While the house has a forty nine percent chance of winning if you play for enough time you will always
Lose more than you win, but it feels more fair because of that illusion trol if that idea doesn’t sound familiar
Hope it should because it’s the same psychological principle as loop boxes many japanese gotcha games let you pick between several different
banners that contain different characters
Or items or have increased odds of dropping certain ones in Fire Emblem Heroes for instance you can even pick which color of unit you
Want from a random selection of five at the end of the day your winnings are still doled out by a random number generator
But simply giving you a choice of which slot
you wanna spin is enough to make you feel more comfortable trading in your
Cashola for a shot at the prize now up to this point
I’ve only focused on how these games in general get around the ways human psychology works, but I’m far from done over
I guess I should say the people who create these games are far from done because what I haven’t touched on yet is that these
Games aren’t just trying to get everyone to spend more
They’re specifically trying to get you yes–you Lee’s cousin kid Finch who lives on Guildford Boulevard to spend more money
They’re studying the way you play when you decide to make
Purchases even when you get fed up and quit for the day
Then suddenly tweaking your unique gaming experience in order for you to spend as much money as possible
But that is a huge topic that needs to be covered all on its own so later this week should only be a few days
Say Saturday check back to see how games are spying on your behavior to get you to spend money to roll the dice
It’s pretty impressive. How scary some of this stuff can be oh yeah, and as a part of that episode
I’ll actually be covering the other side of the argument to why none of this actually
Constitutes any form of gambling which I honestly think might get some of you loot box haters to put down your pitchforks and stop
Right into the Belgian gambling commission any way shatter that loot button you see on screen right now to get a random reward
It’ll probably just be a subscription and ensure that you see that episode when it comes out later this week and in the meantime
Remember, it’s all just a theory a game
Theory, thanks for paying I mean watching and hey if you missed it check out that episode
I mentioned earlier on how mobile games hack your brain
It’s actually a really good supplement to this video, so if you’re fascinated by how neurotransmitters
affect the games that you play
And how you play um well then click that button you see on screen
Now if you’ll excuse me you need to go to text Nikolas back

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

  1. Oh there's one more crate (opening) oh no ! Don't start the vid ! I want to do more of this ad! NO! (The vid started) (intro)

  2. Is the "Sunk Cost Fallacy" applicable to those damned Crane Games??? Stupid Eevee plushie got me spending 800yen when I could have bought it for cheaper somewhere else!!

  3. I was so excited when you mentioned going into a casino with a set amount of money because if I go into the slots area of a pub I only ever have put in $10 and then I quit. Also I deal with my preexisting adictive personality by only entering that area once every few monthd. This means in the grand scheme of things I won't lose money that is essential for me to eat or pay rent.

  4. i wish i got a theory crate every time a game theory came out. but just to i would allready have 281 of them, and yes i counted

  5. I downloaded candy crush and I got bored and I download fortnite got bored on by got bored man I’m addicted to games but not loot boxes

  6. Dopamine doesn't work on me, because I can't spend anything in order to gamble, MY MOTHER DOESN'T ALLOW IT. Every time I ask for something I want I can either get it or not, I mostly expect not to get something I want, because I wrapped up a lot of bad reputation that's makes them think that "When I buy him a PS4 is he gonna stop going to school am I just wasting my money in order for him to have fun?" that's why dopamine doesn't work on me.

  7. Mat-Mat: Oh and one more thing in here opens last thing
    Me: It's the intro put FNAF 1-3 ending "Yay" thing here

    EDIT: i am 10 and i LOVE dill pickle chips so that is weird but i don't care i love dill pickle chips <3

  8. A fun example of this working a bit too well comes from a browser game called Granblue Fantasy.

    Basically, there's this Japanese guy that wants to get a specific unit named Andira. She's extremely limited (appears 6-12 times a year) but also quite strong, and this man is determined to get her. He sets up a stream and starts rolling on the banner. Fast-forward quite a few minutes later and he's about 6,500 dollars (you get 10 draws from the gacha for every pull, and each pull costs 3000 yen or 25 dollars) in. He still has not pulled Andira. Despite having already wasted a large amount of money, the guy was fully willing to continue throwing money at the game, only stopped by his bank blocking his card under the premise that his card had been compromised by someone.

    The funny thing about this incident was that the developer of Granblue Fantasy, Cygames, actually got government attention for how well their system works and had to put a system in place to prevent this. Now, for every 30 pulls you do (which is 300 draws), you get a free character of your choice from that banner. It completely fucked over the way they pulled off the sunk cost fallacy, as now everyone just saves up 300 pulls to get whatever they want.

  9. The intro is guaranteed on your first crate, the Diet coke gag is always guaranteed ni matter what.

  10. When I play Overwatch I always keep the lootboxes I got from levelling up, but when I tell my friends to do that they always say: Why would You do that? That takes so long, just buy them that not that diffucult You know
    But when I do buy lootboxes I still keep them, only by events so I can get stuff that my friends can’t anymore, and then I’ll be anoying to them with what I got and they didn’t.. because I was smart👌🏻

  11. After the intro, MatPat speculated that Purple Guy was in a coma the whole time. (Most likely from Diet Coke)

  12. 7 year old Johnny spends his entire allowance on a claw machine- no one bats an eye. 15 year old Bruce buys a single loot box – "HOW DARE YOU LET A CHILD GAMBLE!"

  13. I can use that free crate…

    While theorizing about Purple Guy, MatPat was in a Diet Coke-Enduced coma all along. BOOM!

  14. Hey matpat, just wanted to let you know, that I’m writing a college research paper on this topic. You are now one of my sources. (Im citing you because you pointed me towards SO many points) I’ll post it on GT Reddit once it’s done. Thanks for this even over a year later!

  15. Fast forward to 2019:

    EA: "Loot Boxes are Surprise Mechanics. They are like Kinder Eggs"…. wow!
    I knew I heard that statement before! Looks like EA does watch Game Theory!

  16. All this theory just to shown, how people are easily tricked, guilible, weak minded and greedy(maybe).
    Those lootboxes never impressed me even the first time I seen it and will never make me want to buy one.

    This is why game like Rpg single player Diablo or the game I'd played Grim Dawn; was fun but the Rng drop slowly bore me then eventually stop playing. Of couse those are free and the only effort you need is to play the game, so no complaints here.

  17. I know this is all a joke with theory crate buuuuuut, I think it's a beast concept to give us minor pieces of an upcoming theory for us to piece together… a theory theory of your will.

  18. I got sucked into a Gacha game for the first time on my PS4. Realized that I kind of did get my brain hacked through the endorphins of getting rare units, especially Limited Edition ones… it was my choice to get into it, but yeah… cut off my transactions when I realized I spent so much and could have used the money spent on stuff like DLC for other games like Ni No Kuni 2, or other games I like playing just as much.

  19. All you have to do at a casino is pray to win. We've been on a couple of trips where my dad paid for the trip we went on as a family (which was several thousand dollars) by praying before he gambled for a few hours in a casino! He did the whole "only take 100 dollars in and expect to lose it" thing too.

  20. hey MATPAT! I watched the second one first, so could u plz start saying part 1 and part 2 in titles, it makes things soooooooooooooo much easier.

  21. I am currently using your videos of the topic of loot boxes and gambling to help give me ideas on what to talk about in my research paper on the same topic. Thank you for inspiring and encouraging me all these years, even through college!

  22. Did anyone else get Purple guy, Mat in a thinking pose, __ was in a coma all along, a diet coke bath and an episode of game theory in their crate?

  23. Once I decided to play one more game of turf war in splatoon 2 before I played another game but I lost, and I didn’t want to leave after losing so I played another game

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