Markus Meschik is head of Enter, an NGO dedicated to the counselling of families and institutions on the topic of digital games in education in Graz, Austria. He is a lecturer in the fields of social pedagogy, counseling and digital games at the University of Graz, where he received his doctorate on the topic of digital games in the family, and at the FH Joanneum Graz. He is a reviewer and expert for the BuPP of the Federal Chancellery.
“And for my next trick, I’ll make your wallet disappear!” Adolescents’ use and perception of “free-to-play” games in Austria
FROG 2021 – Talk
Current financing models of digital games such as the “free-to-play” model are generating unprecedented revenues in the video game industry (Wijman 2018). Many games seem to be tailored to and deliberately appeal to an adolescent target group, be it through their audiovisual design or by their easily accessible game mechanics. Other game series have been established for many years and added said financing models later. Due to structural similarities of these financing models with traditional gambling, this poses challenges for legislators as well as educators and gamers themselves. Some aspects are perceived as particularly critical. Lootboxes, for example, have been under investigation for some time and are already regulated in some European countries (Close/Lloyd 2021). However, lootboxes are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to financing models. “Pay-to-win” mechanisms and simulated gambling receive much less international attention, but like lootboxes, they exploit cognitive dissonances in gamers. These dissonances are similar to infantile magical thinking as described by Piaget (1926), where it is assumed that thoughts or actions can cause events that are causally unrelated. This contribution discusses how magical thinking by gamers can lead to increased spending in certain games, which cognitive distortions come into play in this process and how certain financing models take advantage of precisely this magical thinking. The contribution is based on the results of the author’s dissertation, in which 30 adolescents between the ages of 12 and 18 were surveyed about their video game behavior using a qualitative approach.