Children Are Pressured To Buy In-Game Items

Skins can be a symbol of status among kids.

Image credit: Epic Games | Fortnite

Adults talk about the harm of in-game shops a lot, but how is it in children's world? According to a study by Kamilla Knutsen Steinnes and Clara Julia Reich of Oslo Metropolitan University, kids are sometimes bullied over skins and other items they can buy to show off.

The researchers talked with children aged 10 to 15 to learn about how they are influenced to spend money in games. It turns out, there are often social factors influencing their decisions: they have to have certain. items to fit in.

"Children may experience being called poor if they haven't spent money on their character. Children who have spent money on their in-game character can gain increased attention and other advantages, thus buying popularity," Steinnes says.

Gaming is integrated into children's lives, and, as one teenager put it, "if you don't play with anyone, you kind of have nothing to talk about at school." Steinnes notes that there is no "sharp distinction" between kids' online and offline worlds: "These are just different parts of the social world they navigate, and appearance, or skins, are important identity markers."

Skins and other flashy items are status symbols. Children are often influenced by memes and trends and get bullied if they don't have something they "should."

"The pressure to fit in resembles what is already taking place in other contexts but takes on new forms. Some children might end up feeling excluded if they lack the resources (e.g., Wi-Fi, gaming equipment, in-game currency) to play with their friends or might get picked on based on what ‘skin’ they are wearing."

Not surprisingly, other forms of discrimination, based on race, gender, and digital body-image, also take place in-game.

The main problem is that children lack consumer competence and are susceptible to marketing and "dark patterns" – manipulative or unethical designs. The authors have found 13 of forms of such patterns.

“Manipulative design is interfaces that force, pressure, or trick consumers into making choices that are in the company's best interest, by exploiting the users' weaknesses,” Steinnes says.

Kids in the study spent from a hundred to over a thousand Norwegian kroner (10-100 USD) on game items per year. Mechanics like loot boxes and battle passes definitely urge players to buy in-game currency. While the former are slowly getting banned, with questionable success, the outcome depends on the world's efforts, not just a couple of countries.

Learn more about the study here and here. Also, join our 80 Level Talent platform and our Telegram channel, follow us on InstagramTwitter, and LinkedIn, where we share breakdowns, the latest news, awesome artworks, and more.

Join discussion

Comments 0

    You might also like

    We need your consent

    We use cookies on this website to make your browsing experience better. By using the site you agree to our use of cookies.Learn more