A BBC report that discussed recent occurrences of overspending in games detailed one particular incident of a mother’s son. This young gamer, as recounted, had spent more than £3,160 (about $4,000) in one game alone, far more than what is ordinarily conceivable for such an entertainment medium.
The game in question was the mobile game Hidden Artifacts. This title is a fairly popular game developed by Blastworks, that is built on the mechanics of tapping sections of an area shown on-screen for clues and information, that would lead you to the next objective.
Hidden Artifacts has a standard microtransaction system that is integrated directly on game (story) progress. This design may or may not ultimately be one of the factors, but the very existence of the system itself did affect the son of Susie Breare, who ended up spending the amount mentioned above, presumably trying to bypass the game’s restrictions, as he casually tried to progress continuously.
His son was reported to be a 22-year old young adult. However, Mrs. Breare explains that he has several different psychological and physiological issues. Among these were cerebral palsy, autism, and several learning disabilities. According to her, he had the cognitive capabilities of a seven-year-old.
She claimed that due to his inability to interact with people regularly, he is far more glued to his iPad and PlayStation for entertainment and education. Hence, his seemingly unnatural obsession for the mobile game app.
The reported amount was said to have been cumulatively spent starting February until March this year, in a span of about a month. The grand sum was claimed to have been equivalent to his son’s entire savings up to that point in his life.
While Apple’s iTunes was entirely receptive to her plight, she managed to “hit a brick wall” when the developer of the game itself is yet to give any form of response to her numerous calls and messages. It is unknown at the moment if the amount spent will ever be refunded.
The issue of microtransactions and questionable additional purchases in games has been one of the most contentious topics in gaming as of late. It spans many issues and problems from various situations, from unsupervised obsessive game spending by children, to whether loot boxes can be considered as a form of gambling.
The problem of compulsive game spending has now escalated to significant heights, that authorities are now trying to crack the case. Many companies such as EA, are currently under fire from legal accusations related to these issues, with their current business practices now generally viewed as unfavorable, even ridiculed to a significant degree by the internet community.
The BBC report itself cited many more cases of people spending too much on certain games. The central themes of these incidences being that gamers with little to no authority (children, people with mental disabilities, etc.) having direct access to financial sources, game transaction systems being too deceptive to let users know how much they are actually spending, or exploiting the very compulsive nature of some people to continue gambling on loot box-type in-game purchases.
As of now, regulations on such practices are currently being considered. However, there is still no definitive action done to mitigate the adverse effects that are happening right now. Even more egregious, is that the very same overspending issues commonly seen in continuous game purchases today are summarily prevented in actual gambling by specific laws.
For the moment, the general hope is to get at least more people to be acutely aware of the issue. In the current absence of regulations for these business practices, being vigilant about how you spend in-game, or how you provide access to pay, will be essential to prevent being the next game overspending victim.