Ethereum Crypto-Games: Mechanics, Prevalence, and Gambling Similarities

Oliver James Scholten, University of York,
Nathan Gerard Jayy Hughes, University of York,
Sebastian Deterding, University of York,
Anders Drachen, University of York,
James Alfred Walker, University of York,
David I Zendle, York St. John University

Alberto Mora
Oct 2 · 2 min read

Our paper is the first to take an in-depth look at ‘crypto-games’, which use cryptocurrency technology to purchase in-game items and in-game actions. These games are growing in popularity, and have attracted large financial investments from players. We find these investments for in-game items and actions to be tied to chance-based mechanics (as found in many video games), with the difference that in the case of crypto-games, payment is made before these actions are completed.

Using a sample of top crypto-games operating on the Ethereum network, we describe their mechanics at the technical and gameplay level, and use data to show how their users have been spending since their creation.

On top of this description, we introduce legal and psychological definitions of gambling which have been used in other areas of video games like loot boxes. We combine these definitions and apply them to each of the games in the sample described above. We find that all of the games in the sample meet our combined definition, which raises similar concerns around these types of games as the widely publicised concerns surrounding loot boxes and gacha games.

Ultimately, this work is an attempt to draw scholar’s attention to crypto-games in general, and potential similarities to gambling in particular, so that we can better understand how their mechanics affect players, both in terms of spending, and gameplay.

Contact author: Oliver James Scholten

CHI PLAY session:
Broader Reflections
Thursday, 24 October 2019, 16:00–17:30

Please feel free to also write comments or questions for the authors in the space below!


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