David Zendle

David Zendle is a Lecturer in the Department of Computer Science at the University of York, where he supervises four PhD students.

 

He is considered one of the world’s leading experts on the social impacts of video game monetisation. His outputs include the world’s most highly-cited paper on the policy-critical subject of loot boxes. 

 

Dr. Zendle has provided oral testimony regarding the impact of monetisation to both the Australian Senate Standing Committees on Environment and Communications; the UK DCMS Parliamentary Select Committee on Immersive and Addictive Technologies; the House of Lords Select Committee on the Social and Economic Impact of the Gambling Industry; and the USA’s Federal Trade Commission. 

 

He is an affiliate of the Behavioural Insights Team and also holds an honorary research position within the NHS, where he is responsible for coordinating observational research at the NHS Centre for Internet and Gaming Disorders.

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Selected Research

Over the past five years, Dr. Zendle has pioneered a novel seam of research on the prevalence and societal impacts of video game monetisation.

His first line of work in this area concerns the behavioural correlates of spending in video games, with a specific focus on links between loot box spending and gambling.

 

He also leads an emerging thread of research on the changing composition of the Video Game Economy, and has published multiple analyses of different trends in gaming uptake and engagement, using large-scale public secondary datasets

His full research outputs are available here. Selected papers are outlined below.

 

The changing face of desktop video game monetisation: An exploration of exposure to loot boxes, pay to win, and cosmetic microtransactions in the most-played Steam 

games of 2010-2019

PLoS ONE, May 2020

This study involved the analysis of the daily play sessions of games on Steam, with the aim of finding when different monetisation schemes gained popularity on desktop.

Results suggested that cosmetic microtransactions and loot boxes experienced rapid growth during 2012–2014, leading to high levels of exposure by April 2019: 71.2% of play sessions on Steam took place within games with loot boxes at this point, and 85.89% of play sessions took place within games with cosmetic microtransactions. By contrast, pay to win microtransactions did not appear to experience similar growth in desktop games during the period

Paper available here

Adolescents and loot boxes:

Links with problem gambling

and motivations for purchasing

Royal Society Open Science, 2019

A large-scale study of 1155 adolescents investigated whether there was a relationship between problem gambling and loot box spending in this particularly vulnerable group.

 

This study was pre-registered, meaning that we created a public and frozen version of our hypotheses prior to running the experiment itself.

Not only was the relationship again present, but it appeared to be approximately twice as strong amongst adolescents as it was in adults.

Full paper available here

Problem gamblers spend less money when loot boxes are removed from a game: a before and after study of Heroes of the Storm

PeerJ, 2019

A natural experiment was conducted to examine the consequences of removing loot boxes from a game.

We measured gambling problems and in-game spending amongst players of Heroes of the Storm, before and after loot boxes were removed from that game.

After loot boxes were removed from the game, problem gamblers spent significantly less money in-game in contrast to other groups. These results suggest that the presence of loot boxes in a game may lead to problem gamblers spending more money in-game.

Full paper available here

Paying for loot boxes is linked to problem gambling, regardless of specific features like cash-out and pay-to-win: A preregistered investigation

Computers in Human Behaviour, 2020

A large-scale, preregistered, study of 1200 gamers was conducted to investigate whether certain types of loot boxes were more strongly linked to problem gambling than others.

Our results indicate that some loot box features may weakly strengthen the relationship between loot box spending and problem gambling. However, our main conclusion is that regardless of the presence or absence of specific features of loot boxes, if they are being sold to players for real-world world money, then their purchase is linked to problem gambling.

Full paper available here

Video game loot boxes are linked to problem gambling: Results of a large-scale survey

PLoS ONE, Nov 18

This large-scale survey of gamers (n = 7,422) found initial evidence for an important link between the amount that gamers spent on loot boxes and the severity of their problem gambling: The more money that gamers spent on loot boxes, the more severe their problem gambling was.

Paper available here.

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