MMORPGs are the some of the most popular online games, appealing to a wide range of players around the world. Teenagers and young adults are the target demographics of games like World of Warcraft and Runescape, but are developers aiming too low? In Sydney, parents are concerned that these types of games are encouraging children to gambling – after one young person racked up a bill worth $700 while playing Runescape.
MMORPGs like RuneScape allow players to embark on medieval quests. Upon completion of these adventures, they obtain spoils that can be used to buy in-game armour, weapons and items. While these transaction are carried out with digital play-money, gambling ‘clans’ exist in the MMORPG’s world, coercing underage players into spending their parents’ money.
One unlucky player from Sydney was just 15-years-old when he was targeted by a gambling clan. While it was not explicitly stated how they managed to get $700 from the player, there is a number of ways that these groups go about scamming teens. They often promise players commission for recruiting others into the clan, but those who get roped into the scam simply end up owing money.
“These clans are equivalent to a casino”, says Emil Hodzic, psychologist at the Video Game Addiction Treatment Clinic. “Parents need to be aware that RuneScape is not as safe and soft as people imagine it to be.”
Hodzic treats a number of teenage video game addicts every year. Many of them also show signs of problem gambling. There seems to be a slippery slope, but there is still little research on the topic to prove there is a correlation between the two.