Barnsley Council are encouraging parents to speak to their children about the dangers of inadvertent gambling within video games following a rise in the prominence of in-game purchases.
Whether it's through loot boxes, which offer mystery prizes of varying importance, or the sale of items to change the appearance of a character, children are being encouraged to spend more money to enhance their video gaming experience beyond the initial purchase of the game itself.
While some of the prizes can be obtained with experience points gained by in-game progress, some require in-game currency, real money or a combination of both.
When in-game currency is purchased, there is usually 'change' left over after buying the items, not leaving enough to purchase more without buying more of the currency.
The use of in-game currency adds a layer between the player and their purchases, making it harder to assess the true value of what is being bought.
Young gamers in the UK spent approximately £270 million on those microtransactions in 2019.
Councillor Margaret Bruff, Cabinet Spokesperson for Children's Services, said: "We know video games are an extremely popular pastime among children and young people for many years now and this will have particularly been the case during lockdown as a way for them to remain in touch with their friends.
"However, some games manufacturers are looking to exploit children and young people through in-game purchases and microtransactions, preying on vulnerabilities relating to things like social status by using psychological and marketing techniques to encourage the purchases, which can often come at a considerable cost to unsuspecting parents."
Councillor Jim Andrews, Cabinet Spokesperson for Public Health, said: "The lines between video gaming and gambling are becoming increasingly blurred and we want parents to be able to have open and honest discussions with their children about the dangers of in-game purchases and the links between them and gambling."
For more information, visit the YGAM (Young Gamers and Gamblers Education Trust) website, which is dedicated for parents to inform, educate and safeguard: www.parents.ygam.org.