GAIG Game AI Research Group @ QMUL

[Seminar] 'The Blurring of Video Games and Gambling: Daily Fantasy, Esports, Live Streaming, and Loot Boxes' by Dr Mark R. Johnson


  • Title: The Blurring of Video Games and Gambling: Daily Fantasy, Esports, Live Streaming, and Loot Boxes
  • Speaker: Dr Mark R Johnson
  • Time and date: 1pm-2pm (GMT), Nov 27, 2018
  • Room: BR 3.02, Bancroft Road Teaching Rooms, QMUL

On Tuesday 27th November the Game AI Group will host a seminar by Mark R Johnson from the University of Alberta.


This talk will examine the growing importance of gambling in modern video game design, the growing importance of video game design to contemporary gambling forms, and the overall wider interweaving of the two within the past five to ten years and their implications for the future of digital play. Firstly, the rapid rise and newfound near-ubiquity of Esports gambling, both “within” games (e.g. skin betting) and “outside” through third-parties (e.g. sports betting), poses new questions about the increasing extent to which Esports are coming to resemble traditional physical sports, and how consumption of Esports competition is shifting as corporate interests and “professionalisation” increase. Secondly, the paper will examine the expanding ongoing controversies surrounding “loot boxes”, the question of whether or not these are gambling, and how anti-“gambling” discourses are being mobilised in opposition, despite the primary issue players report being a question of paying to win. Thirdly, I will consider daily fantasy sports platforms, their commonalities with “sports management” video games, and their status as ambiguous gambling-gaming artefacts which subvert the clear boundaries between the two. Fourthly, the talk will examine online poker broadcasts on the live-streaming platform, viewed by millions, and also how numerous live streamers are “gamblifying” methods by which their viewers can give them monetary support, using a suite of psychological techniques to encourage donations. The talk will conclude by emphasising the importance of these four phenomena for the future relationship between games and money, and how we might understand the growing role of gambling, and gambling-style systems, in many different kinds of digital play.


Mark R Johnson is a Killam Memorial Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Alberta in Canada. His work focuses on the intersections between play and money, such as professionalised video game competition (E-sports), the live broadcast and spectating of video games on personalised online “channels”, and the blurring of video games and gambling in numerous contexts.

Outside academia, he is also an independent game developer, a regular games writer, blogger and podcaster, and a former professional poker player:

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