Written by Dovepool | Edited by Denayed, Originally Posted: September 27, 2021
In recent years, gacha games have captured the hearts of gamers across the world for their whimsical art styles and addictive natures. But what exactly makes these games so addictive? What exactly causes so many people to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars just to get a shot at obtaining a single item?
According to Dr. Serkan Toto at Kantan Games, the gacha genre is loosely defined as games that employ a random loot box mechanic. Players are enticed to spend in-game currency to boost their chances at receiving a random virtual item. By this definition, almost every popular video game nowadays is a gacha game – Overwatch, Call of Duty, League of Legends, and Apex Legends all use loot boxes that you can buy with real money. The line that games have to cross to become true gacha games is when obtaining items becomes game-altering.
When you look at free-to-play games such as Arknights and Genshin Impact, the appeal for spending real money comes from the rarity of your potential loot. Gacha games normally have rarity scales: the higher the rarity, the harder it is to get and the stronger the item or character is. In order to get these high-rarity items or characters, pity systems exist so that after a certain amount of currency is spent, you’ll be guaranteed to get the high-rarity item. It’s this system that begins the slow and tempting decline into gacha addiction.
The gacha mechanic has risen in popularity due to the fact that it’s a great monetization strategy for free-to-play games. Humans have a primitive hunter-gatherer mentality, which means that we like to collect: an assortment of shiny things to hoard, the strongest character to be the best player in a group, the last piece to complete a set. Once actual money starts to come into the equation, though, the gambling side of gacha rears its ugly head. The brain works in many strange ways, one of them being that we trick ourselves into believing that if we’ve failed enough times, victory becomes guaranteed. And if we have to spend real money to fail enough times, well: that’s just the trial and error part of failing. This is how a gambling addiction is born – not just in casinos and in the lottery, but in simple gacha games.
Many articles have been written about people spending ridiculous amounts of money on gacha games, but they don’t always delve into the physiology of why. The brain releases high levels of a chemical called dopamine when you do something that feels good, or when you’ve completed a task. When you get what you want in gacha games, dopamine is released. The obvious problem with this is that when you get that perfect character that you’ve been wishing on in Genshin, you become addicted to that dopamine rush and delude yourself into thinking that you’ll have good luck on the next banner. You lose track of just how much real money you’ve spent, because your brain is minimizing the damage in favor of chasing the high. Gacha is not just a gambling problem, but a psychological cycle of momentary happiness that often becomes regrettable when the high has finally died down.
Are you doomed to a path of addiction and bankruptcy after spending $14.99 on a pack of Crystals? Of course not. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying anything in moderation, and equipping a perfect skin or showing off a perfect weapon are the little things in life. Be mindful of what the money you’re spending is going towards and if it’s something you can afford. Try to not make multiple purchases in a single day. Gacha and gambling are two sides of a slippery coin, and if you’ve dived too deep, you’ll find yourself losing more than your favorite waifu.