Video Game Loot Boxes Hook Players The Same Way Gambling Does

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More and more these days, video games are coming with an extra game of chance built in. Whether it looks like a crate, a suitcase or a deck of cards on your screen, the principle is the same: You can pay real-world money to collect in-game items through loot boxes.

These boxes reward cosmetics, in-game currencies or, in some cases that gamers famously find distasteful, power-ups that give you an advantage over other players. It’s all random. You can “lose” by receiving duplicate or low-quality items. And in some cases, you can even cash out whatever you win for real money again.

That sounds a lot like gambling. And new research from psychologists in New Zealand suggests it’s psychologically indistinguishable: Loot boxes have the same effect on the brain as a slot machine. 

Almost half of the loot box systems studied fit “all the structural and psychological criteria” for gambling: People tend to keep playing because the next payout could be the big one. This behavior becomes persistent quickly, and adolescent gamers are at even more risk because they don’t have the same impulse control as mature adults.

These loot boxes are showing up in more games than ever, too. Researchers counted more games with some kind of random reward system released in the last two years than there were in the decade before.

Some states are now proposing regulations. At least one senator thinks the Federal Trade Commission should get involved. Some European officials have called for a common set of EU-wide rules. Game makers publishing in China have to disclose their loot box reward odds.

SEE MORE: This Study Says Video Games Might Make People Better Learners

Unless the U.S. market gets new laws itself, the New Zealand researchers recommend more warning labels or age restrictions for games that include loot box mechanics.

Because loot boxes probably aren’t going anywhere — they bring in a lot of extra money for game developers. The gaming industry is projected to grow by about $43 billion in the next few years, and loot boxes are expected to play a big part in that increase.

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iPhones Will Soon Share Location Data With 911 Call Centers

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iPhones will soon share location data with 911 call centers.

On Monday, Apple announced it’ll use an emergency technology company’s data pipeline to securely share callers’ location, “even in challenging, dense, urban environments.”

The tech giant said the call centers would only be able to access location data during the call.

Apple CEO Tim Cook said the feature “will help first responders reach our customers when they most need assistance.” 

It hasn’t always been easy to locate wireless users who dial 911. And in 2015, the Federal Communications Commission revised its 911 location rules for wireless calls made inside. The agency said that by 2021, phone carriers must locate callers within 50 meters for 80 percent of all wireless emergency calls.

The FCC estimates about 70 percent of emergency calls are made on wireless phones. 

Apple customers in the U.S. will see the new feature with the iOS 12 system update later this year. 

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WHO Says Playing Video Games Persistently Could Be Bad For Your Health

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Turns out, compulsively playing video games is bad for your health.

The World Health Organization released the latest edition of its International Classification of Diseases Monday and it lists “gaming disorder” as a mental health condition.

The health agency now classifies playing video games persistently as a type of addictive behavior — similar to a gambling disorder. 

The WHO said characteristics of gaming disorder include a loss of control and escalation of gaming behavior despite negative consequences, such as an impact on personal relationships and occupations. It said the negative pattern of behavior usually needs to last for 12 months before a diagnosis can be made.

SEE MORE: Behind Bars: Inside The Country’s Largest Mental Health Hospital

In 2015, Pew Research Center reported nearly half of American adults play video games. But the director of WHO’s department for mental health and substance abuse told The Associated Press that the agency estimates only as many as 3 percent of those who play video games have gaming disorder.

The WHO previously said it was adding gaming disorder to its classification list so that heath professionals can be more aware of the risks it poses and have a better understanding of how to treat it.

Additional reporting from Newsy affiliate CNN

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Supreme Court Decides Against Getting Involved In Gerrymandering Cases

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On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against intervening in two high-profile partisan gerrymanders — a Democratic gerrymander in Maryland and a Republican gerrymander in Wisconsin.

In Benisek v. Lamone, plaintiffs had argued election officials shouldn’t hold congressional elections under districting maps drawn in 2011 after the 2010 census. A lower court denied the injunction plaintiffs were seeking, and SCOTUS ruled the lower court was justified.

In Gill v. Whitford, SCOTUS ruled in part based on the injury to each voter caused by statewide redistricting that favored Republicans. Because that harm arises from the particular composition of the voter’s own district, remedying the harm does not necessarily require restructuring all of the state’s legislative districts. It requires revising only such districts as are necessary to reshape the voter’s district. In Newsy’s ongoing series “Ask the Experts,” Professor Jay Dow of the Kinder Institute on Constitutional Democracy says the court was loathe to rule on partisan gerrymandering for several reasons, and voters in some parts of the country have already found local solutions to gerrymandering.

SEE MORE: Gerrymandering Is Absolutely Unfair, But Should SCOTUS Get Involved?

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Merkel May Get More Time To Reach Immigration Deal

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel may have some more time to figure out how to deal with undocumented migrants entering the country.

According to several reports, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer suggested he would give Merkel two weeks to reach an agreement on the issue with Germany’s EU partners.

The dispute between Merkel and Seehofer over Germany’s immigration plans has escalated in recent days.

As Newsy previously reported, Seehofer wants to impose new rules along Germany’s border. His plan would allow police to turn away migrants who have already sought asylum in another EU nation. Migrants have to apply for asylum in the first country they set foot in. 

But Merkel isn’t on board with that plan. She says it would only put more pressure on southern neighbors like Italy and Greece and reverse her open-door policy on migrants.

If the dispute continues, Seehofer’s party could leave the governing coalition or cause a confidence vote in Merkel. The coalition was formed in March after extensive negotiations that lasted months. 

Additional reporting from Newsy affiliate CNN.

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Audi’s CEO Arrested In Germany Over Concerns Of Evidence Suppression

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Audi’s CEO Rupert Stadler was arrested Monday in Germany in connection with the company’s diesel emissions scandal.

Munich prosecutors reportedly said they detained Stadler over concerns he would suppress evidence related to the scandal. A spokesman with Volkswagen Group — Audi’s parent company — confirmed Stadler was taken into custody Monday morning.

Stadler’s arrest comes days after German prosecutors slapped Volkswagen with a $1.2 billion fine after the company tried to trick emissions detectors with so-called “defeat devices.” Those devices make it seem like an engine runs cleaner during emissions tests than they actually do on the road. 

In early May, Volkswagen’s former CEO was charged in the U.S. in relation to the scandal. He’s denied any wrongdoing.

Also in early May, German officials said they were looking into Audi under the suspicion that the company was installing illegal emissions software into some of its diesel engines.

Additional reporting from Newsy affiliate CNN.

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Conservative Ivan Duque Wins Colombia’s Presidential Election

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Colombia has elected its next president.

Conservative Ivan Duque won 54 percent of the vote in Sunday’s race, beating leftist Gustavo Petro by 12 points.

The presidential election was the first since the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia reached a peace agreement in 2016, ending a decadeslong civil war.

Duque openly opposes that peace agreement and has promised to make some changes to it.

Duque is set to take office in August. When he does, he’ll be one of the youngest presidents in Colombia’s history.

Additional reporting from Newsy affiliate CNN

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Controversial FBI Agent Says He’s Willing To Testify Before Congress

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The FBI agent who was removed from special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe for sending anti-Trump text messages said he’s willing to testify before the House Judiciary Committee — or any other congressional committee. 

Peter Strzok’s lawyer addressed the letter to House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte. 

Strzok’s willingness to cooperate comes as Goodlatte was reportedly starting the process to subpoena Strzok about the FBI’s actions in the 2016 presidential election. 

Strzok worked on FBI investigations into both Hillary Clinton and President Donald Trump. Mueller booted him from the Russia probe last summer after text messages between Strzok and FBI attorney Lisa Page could be read as politically biased. 

The Justice Department inspector general’s report released last week concluded that the language used between Strzok and Page was highly inappropriate. But the office found no evidence that political bias affected the handling of the Clinton probe.

Additional reporting from Newsy affiliate CNN.

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Melania Trump Issues Statement On Family Separations At The Border

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In a rare statement on policy, first lady Melania Trump weighed in on the immigration debate Sunday.

Trump’s spokeswoman told reporters, “Mrs. Trump hates to see children separated from their families and hopes both sides of the aisle can finally come together to achieve successful immigration reform.”

It is Trump’s first public comment about the separations, which have been closely tied to the Trump administration’s newly imposed “zero-tolerance” strategy on immigration.

Back in May, Attorney General Jeff Sessions promised to prosecute “100 percent” of people who illegally cross the southwest U.S. border. He warned that by doing so, families would be separated.

Earlier this month, a Department of Homeland Security spokesman said nearly 2,000 children were separated from their parents between April 19 and May 31.

On Sunday, Melania Trump’s spokeswoman went on to say, “She believes we need to be a country that follows all laws, but also a country that governs with heart.”

The statement came on the same day one of Trump’s predecessors — former first lady Laura Bush — wrote about the separations in a column for The Washington Post. She called the policy “cruel” and “immoral.” 

Additional reporting from Newsy affiliate CNN

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