Gambling and gaming have long been considered separate activities. Gambling is distinguished from gaming by its risk-involved, chance-determined outcomes and monetary features, such as wagering and betting mechanisms, according to King et al. (2015), whereas gaming is distinguished by interactive, skill-based play and contextual relevance in game progress and success. However, thanks to technological advancements, these lines are becoming increasingly blurred.
As a revenue mechanism, digital games are increasingly using monetary aspects, typically microtransactions. Microtransactions are required in order to obtain extra features or better equipment in a game, for example. In addition, so-called “loot boxes,” which have the chance-based characteristics of gambling, have become popular, notably in video games. Loot boxes are virtual entities that contain randomised goods (such as guns or other equipment) that can be purchased with real-world currency. According to recent study, expenditure on loot boxes is linked to problem gambling (Zendle and Cairns 2018). It has also been hypothesised that because gambling and gaming are so similar, playing video games might boost one’s desire to gamble; however, new research does not entirely support this theory (Forrest et al. 2016; Macey and Hamari 2018).
Online games, like video games, are progressively incorporating gambling-like elements. Social networking sites like Facebook, for example, have social games that replicate gambling activities such as poker, roulette, and slot machines (Calado et al. 2018; Jacques et al. 2016; King et al. 2014). Although these games are frequently viewed as secure and harmless alternatives to real-money gambling, their gambling-like traits may also induce motivation for real gambling (King et al. 2014) and educate children and adolescents gambling techniques (King et al. 2010). Furthermore, while “free-to-play” games may not involve the use of real money at first, they often urge players to make in-game purchases (i.e., microtransactions) in order to get access to extra features (H. S. Kim et al. 2017; Paavilainen et al. 2013). The aforementioned research show that gambling and gaming are no longer considered to be completely separate behaviours. Rather, they are increasingly exhibiting features that are similar to those found in gambling.
Gambling and Gaming in Online Communities: A Social Perspective
One of the reasons for the popularity of online communities and social media is that humans have a basic need for social belonging and relatedness (Baumeister and Leary 1995; Deci and Ryan 2000). (Keipi and Oksanen 2014; McKenna and Bargh 1999; Reich and Vorderer 2013; William et al. 2000). Virtual communities (i.e., online communities) are defined by Kozinets (1999) as groupings of people who share social interactions, social relationships, and virtual places for interactions. Communities are defined by common interests, goals, and customs that bring like-minded people together (Preece 2000; Rheingold 1993). Indeed, in a virtual world, people show a proclivity for homophily, or the desire to find and communicate with those who are similar to them (Centola and van de Rijt 2015; McPherson et al. 2001).
Identifying with a virtual community of like-minded individuals can have significant implications for a user (Kaakinen et al. 2020). Users’ conduct is influenced by their identification with the community’s shared social identity and internalisation of its group norms (Zhou 2011). Furthermore, research on social media suggests that consumers frequently rely on information and content provided by their in-group members (Flanagin et al. 2014). Identifying with an online group, especially when discussing potentially addictive habits, can affect intents and attitudes in a detrimental direction and normalise maladaptive behaviour (Oksanen et al. 2016). Online groups and shared identities, on the other hand, may be helpful in recovering an addiction (McNamara and Parsons 2016).
The purpose of this research is to gain a better understanding of the gambling and gaming phenomena by looking into the function of online communities in gambling and monetary gaming. We use a broad definition of online communities (see Kozinets 1999; Preece 2000; Rheingold 1993) to encompass a variety of interactive online platforms for gamblers and gamers in this review.
There have been several systematic reviews related to our topic, such as those on online game communities (Warmelink and Siitonen 2013) and user engagement in various online communities (Warmelink and Siitonen 2013). (Malinen 2015). However, we are more interested in the social aspects of online gambling and monetary gaming. As a result, our goal is to compile empirical evidence on the important characteristics and roles of virtual gambling and gaming communities in gambling and monetary gaming habits. Because we’re solely interested in the influence of virtual communities in gambling and gambling-like behaviours, we’ve limited our definition of gaming to include just money-related games. When it comes to gaming and gambling, we believe this is reasonable. Because of their combined monetary elements, it is meaningful to include both gambling and gaming phenomena, as we argued before; nevertheless, we are also able to compare probable distinctions among these communities. As a result, we are not interested in the more general role of online communities in gaming.