Future Anthem and Gamesys have analysed the extent to which player markers of harm may be driven by the games that players choose to play

Future Anthem and Gamesys – a Bally’s Corporation company – have partnered to analyse the extent to which player markers of harm may be driven by the games that players choose to play.

The research utilised Anthem’s Safer Play machine learning models to execute against 36 million Gamesys gaming sessions to identify the link between player risk and the three structural game characteristics of volatility, return-to-player and hit rate. 

The results revealed no statistically significant correlation between player markers of harm and the experience that different games provide.

Furthermore, there was no evidence that specific risk indicators, such as staking up, were linked to specific games within the category.

“We are delighted to have undertaken research in such an important area of our industry with Gamesys,” commented Chris Conroy, chief data officer, Future Anthem.

“Aspects of games, players, behaviours, and protection are often mythologised. We have deployed comprehensive machine learning models with significant amounts of data on gameplay to shine a light on part of the puzzle. 

For each of the 368 games, modelling for volatility was calculated and then grouped into four categories: low, medium, medium/high and high. At 13 per cent higher than medium titles, the games which exhibited the highest proportion of markers of harm were classified as medium/high.

Likewise, hit rates and RTP went through a similar exercise – split into three groups: 6-20 per cent, 20-35 per cent and 35-65 per cent. The results revealed no “statistical relationship” between neither hit rate and games nor with RTP and games. 

Kevin Clegg, director of sustainability at Gamesys, added: “As part of our ongoing commitment to player experience, we are proud to be part of a piece of research that better helps the gambling sector understand the link between markers of harm and the gaming experience. 

“We always strive to build and operate games that are best suited to our players, with rigorous selection policies – this research is another milestone on our journey.” 

Moreover, the research introduced a metric entitled ‘game popularity’ that “aims to measure the popularity of a game”, analysing favourite games that are played multiple times by the same player, along with games played multiple times by all users. 

As described in the research, the reasoning for this metric was due to players seeing more popular games on the game page and, therefore, the research aimed to investigate whether these games were more likely to be associated with “elevated levels of risky play”.

However, the outcome revealed that the above was not the case and that, instead, popular and unpopular games could be associated with both elevated and reduced levels of risky play. 

The report noted: “For instance, these games have 74 per cent reduced range on volatility and a 256 per cent reduced range on RTP compared to the wider game list.

“As these games dominate the overall gaming sessions it is possible that they cause correlation signals from more unpopular games to be eclipsed.”

Additionally, key factors of prominence in this research suggest that there are other learnings that can aid detecting risky play, including time of day, deviance from normal play patterns and recent classification of risky sessions.

Statistics found to support this include overnight play (12.00am-6.00am) which was found to be 36 per cent riskier than other times of the day, in addition to players being over seven times more likely to have another high-risk session than those that just had a safe session.

However, the report stressed that whilst there is no correlation with the three game output measures tested, there “may still exist relationships between markers of harm and facets of casino games”.

The research has been lauded as ‘just the beginning’ of what will become a larger piece of research on game features, game design and markers of harm to understand the aspects of games that provide for a sustainable and enjoyable player experience.

“We look forward to undertaking further research on games and game design to identify how gambling operators and studios can provide an enjoyable and sustainable player experience,” concluded Conroy.