San Francisco — As lockdown set in, I decided to wade into the world of competitive Fifa — a mode of the best-selling football video game that I had long avoided. I knew it was delicately engineered to sap both my time and my money.

Fifa Ultimate Team involves building a squad, mostly by opening randomised packs — sometimes called “loot boxes” — containing upgrades. You can speed up progress by paying real money for more packs: a deposit of $99.99 is declared “great value” in the game’s menu...

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