In the United Kingdom and a group of parliamentarians has reportedly recommended that the video games industry be prohibited from allowing those under the age of 18 to purchase addictive in-game rewards including so-called ‘loot boxes.’
According to a report from The Guardian newspaper, this advice was published earlier today as part of the findings of a special investigation conducted by a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee looking into addictive and immersive technologies.
The newspaper reported that this inquiry had taken evidence from a wide range of industry participants including players, scientists, regulators and developers and additionally recommended reclassifying these real-money rewards as gambling in order to make them age-rated and subject to regulation by the Gambling Commission.
The Guardian reported that ‘loot boxes’ usually contain bonus content such as additional weapons, characters and costumes that aficionados can buy in order to enhance their video games experience. But, the often chance nature of what is actually contained within these digital purchases has purportedly drawn criticism from those worried that players are simply being conned into spending money until they get their preferred result.
Belgium has already instituted a total ban on ‘loot boxes’ following revelations that there are now a number of unauthorized sites allowing players to buy and sell these extras or use them as a virtual currency.
Furthermore, a Gambling Commission examination from last year was cited that found some 31% of British children aged between eleven and 16 had handed over money for ‘loot boxes’ while one gamer reportedly told the DCMS select committee that he was parting with up to £1,000 ($1,233) every year via the FIFA football game in order to obtain better players for his virtual team.
Damian Collins, Chair for the DCMS select committee, moreover stated that developers in the United Kingdom should now be required to help fund independent research into the long-term impacts of their video games and use their data to better protect those who may develop an addiction to gambling.
“These ‘loot boxes’ are particularly lucrative for games companies but come at a high cost, particularly for problem gamblers, while exposing children to potential harm. Buying a ‘loot box’ is playing a game of chance and it is high time the gambling laws caught up. We challenge the government to explain why ‘loot boxes’ should be exempt from the Gambling Act.”
In response, Jo Twist from The Association for UK Interactive Entertainment trade body reportedly declared that the industry will be reviewing the recommendations from the select committee ‘with utmost seriousness’ before conducting a consultation ‘on how we demonstrate further our commitment to player safety.’
Twist reportedly told the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)…
“The video games industry has always and will continue to put the welfare of players at the heart of what we do. The industry does not dispute that, for a minority, finding balance is a problem. This is why we are vocal in supporting efforts to increase digital literacy and work with schools and carers on education programs.”