Yes, People, the Government’s Getting Involved in Gaming
We cannot forget Hawaii representative Chris Lee, the man who called Star Wars Battlefront II “a Star Wars-themed online casino.” Following up on his press conference from two weeks ago, he’s posted a video showing us how we can help eliminate loot box mechanics in gaming.
The point of Lee’s legislation is to prohibit the sale of games with “gambling mechanisms” to anyone under 21. This includes any games where players are purchasing a “chance” at an in-game item instead of the actual item. This legislation would extend to digitally-purchased games like those we see on Steam and GOG.
Furthermore, Lee sees a desperate need for publisher transparency. The legislation would force developers to reveal drop rates of in-game items, much like the law that went live in China. Every player would know the chance of their item dropping. And while no evidence of drop rate manipulation exists, the legislation would assure it never happens.
Lee’s latest YouTube video tells everyone to write their elected officials and “ask them to consider taking action to protect local families and particularly underage youth from predatory gaming practices.” Additionally, there’s a link to the “predatory gaming letter,” which is a template for a letter anyone can send to public officials; it highlights the issues with loot box gambling and all predatory practices. It’s there for anyone who’s uncomfortable writing their own letter.
According to the representative, gaming is now mimicking the addictive practices of casinos. To make it worse, the gaming industry has done a poor job of self-regulation. The ESRB was formed for the express purpose of stopping the practices we’re witnessing in Star Wars Battlefront II, which is why Lee is calling for the government’s involvement to supersede and replace the ESRB.
“Loot box game mechanisms are often styled to literally resemble slot machines, and are made available to anyone in games on their mobile phones, consoles such as the X-Box, Playstation, and on home computers,” said Lee. “This may explain why the American Psychological Association has identified ‘Internet Gaming Disorder‘ as an emerging diagnosis which warrants further study in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5),” the letter states.
“Unlike carnival games, collecting cards, or similar purchases of chance, videogames require active, lengthy participation during which consumers are exposed to psychological manipulation techniques which can result in real addiction and harm. The scale and ease of access to these games make addressing these concerns critical. Casinos have long been criticized for building a business model around the exploitation of psychological vulnerabilities in many people. These business models are now being replicated by the online gaming industry to do the same, right on the phones and in the homes of countless families around the country.
“Game developers in the gaming industry are represented by their trade group, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA). In 1994 the ESA created the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) to provide videogame ratings for consumers,” the letter says. “Unsurprisingly, the ESA and ESRB have taken a position defending the lucrative revenue streams generated by these predatory mechanisms, claiming that predatory loot boxes do not fall under the current definition of gambling.”