House of Lords takes a stand against Loot Boxes. But the solution isn’t simple – Conservative Article
Recently, the House of Lords released a report recommending that video game loot boxes should be brought under the regulation of the 2005 Gambling Act. All gambling should be regulated equally and children should be protected from its dangers. However, gambling in video games mainly occurs in adult games. Because of this, the problem cannot be solved as easily. It calls for a more nuanced and complex approach.
The first point of the recommendation says that a gambling commission will test games against harm factors. These include how addictive they are and their appeal to children. But how will these games be selected? If you were to take all games produced, then you would be testing games that could be appealing to children but are instead intended only for adults. These type of games should be allowed loot boxes in them if the developer chooses.
If the commission only took games that were aimed at children, it would be ignoring the fact children do play 18 games when they shouldn’t. And no doubt that would drive up the rating of games aimed at children. In either scenario, how are you going to make sure that every single game is checked? The industry releases too many for them to be checked in time if the developers intended release date is to be met.
This highlights how video game classification, in general, is flawed. There is no way to stop anyone from purchasing games rated 18 online. Parents need to be better informed about the dangers of loot boxes so they can take the necessary precautions if they choose.
The classification should be based on the elements of a game instead. This could include showing exactly what type of microtransactions a game has. This would be useful information for parents and would help them to judge a game’s harmfulness. This system could be added to online stores, as they mention in-game purchases but don’t specify what type. Furthermore, parents need to be more active in saying no to their child and allowing them to access their card to make purchases.
Expanding education on what forms gambling can take would also have a positive impact. Gambling has changed from what it used to be and this needs to be reflected in education. I’m sure many people aren’t aware of how gambling has changed.
A total ban of the practice is inadvisable though. With games costing more to make and their price remaining stable, companies need to make up the shortfall somewhere. If the UK were to ban loot boxes, this may force game companies to raise the price of games for everyone. This would have the negative impact of pricing people out of titles they would have been able to buy otherwise.
Regulating video games is difficult. It requires nuance to deal with a complex situation as it is both online and an international market. How the government chooses to approach this will affect the whole industry. Some consequences could be unintended. I would advise caution and fully research options and see if the response would be effective. Otherwise, something worse could replace loot boxes.
Written by Junior Conservative Writer, Kieran Burt
Point of Information
Accessibility is the issue, not increased regulation on gambling – a Labour Response
I like that this article picks up on the fact that this is a complex problem. However, I do take issue with a few of the assertions made. Firstly, the idea that “gambling in video games is mainly in adult games” is quite misleading and doesn’t give any reference to statistics which support this statement.
Take EA, for example, who rate many of their games as PEGI 3, meaning that it’s suitable for children of all ages. In 2019, Ultimate Team, which operates on games such as FIFA and Madden, accounted for 28% of EA’s total revenue. These are not adult games by any stretch of the imagination and yet very little is done to reduce accessibility to loot boxes.
To me, this suggests a far greater problem than simply children playing games that they shouldn’t be. It suggests that gambling is readily available to under 18s under the guise of “surprise mechanics”. Not only this but it is also without any of the regulation that other forms of gambling are rightfully subjected to. This is exploitative.
Secondly, I think that oversimplifying the role that parents should play after labelling this issue as “complex” and “nuanced” is a little unfair. Arguing that parents should say “no” more often is about as enlightening a solution as an origami door lock. Parents denying permission is not always guaranteed to prevent children from doing it anyway. Again, the problem is accessibility.
I do have to concede how complex this issue is, but I don’t think that greater regulation is a step in the wrong direction. Admittedly, requiring proof of identification and customer affordability, as many gambling sites do, is not a foolproof solution. However, it does create a significant barrier that limits accessibility to children. As a result, I think that regulating loot boxes under the 2005 Gambling Act is definitely a smart move.
Written by Junior Labour Writer, Jack Rolfe
Regulation is desperately needed – a Liberal response
Kieran has written a strong article, but he simply offers no real solution. He calls for education, but this is a bitter taste in most people’s mouth; especially gamers.
Most people remember the launch of Star Wars: Battlefront ll as one of the most disastrous launches of all time. EA tried desperately to redo their game at the last minute. They tried to turn a game that was heavily reliant on loot boxes to a progression game. The result was a mess. Why did they do this? Gamers are sick of pay to win games. Loot boxes being at the centre.
When you look at Fifa packs, for example, no other word can be used other than gambling. It is incredibly addicting and people have lots hundreds to thousands of pounds going for ‘one more pack’. Next year, this all starts again.
Regulation is not difficult, it just requires action. I understand your concerns, but education is not the answer. Gambling has had the same policy and it is only now through regulation that we are seeing improvement.
There are thousands of games that thrive off having no loot boxes; Red Dead Redemption 2 offline, Last of us Part 2, God of war. Loot boxes aren’t needed for companies to thrive, but regulation is needed in order for it to be healthy.
Written by Senior Liberal Writer, Max Anderson