Many gambling addiction experts, psychologists and state lawmakers in the United States are of the opinion that loot boxes are essentially a form of gambling hiding in plain sight and targeting minors. Loot boxes refer to the random assortments of prizes purchased by video game players who hope to acquire certain desired – and virtual – powers. This can be likened to the way people play at slot machines with the hope of hitting the jackpot. It is perhaps because such a comparison can be drawn that various experts are calling for government oversight as far as loot boxes are concerned.
It, therefore, did not come as a surprise when New Hampshire Democrat, Senator Maggie Hassan, made the first move towards the proposed loot box initiative in the U.S. It begun with a letter that she wrote to Patricia Vance, the president of the Entertainment Software Ratings Board which is responsible for designing the warning labels for parents and guardians on video game products. In the letter, Senator Hassan asked Vance to not only consider having a warning on product packages pertaining to the presence of loot boxes in the video games but also to have an in-depth look at the practice.
Senator Hassan further took up the issue with four nominees to the Federal Trade Commission during a hearing at the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee.
“In the past, the FTC has looked at video games, specifically the impact of violence in games,” Hassan pointed out during the hearing. “Do you agree that children being addicted to gaming and activities like loot boxes that might make them more susceptible to addiction is a problem that merits our attention? And depending on how the ESRB responds to my inquiry, would the FTC be willing to look at loot boxes as an issue independently?”
All the Four Trade Commission nominees agreed to look into the possibility of examining federal oversight of loot boxes. This move has been hailed as a highly ethical and considerate one, especially by the gambling addiction community who have always considered loot boxes in video games to be dangerous predatory forms of gambling that target minors.
Here Is Why It Might Actually Go Through
Loot boxes came under the spotlight last holiday as a result of consumer outrage caused by Electronic Arts’ Star Wars Battlefront II players who complained about the way people who bought loot boxes had an upper edge over other gamers. The player backlash had such a huge impact on the sales and that it led the company to a damage control mode that saw it temporarily disable the loot box purchases.
However, both the ESRB and Electronic Arts have maintained that loot boxes cannot be likened to gambling since people who purchase them are not left empty-handed unlike in gambling where players are even given prizes that they are not interested in. Meanwhile, lawmakers in Hawaii have already begun to move legislation that will impact the way loot boxes are used. One of these legislations, if passed, will restrict the sale of video games with loot boxes only to person above the age of 21 and the other intends to make it necessary for special labeling to be included on the games that offer loot boxes.