Monday, July 4, 2022
Hawai'i Free Press

Current Articles | Archives

Friday, March 2, 2018
If Game Makers Don’t Address Loot Crates, Lawmakers Will
By Selected News Articles @ 2:42 PM :: 4386 Views :: Gambling, Hawaii State Government

If Game Makers Don’t Address Loot Crates, Lawmakers Will

The ESRB’s decision to label video games with paid add-ons essentially does nothing to address the complaint that loot boxes are akin to gambling.

by Brian Willett, The Federalist, March 1, 2018

The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) announced this week it will begin labeling video games that feature microtransactions or additional paid downloadable content. The “In-Game Purchases” label will appear “on all games that can be purchased in stores and wherever those games can be downloaded in the near future.”

This responds to a growing push for game publishers to at least more clearly address in-game purchases, if not severely limit their prevalence. Consumers have complained about increasing microtransactions for some time. The “need” to keep buying after a game purchase rankles gamers as-is, but loot boxes have turned their frustration into rage.

Additional skins or maps offer transparent value. Loot boxes, on the other hand, require purchase (with in-game or real currency) before revealing their contents. This (generously put) gambling-adjacent tactic keeps money rolling in post-release.

The issue hit fever pitch and became national news with EA’s “Star Wars Battlefront 2.” While the “Battlefront” pushback affected the game, it did little to stymie the future of in-game purchases.

More importantly, the “Battlefront” controversy brought loot boxes to the attention of lawmakers both foreign and domestic. Chris Lee, a Hawaii state representative, announced in November a desire to curb the “predatory behavior” of video game publishers and has since introduced four bills regarding loot boxes. Washington state Sen. Kevin Ranker introduced a bill in January that required the state’s gambling commission to determine whether loot boxes are gambling and the process for regulating them. New Hampshire Senator Maggie Hassan also expressed her concern in an open letter to the ESRB.

But the ESRB’s decision essentially does nothing to address the complaint that loot boxes are akin to gambling. The press release lumps loot boxes in with other offers like bonus levels, music, and skins while offering no further clarification. They defend that decision partly by the desire to not overwhelm parents with information. They also don’t equate loot boxes and gambling, comparing them to collectible cards.

They’re technically correct about that (the best kind of correct). People who purchase loot boxes receive something. Regardless, it’s clear from the new labeling guidelines that publishers have little interest in reforming their golden goose. But their views matter less if consumers and, more importantly, lawmakers see loot boxes as gambling. Hassan is “still concerned” about the “potentially addictive nature of loot boxes” following the ESRB’s announcement.

I’ve written about additional game purchases before, including encouraging gamers to avoid “Battlefront 2.” I was excited to see a sustained, grassroots fight against a practice that has metastasized. As I’ve said about sports, consumers can end practices they don’t like by not financially supporting them (imagine the impact of a near-full boycott of the next “FIFA” or “Battlefront”).

I’m not yet comfortable with the government telling game publishers what to do, especially since customers have only once combined words with action on the issue. But I hope the ESRB realizes that, unless they more strongly address this issue, government will tell them what to do. Once they’ve got their claws in this medium, lawmakers will want more control.

Consider recent comments by Donald Trump and Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin about the influence of violent video games following the Parkland massacre. The president said he's “hearing more and more people say the level of violence on video games is really shaping young people’s thoughts.” Bevin’s comments included a confusing claim that video games are “forced down our throats under the guise of protected speech.”

The Supreme Court ruled in a 2011 case involving banning the sale of violent games to children that video games are protected under the First Amendment. But Justice Samuel Alito said a more carefully worded law might have survived. Similar accusations arose after Columbine and other mass shootings.

Government’s discomfort with violent video games has existed for decades. The desire to prevent government intervention led to the founding of the ESRB in 1994. Despite evidence to the contrary, the video game-violent behavior link understandably persists. Do game publishers really think that those in power will limit themselves to regulating supposed video game gambling when some instinctively connect mass shootings and video games?

A better law might stick next time. Video game publishers avoided (further) government involvement before by self-regulating once before. So, ESRB, please do the right thing and properly disclose or even abolish loot boxes. It’s for your sake as much as ours.

Links

TEXT "follow HawaiiFreePress" to 40404

Register to Vote

2aHawaii

808 Silent Majority

ACA Signups Hawaii

Alliance Defending Freedom

Aloha Pregnancy Care Center

American Council of Trustees and Alumni

AntiPlanner

Antonio Gramsci Reading List

A Place for Women in Waipio

Astronomy Hawaii

Back da Blue Hawaii

Ballotpedia Hawaii

Better Hawaii

Broken Trust

Build More Hawaiian Homes Working Group

ChinaTownWatch.com

Christian Homeschoolers of Hawaii

Cliff Slater's Second Opinion

DVids Hawaii

FIRE

Fix Oahu!

Frontline: The Fixers

Genetic Literacy Project

Grassroot Institute

Habele.org

Hawaii Aquarium Fish Report

Hawaii Aviation Preservation Society

Hawaii Catholic TV

Hawaii Christian Coalition

Hawaii Cigar Association

Hawaii Coalition Against Legalized Gambling

Hawaii ConCon Info

Hawaii Credit Union Watch

Hawaii Crop Improvement Association

Hawaii Debt Clock

Hawaii Defense Foundation

Hawaii Family Advocates

Hawaii Family Forum

Hawaii Farmers and Ranchers United

Hawaii Farmer's Daughter

Hawaii Federalist Society

Hawaii Federation of Republican Women

Hawaii Future Project

Hawaii Gathering of Eagles

Hawaii History Blog

Hawaii Homeschool Association

Hawaii Jihadi Trial

Hawaii Legal News

Hawaii Legal Short-Term Rental Alliance

Hawaii Life Alliance

Hawaii March for Life

Hawaii's Partnership for Appropriate & Compassionate Care

Hawaii Public Charter School Network

Hawaii Rifle Association

Hawaii Shippers Council

Hawaii Smokers Alliance

Hawaii State Data Lab

Hawaii Together

HIEC.Coop

HiFiCo

Hiram Fong Papers

Homeschool Legal Defense Hawaii

Honolulu Navy League

Honolulu Traffic

House Minority Blog

Imua TMT

Inouye-Kwock, NYT 1992

Inside the Nature Conservancy

Inverse Condemnation

Investigative Project on Terrorism

July 4 in Hawaii

Kakaako Cares

Keep Hawaii's Heroes

Land and Power in Hawaii

Legislative Committee Analysis Tool

Lessons in Firearm Education

Lingle Years

Malulani Foundation

Managed Care Matters -- Hawaii

Malama Pregnancy Center of Maui

Mauna Kea Recreational Users Group

MentalIllnessPolicy.org

Military Home Educators' Network Oahu

Missile Defense Advocacy

MIS Veterans Hawaii

NAMI Hawaii

Natatorium.org

National Christian Foundation Hawaii

National Parents Org Hawaii

NFIB Hawaii News

No GMO Means No Aloha

Not Dead Yet, Hawaii

NRA-ILA Hawaii

Oahu Alternative Transport

Obookiah

OHA Lies

Opt Out Today

OurFutureHawaii.com

Patients Rights Council Hawaii

PEACE Hawaii

People vs Machine

Pritchett Cartoons

Pro-GMO Hawaii

P.U.E.O.

RailRipoff.com

Rental by Owner Awareness Assn

ReRoute the Rail

Research Institute for Hawaii USA

Rick Hamada Show

RJ Rummel

Robotics Organizing Committee

Save Dillingham Airfield

School Choice in Hawaii

SenatorFong.com

Sink the Jones Act

Statehood for Guam

Talking Tax

Tax Foundation of Hawaii

The Real Hanabusa

Time Out Honolulu

Trustee Akina KWO Columns

UCC Truths

US Tax Foundation Hawaii Info

VAREP Honolulu

Waagey.org

West Maui Taxpayers Association

What Natalie Thinks

Whole Life Hawaii

Yes2TMT