The Loot Box Controversy Rages On

By Ben Hamill - May 17 2019
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No End To Loot Box Fight Despite ESA’s Views

The control of in-game spending lies with parents and not with children. This is one of the arguments offered by the global video industry’s Entertainment Software Association as part of its loot box defence, and why loot boxes, in its opinion, should not be banned from video games generally played by children. Another favourite is one that sounds suspiciously similar to “but everyone else is doing it”. According to the ESA, loot boxes are harmless and in no way representative of any of the elements generally found in gambling. After all, said the organisation, the UK, Germany, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland all agree with this particular point of view.

And yet, the loot box controversy is far from over, especially if US Senator Josh Hawley and his newly-proposed The Protecting Children from Abusive Games Act has anything to do with it.

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There’s No Easy Answer

The question of whether loot boxes expose children to gambling, and also whether loot boxes actively promote elements of gambling, has been the cause of much controversy and it’s not showing any signs of letting up soon. To the uninformed reader, bickering over an in-game feature that requires money to change hands may seem like nothing more than argumentative nit-picking. But when examining the many arguments in favour of removing loot boxes from video games, there are does appear to be a cause for concern.

This was recently confirmed by a study conducted by a British Columbia University. The study managed to identify various grey areas as well as a number of direct links between loot boxes and gambling, resulting in the conclusion that loot boxes, and by implication also the creators of video games, prey on the most vulnerable members of society, being children.

Industry Already Has Fill Of Issues

The main problem with loot boxes lies with the fact that the contents of the boxes are not revealed to the player before the loot box has actually been paid for. In essence then, the action comes down to paying for a perk of which the value within the context of the game, is uncertain. It’s hard not to agree that it does sound a lot like gambling.

As it stands, casinos in Canada, and especially those in money laundering-plagued British Columbia, already have much to deal with. The games and casino entertainment industry could do with a bit of a breather on the regulatory front, without video games contributing to the scope of the problem too.

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