politics

New Hampshire senator Maggie Hassan has picked up the lootbox and gaming addiction cause

Up until now, the political grumblings about video game gambleboxes has been mostly limited to state governments, specifically Hawaii’s Chris Lee, who submitted four regulatory bills this week, and Washington state’s Kevin Ranker, whose January provisional bill would require an investigation of whether the mechanic constitutes gambling under state laws.

But they’re getting a higher-ranking ally today. As Rolling Stone reports, New Hampshire Senator – that’s the US senate, not the state senate – Maggie Hassan has apparently joined the fray. She sits on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and used a recent committee hearing to ask FTC nominees their opinion on gaming addiction and lockboxes. (All four apparently said the issue is something they will address.)

Hassan also penned a letter to the ESRB asking it to “review the completeness of the board’s ratings process and policies as they relate to loot boxes, and to take into account the potential harm these types of micro-transactions may have on children.”

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Hawaii state rep Chris Lee has now introduced four bills regulating lockboxes

Hawaii State Representative Chris Lee has made good on his plan to write and submit bills to the state legislature regulating the sale of video games with predatory lockboxes. The four bills are straightforward: Two seek to block the sale of video games with random-reward gambleboxes to people under the age of 21 (gambling age in Hawaii as well as many other US states), while the other pair requires proper labeling of the gambling mechanics on game boxes as well as disclosure of probability rates of items inside the boxes.

As GIbiz points out, up to now the only active bill on the topic in the US was a demand for more research by Washington representatives.

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German commission takes up lootbox issue as academics link whaling to gambling markets

Germany has added its voice to the anti-lockbox chorus in the US, UK, and Netherlands. According to an article on the German-language Welt (picked up by GIbiz), The German Youth Protection Commission has said it’s examining the lootbox issue as a potential gambling concern and may ban “certain elements in video games” in the region.

The move is apparently based on an as-yet unpublished University of Hamburg study that analyzes video game sales and business models, ultimately determining what most online gamers already know: that such games actively target whales, who are responsible for the majority of their revenue. This, the researchers reportedly conclude, is “a typical feature of gambling markets.”

The Commission is due to file its determination this coming March.

Source: Welt, GIbiz. Thanks, Veldan and Fabio!

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Academics debate WHO ‘gaming disorder’ classification and global political implications

Remember how the World Health Organization is angling to classify gaming addiction as a “gaming disorder”? Researchers and self-regulatory bodies have been pushing back against the move in the US – and apparently in Europe too, as The Guardian reports this week that UK Interactive Entertainment (Ukie) has also said it’s concerned about “the inconclusive nature of the research” upon which the classification is based.

The publication spoke to a Ukie rep as well as multiple academics, one of whom was involved in the WHO committee and supports the classification, and one of whom maintains that research is simply incomplete. Both groups admit that the effect of “disordered gaming” isn’t as strong as gambling disorder itself, and scientists have yet to address why more people don’t succumb to its supposed lure (especially given that a third of the planet games). Comorbidity is also an issue: Is the person really addicted to gaming, or is she gaming because she’s suffering from depression or unable to walk?

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Hawaii state representative calls on game industry to self-regulate on lockboxes

With the rhetoric and discussion around video game lockboxes at a fever pitch, it has drawn the attention of at least one US congressperson who has issued a somewhat dire warning to the games industry: Police yourself or get ready for us to do it for you.

Hawaii State Representative Sean Quinlan is the latest in a string of politicians and governments taking the games industry to task over the design and mechanics of pay-for-loot lockboxes. He said that while he doesn’t want to see the government step in to regulate, he also doesn’t believe that game publishers are going to get their act together on this.

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Belgium seeks to ban lockboxes as gambling, plus Hawaii and France weigh in

Capping off the Great Star Wars Battlefront II Fiasco of November, Belgium’s Gambling Commission and the Dutch Gaming Authority both began investigating lootboxes/lockboxes to determine whether they constitute gambling and necessitate appropriate regulation. Now, the former has issued its ruling, and unlike the gaming-industry bodies ESRB and PEGI, it didn’t add to the BS smokescreen.

Indeed, the Belgian Kanspel Committee has indeed ruled that the practice is a serious problem. “The mixing of money and addiction is gambling,” it declares. Belgian Minister of Justice Koen Greens told VTM that he aims to have gambling mechanics stricken from games entirely, banned outright, throughout Europe. “But that takes time.”

The US state of Hawaii has joined in the fray too, as state representatives have lambasted EA’s “predatory behavior,” calling the game a “Star Wars-themed online casino, designed to lure kids into spending money.” Is it just one state? Maybe not.

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Ashes of Creation’s city halls will be the center of player politics

With a strong focus on player government and politics, Ashes of Creation is giving careful consideration with how it will structure the leadership of each city. It won’t be hard to figure out where to go if you want to vie for power and position, as the city hall is being designed for such hobnobbing and meetings.

“Our government system is really all about letting players take control of the world they make,” the team wrote in this week’s dev diary. “The first step here is deciding how the city should feel, what laws should be in place and how it’s run.”

At the city hall, player leaders can meet together to make key decisions for the local town. Possible rulings include making people of a certain node “enemies of the state,” what to build, what to tear down, declaring war, forming alliances, activate festivals, and even create quests for other players.

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EVE Online political betrayal results in record-breaking theft

The EVE Online twitterverse exploded late last night with the news of a political twist so enormous that it’s become the largest recorded theft of in-game assets in the game’s history. In the middle of the night and without warning, major EVE military alliance Circle of Two (or CO2 for short) was betrayed by its diplomatic officer, a player with the ominous name of The Judge. In addition to cleaning out the alliance war funds and assets to the tune of over a trillion ISK, The Judge also transferred ownership of CO2’s 300 billion ISK keepstar citadel in its capital star system of 68FT-6 to a holding corporation, effectively stealing the alliance’s home space station.

News of The Judge’s betrayal trickled out of EVE all through the night, and it wasn’t long before the full extent of the incident was known. The 68FT-6 keepstar was sold to enemy alliance Goonswarm Federation, while CO2’s smaller citadels throughout Impass are now in the hands of TEST Alliance. The theft combined with the value of the citadels is estimated at over 1.5 trillion ISK, easily beating the 2011 trillion ISK Phaser Inc scam to become the highest-value theft in EVE‘s history. The actual damage done is even more extensive, injecting a huge dose of chaos into CO2 alliance and throwing fuel on the fire of the southern war.

Read on for a detailed breakdown of last night’s record-breaking theft, the reasons behind the betrayal, and the political situation that led us here.

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Notorious EVE Online player banned for threatening to cut off someone’s hands in real life

Yes, you’ve read that headline correctly. It’s been an insane day for EVE Online, as players awoke to the news that powerful military alliance Circle of Two had been betrayed by one of its top people. A player named The Judge stole over a trillion ISK worth of assets from the alliance and gave away all of its space stations to its enemies in one of the biggest political betrayals the game has ever seen. We’ll have a full report on the record-breaking theft and the current political situation in EVE later tonight, but this story has already taken an unusual turn.

Circle of Two’s leader, a notorious player named gigX, was so furious to learn of The Judge’s betrayal that he went into full meltdown mode in the alliance chat channel. Not content to keep his rivalry in-game, gigX asked his alliance to give him The Judge’s real name and home address. He followed up the request by writing “The Judge feel free to use your hands by typing here” before adding “while you can” to make a pretty serious threat.

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EVE Evolved: A massive war for revenge is brewing in EVE Online

Just over a year ago, the largest PvP conflict in gaming history kicked off in EVE Online as war erupted between the game’s most prominent territorial alliances. Over 60,000 pilots were initially drawn into the interstellar war that came to be known as World War Bee or The Casino War, and thousands of ex-players and newbies signed up during the war just to get involved. We followed the landmark battles and political twists of World War Bee intently for several months as it unfolded like a living work of science fiction. Our coverage ended with The Imperium, a large military coalition led by alliance Goonswarm Federation, being kicked out of its territory in the north of EVE and losing thousands of members and allies.

The story could have ended there as alliances often collapse following a major defeat (in what players affectionately refer to as a “failure cascade”), but the core of The Imperium stuck together and vowed to one day get revenge. The group has since managed to conquer and hold the lucrative Delve region in the south of EVE and has been farming resources en masse for months, rebuilding its war chest and waiting for an opportunity for revenge. It looks like that moment has now arrived, as the group has reportedly moved a huge fleet up north to a staging system within striking distance of its former home.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at how the war brewing in the north of EVE got started and what shape it might take over the coming weeks.

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ECO explores climate change with the power of video games

If you’re averse to politics, science, and education, you might want to give ECO wide berth. Otherwise, Strange Loop Games CEO John Krajewski hopes that you and the upcoming generation of students might learn a thing or two about the impact of humans on a closed environment through ECO’s 30-day cycle.

“Within the experiential power of games, I believe we can find some of the power to untie the political knots that wrap up climate change, creating an experience in a virtual world where climate change is a problem you can see in front of your face, and it immediately threatens you,” Krajewski wrote.

Krajewski said that by allowing players to experience first-hand how the environment reacts to siphoning off resources and changing the world itself, the players might come to a conclusion through their experience. “Within ECO, the processes of climate change and societal impact happen over the course of 30 days, with a few dozen friends or classmates, in a world small enough to see all of it,” he said.

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Valve is working on three VR titles, feeling effects of travel ban

Valve’s Gabe Newell and Erik Johnson have confirmed that the company is working on a trio of VR-centric games, not cheapie experiments but full-scale games built in Unity and its own proprietary Source 2 engine. The discussion came as part of a press briefing in Seattle last night.

Newell also commented at length on the U.S. government’s travel ban, which was once again blocked by the courts yesterday. He explained that Valve employees have been directly affected by the ban, people who’ve “been here for years” and “pay taxes” but can’t leave the country to visit relatives or attend events overseas lest they become unwittingly entangled or trapped far from home.

Newell and Johnson further said that the ban (and the threat of its return in one form or another) also affects their ability to hire and their ability to host international e-sports competitions, as many pro players already had difficulty securing work visas. Consequently, the duo say they’d consider hosting the big-money Dota 2 The International tourney out of the U.S. if necessary.

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MMO lockboxes, keys, and booster packs: Gambling or gaming?

Lockboxes have become a hot topic over the last couple of years. Last month, both our writers and readers crowned SWTOR worst business model of the year in part over its lockbox shenanigans. And several business model and lockbox-related articles made it into our list of most-commented-on articles of the year, including the Daily Grind on lockboxes and gambling.

So where do we draw the line between gambling and hobby gaming? Why are lockboxes acceptable? Are they really something MMO developers should continue to use in order to monetize their games?

I’ve done some research and even gotten some expert legal opinions about this based on American law (and some international), and I can’t say I’m entirely happy about my results.
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