The gamblebox issue isn’t dying down any time soon, it appears. As Kotaku first reported, Missouri Senator Josh Hawley has announced he plans to introduce legislation targeting lootboxes and other harmful video game tactics in what his team is calling The Protecting Children From Abusive Games Act. Here’s the heart of the Senator’s press release:
“Social media and video games prey on user addiction, siphoning our kids’ attention from the real world and extracting profits from fostering compulsive habits. No matter this business model’s advantages to the tech industry, one thing is clear: there is no excuse for exploiting children through such practices. When a game is designed for kids, game developers shouldn’t be allowed to monetize addiction. And when kids play games designed for adults, they should be walled off from compulsive microtransactions. Game developers who knowingly exploit children should face legal consequences.”
As outlined, the bill will focus on games “targeted at those under the age of 18” and “prohibit several forms of manipulative design,” including lootboxes and microtransactions that offer randomized rewards, as well as “pay-to-win” elements that “induce players to spend money on microtransactions to advance through content supposedly available to them at no additional cost.” The press release specifically calls out ActiBlizz’s Candy Crush as a “notorious example” of these problems.
MMO players will recall that the end of 2017 and especially 2018 was dominated by industry and political debate over whether video game lockboxes constituted gambling and should be regulated. We saw multiple US legislators – and multiple countries for that matter – raise questions over gambleboxes. Most recently, New Hampshire Senator Maggie Hassan, who sits on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, questioned FTC reps about gaming addiction and lockboxes and urged the ESRB to overhaul its ratings process in regard to lootboxes. At the time, the FTC agreed to that investigation and planned public workshops on the issue this year.