Australian MP plans to introduce a bill banning lockbox sales to minors

    
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May foulness attend thee.

You may remember back last year that there was some noise made in Australia about banning the sale of video game lootboxes to people under the age of 18. It looks like those recommendations and suggestions were taken to heart, as one of the Australian MPs, Andrew Wilkie, has announced his plan to introduce a bill banning the sale of lootboxes to people under the age of 18 via the country’s video game classification system.

Wilkie described the lockbox situation as “grooming” younger children for later gambling issues, although the text of the bill he intends to introduce has not yet been made public. It would also add a notification when a game contained lockboxes before being sold in the country. Obviously, this is far from the final word on this particular gaming mechanic, but it’s clear that the tide has turned against lockboxes in at least one governmental body.

Also, we are aware of the irony that the primary source has paywalled the story.

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Jack Pipsam

The Daily Telegraph is Rupert Murdoch’s newspaper for the state of New South Wales that is extremely friendly with the conservative party which Wilkie is part of, so it’s a tabloid which doesn’t deserve anyone paying for it.

As for the bill, the other key player that will come up in this is Paul Fletcher who’s the communication minster, the Classification Board is under his department and Wilkie’s proposed changes would tap into using the Classification system to automatically get the games classified at an R18+ rating, which is the adult-only rating, reserved for games like the Last of Us: Part 2 etc. It would be fatal for a Fifa game to be given an R18+ so I think that’s really the main play being proposed here.

The problem currently is there was a major review into classification system which covered a million things, one of those things was to give to loosen and unify the guidelines for games so that they’re in line with Film & TV, that would end the current situation of games being banned for drugs because they’re on a different guideline to Film & TV.
Wilkie’s idea goes agasint that proposal.

Another more radical idea was one of self-regulation in more the American system, where there wouldn’t be the one Classification Board, but rather each medium would have their own appointed regulator.

Whatever the outcome of the final review was, we don’t know, it’s been sitting on Paul Fletcher’s desk for months now unreleased, partly so he could give radical powers to the eSafety Commissioner giving her the powers of the Classification Board to ban websites and “offensive” internet content as part of the “Online Safety Bill”.

So it’s a mess and Wilkie’s just adding onto it.

Fisty
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Fisty

The internet and censorship has always been a thing in Australia, right? This seems as heavy handed as everything else they’ve done over the years. People in the states would flip if these types of regulations happened.

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Jack Pipsam

Kinda, but also not really, the internet hasn’t ever really been properly censored here before. In fact ISPs in the United Kingdom block far more sites than Australian ISPs do as they have stronger blocking laws. Rather there’s been a bunch of rules about what can be hosted in Australia, so there’s plenty of lewd or otherwise sites that aren’t hosted in Australia because there’s lots of laws about this and that, but there’s never really been any serious attempt to block access from those sites being hosted overseas. VPNs aren’t illegal, TOR isn’t illegal and while there’s now meant to be laws about encryption back-ends, the use of encryption itself isn’t illegal. For all practical purposes the internet isn’t anymore censored than anywhere else for most people, even those seeking adult content.

Yet the new laws are meant to influence take-down orders and blocking extreme context with ISP blocks (although a VPN or DNS change will get around that), this is largely a response to the Christchurch Massacre which has also seen similar kind of laws in New Zealand for hate-speech. The laws are largely pitched as protection of woman and minorities, such as targeting hate-speech or ordering take downs of unconsenting pictures or going after targeting harassment campaigns etc. This is how the center-left opposition party was wedged into supporting the law.
The problem is it’s extremely vague about what offensive is and the large fear is that prudish and the Christian-Right will weaponise the laws agasint or that it’ll be used agasint whistle-blowers.
This is why giving the eSafety Commissioner the power of the Classification Board is considered an extremely dangerous part of the bill, even if she doesn’t now intend to go after adult content, there’s nothing stopping the next commissioner from doing the same.
It’s largely compared to the United States having controversial internet laws called SESTA and FOSTA, it was widely reported that this bill caused an influx of false-positive take-downs of content out of fear of not complying, this new Australian law is feared it might have the same impact of over-compliance checks for content otherwise not being targeted.

There’s a lot of press about video games being censored and that’s true when it comes to drug usage, sexual violence or for case of anime games the “loli situation” shall we say.
But largely for Film & TV these rules don’t apply, drugs galore, sex all good and even certain minor-lewdness can be in film if it’s got a legitimately argued artist case, such as the film The trouble with being born which got a lot of controversy and was pulled from a Film Festival, but was given approval to be screened by the Classification Board, for film they take a context-is-key approach, but with games they’re bound by very strict guidelines of what can trigger a ban.

So the TL;DR is, yes but also no, but also yes, but also no. Chances are, not anymore than where you live if you look at your own laws as this is very much part of a global trend. Yes, including the United States, keep in mind that your government is also trying to force back-ends to encryption as well. All five-eye nations have the same interests.

Fisty
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Fisty

Enlightening response. You always hear about these oppressive restrictions in Australia. Also, yes, by no means are the states a shining example of how anything should be done.

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Jack Pipsam

Yeah to be honest there’s an awful lot of hype, largely from ourselves, but when you really take a step back, we’re honestly at lot less restrictive than the UK on say the internet, their own Online Safety Bill seems to be a lot broader than our own.

Same for games, it’s still unacceptable when a game does get banned and I’m very pissed every time, but it is far more rare than people make it out to be. Like GTA V or Cyberpunk didn’t have any issues getting classified, the issue is that changing the guidelines for Classification requires each of our states to agree to the changes, this is done as a counter-measure so the federal government of the day couldn’t bring in a bunch of new Classification rules (such as say banning sex or whatever), but the downside is that progress is very slow, it took us a long time to get the adult rating because one of our states blocked it.

Imagine if all of your states had to agree to pass changes and you get an idea of why change is slow on the issue of games being banned here, which is why if the changes are to make games fully in line with Film & TV then pretty much all our issues of games being banned will be gone, it’s not the board that wants to ban things, but rather they’re legally bound to follow the guidelines.

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Arktouros

Age gates are always really interesting in how they’re implemented so pretty curious to see what they come up with as well as how well they enforce it. Like if a mobile game from a company in America continues to sell lockboxes regardless what kind of repercussions can they really face? Does Australia go after Google instead because the American company doesn’t care what Australia says? If parents consent to whatever purchases for their children is it okay? Because that’s basically what the setup is now technically. Because, as always, how the fuck are these children getting all this money?

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Jack Pipsam

It would be how the app is classified in the store I imagine, so if the app is given an adult-only classification then it should require a Google account to be of a certain age to download it. But I should point out that an American company selling a product in Australia still has to follow our laws and visa-versa, why do you think that Steam suddenly brought in a refund system for everyone after our regulator went after them? Because despite Steam’s original argument otherwise, they still had t follow our consumer law for at least our market and so gave up and did it for everyone because it’s easier.

App Stores are already different in each country for how things are rated, for example Twitter is rated 12+ in Australia, but I’ve seen that Twitter is rated 17+ in another country.

If the bill is only about how things are classified then it would be Google in the firing line if they didn’t take responsibility steps to ensure that minors aren’t downloading R18+ apps, but since Google already is selling movies which are R18+ I assume they already have those systems in place.

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Arktouros

Big companies like Goggle, Steam, Apple, etc are far easier for countries to corral and control because they do a lot of business where they personally take income. This is a little different with an app developer who uses a major company platform like Google or Apple to make income through. So if they go after the parent companies that products are being sold through (IE: Google) then that might somewhat work but if they can only go after the app designer (IE: American AppDev#3951359315 who cranked out Clash of Titan Clans Battlegrounds) then they’re not going to get anywhere.

A quick googling of how Google set ups it’s protection is it’s all Parental Controls that have to be setup. So kinda back to square one in that scenario where again you’re expecting parents to, I dunno, be somewhat involved in the access to money you give them (crazy concept) and what they can and can’t purchase. I mean the horror of it. Back in my day we could just be parked in front of the TV and our parents just hoped we didn’t call toll free numbers.

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Jack Pipsam

I’m not saying I agree with the proposed changes, while I have no love for loot-boxes, I really don’t think the Classification system should be used in this kind of way and on the whole I’m very leery of government restrictions on things.
But I also don’t doubt the government’s resolve or ability to go after companies overseas if they want too, they’ve proven they’re willing to do all kinds of things, it was only earlier this year they stared down both Google and Facebook who threatened to leave the country over proposed media bargaining laws and both companies despite the weight gave-in quickly once it became clear the government had no intention of caring what they thought, the constant theme of this current government is no tech company is too big or too small to get in the way. Give enough powers or scope to bodies to chase after companies, they will.

Leo
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Leo

Well I guess a step in the right direction. But unless something changed, the ways of getting around these age gates tend to be extremely easy. Maybe a few parents here and there will realize from the messages that these horrible gaming practices are dangerous to many.

Fisty
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Fisty

This seems unnecessary. What are kids doing buying lockboxes for? That is on the parents. If you’re 17 and not really a kid, and have a job, then waste that money on lockboxes. Do they realize drugs and funko pops are the alternative? I wasted it on weed, MtG chase cards, D&D and fast food. It is a rite of passage for many.

EmberStar
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EmberStar

You do realize that when setting up an Apple account now, they demand a payment method? It takes some considerable effort to get around that. I bought my niece a used Mac, and when I was setting it up I couldn’t finalize her account. I called Apple Tech support, and they checked the info and said it was because there was no payment method, which was now a required field. “Just put your credit card info in.”

After managing not to start shouting profanity into the phone, I eventually got them to flip a switch to bypass that. This was several years ago. But the default is “attach every new account to a credit card, enable one-touch payments!” So no, I don’t think someone whose kid wipes out their savings account is somehow exceptionally stupid or negligent. I think they’re not tech-savy, and foolishly trusted a massive company by setting up their user account exactly how the company told them to.

It requires going out of their way to fight it, such as how I have with both Steam and Apple – Steam no longer has any saved payment info, Apple only has the balance from the last prepaid Apple Store card I used. The payment settings make it clear that this is not a desirable situation for either of them. Steam still defaults to trying to save any payment info I enter – I have to opt *out* by remembering to UNCHECK the “save payment info” box every time I buy something. For about a year, my iPad nagged every time I woke it up that I hadn’t set up Apple Wallet or One Pass payment info. I eventually found a way to make it stop, but it was exceedingly non-intuitive and most definitely not clearly marked.

Fisty
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Fisty

I’m sorry, but you can’t let your kid have access to a credit card. Buy them an Android. You let your kid have a device that accesses your CC, that’s on you. I can’t imagine the awesome shit I would’ve had if that was option back in the day.

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Bruno Brito

I wasted it on weed, MtG chase cards, D&D and fast food.

All of these are better than lockboxes.

Except if you made a Merfolk deck. Then i would call the cops on you.

Fisty
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Fisty

I completely agree. I’m just saying we gotta waste it on something and learn our lessons on something. Lockboxes (I dont like em, but they’re here) seem like as good as place as any to spend that loot. Better that than something like cigs.

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Bruno Brito

You see, i rather buy cigs.

At least that way i can die earlier instead of contemplating the fact i dropped quite a load of cash on lockboxes lol

Fisty
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Fisty

I’ve quit two months ago, on these damn pouches instead. Saving $400 a month (two of us) though. I love my evil nicotine.

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Bruno Brito

My addiction is coke ( not the drug, the drink ). So, basically caffeine and sugar.

It’s pretty bad. I’ve been like 3 days without drinking coke and i’m going insane with headaches and anxiety attacks.

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Rndomuser

Not only it’s unnecessary, it’s actually useless. Last time I’ve logged into WoW Classic, I saw people spamming local chat in Stormwind with “deathroll” casinos, where you do a /roll and if you get higher than 60 then you double your gold and if you roll less than 60 then you lose your gold, or something similar. And gold in WoW can be bought for real life money, regardless if Blizzard wants it or not. Same goes for other games like EVE Online and I have also seen the same in FFXIV though it was not very frequent there.

Gambling using real life currency will exist in multiplayer games in one form or another, regardless of laws.

Fisty
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Fisty

That sounds like something I could get in to! Like playing hi/lo with your buddy at 2am.