Congress asks publishers to self-regulate lootboxes via a UK regulation that has nothing to do with lootboxes

At least they're trying?

    
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We never like these things.

There are some Democrats in the US Congress that are hoping to do something about lootboxes in the country. That’s good. They even went so far as to send a letter to major games publishers to try and convince them to self-regulate the monetization scheme. That’s also good. However, they’re doing it by asking a UK recommendation be extended to American children — guidelines that have absolutely nothing to do with lootboxes whatsoever. That’s not so good.

Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL), and Rep. Lori Trahan (D-MA) all wrote joint letters to publishers like Disney, Epic Games, Activision, and Microsoft, asking them to extend the protections of the UK’s Age-Appropriate Design Code (AADC) regulation, a set of standards intended to protect children’s privacy, data, and geolocation when they use games, websites, and social media. Nowhere in the language of the regulation does it mention lootboxes.

In spite of this, the letter references “manipulation and peer pressure associated with in-game purchases and loot boxes” and attempts to reference the AADC’s protections as a means for game devs and publishers to curtail the practice.

“The prevalence of micro-transactions — often encouraged through nudging — have led to high credit card bills for parents. Loot boxes go one step further, encouraging purchase before a child knows what the ‘bundle’ contains — akin to gambling. Children are uniquely vulnerable to manipulation and peer pressure associated with in-game purchases and loot boxes. Experts suggest that Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) ratings and parental controls are insufficient. The AADC represents a monumental step towards child centric design by default.”

The letter also references violence in video games at its open but never raises the matter again, then closes with a vague promise that Congress needs to act “with urgency to enact a strong privacy law for children and teens in the 21st century” — seemingly getting the intention of the AADC regulation — and finally ends with questions asking if the publishers in question will do what the Congresspeople ask. If you’ve ever wondered what trying to do your job without actually doing your job looks like, consider Exhibit A.

source: The Verge via Kotaku and Gamasutra
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Zuldar

They’ve been self-regulating them already, it hasn’t turned out great.

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Tremayne

If US legislators are relying on UK regulations does this mean that you lot have finally got over this “independence” nonsense and are ready to return to civilisation (and also start spelling words like “colour” properly? :)

Turing fail
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Turing fail

I asked my dogs to self regulate when I went on vacation… one ate itself to death on the first day, the other somehow burned the house down without the benefit of opposable thumbs.

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Arktouros

Politicians get a win because they can claim they’re protecting children and looking after our future. Big businesses can talk about what programs they already have in place to protect our vulnerable children in their games. Everyone is all smiles and congratulations at a job well done.

However nothing is going to change. At all.

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Utakata

It will probably even have less teeth when whatever they legislate passes through the Senate. So I wouldn’t worry about it even more…

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Arktouros

American legislation can be sneaky. Since things have largely devolved to perpetual gridlock what usually ends up happening is they create these massive bills that get all sorts of side projects and endeavors attached to them. For example here’s them throwing in copyright infringement and CASE act in what was basically supposed to be a relief package.

So on it’s own merit, sure. Something like lockbox protection probably wouldn’t even get called to be heard in a legislative setting. Even if it did…gridlock. However now you get some omnibus bill that needs to be passed to keep things functioning and to get a vote on it to pass all of a sudden that poorly written legislation technically outlaws Game Expansions because they were taking aim at P2W and lockboxes (like the Hawley bill does).

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McGuffn

I thought the Age-Appropriate Design Code was already recognized in America through common law? Henry VIII instituted it when one of his bad wives let the kids play mortal combat.

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Kickstarter Donor
Peregrine Falcon

There’s two problems with this, both of which should be obvious.

1) The dinosaurs in Congress clearly have no understanding of how “the newfangled intertubes” work.

2) I have children and not once have they blown up my credit card buying loot boxes. Know why? Because I’m not an idiot. I have it set up so that they don’t have access to my card. So I don’t need the US Congress to force the game companies to protect me from my children.

EmberStar
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EmberStar

For point two: Good for you. Not everyone is that tech savy. And the default for things like smart phones is to demand a valid credit card, then default to “one button purchase power!” Someone has to go *out of their way* and know enough to NOT set up the account using the defaults the giant corporation provides.

IE, it’s not a problem FOR YOU. That doesn’t mean it’s not a problem.

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Kickstarter Donor
Peregrine Falcon

I agree that it’s a problem. However, I believe that it’s a problem that should be solved by the parents not by the corporations.

If they’re savy enough to put their credit info into the phone they should be savy enough to NOT put their credit card info into the phone.

Seriously, how tech savy do you have to be to solve this problem?

EmberStar
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EmberStar

Since the companies are deliberately designing for it to *BE* a problem, it becomes a regulation issue. Corporations *WANT* people to impulse buy, and spend spend spend. Right now, there aren’t any rules to even say that they shouldn’t do that. Nevermind rules that say they *can’t.*

I’m tech savy enough to know that customers as a whole can’t solve this problem. To mangle the George Carlin quote – think about the “average” user. Now think about the fact that half of them are dumber than that.

I don’t believe people should be vulnerable to being exploited (and having their entire bank account drained) because games use Funny Money to hide the fact that a transaction is happening and how much it costs. And I don’t believe corporations should be allowed to require a valid credit card to even set up an online account.

And right now, they sure as hell try – I’ve mentioned at least once before that I tried to set up an Apple user account for my niece, and I had to call Apple Support to force them to allow me to do so without entering MINE. I’m sure Google and Epic do something similar, and I know I have to UNCHECK the “save info for faster ordering!” on Steam. Amazon keeps trying to enable One-Click purchasing there, and keeps moving the option to turn it off.

Lots of people don’t even know any of this is an issue UNTIL they get a bill for a hundred bucks from Fortnite or whatever, because right now companies are able to completely obfuscate the fact that you’re even spending money. I, personally, have changed a lot of settings so that Amazon and Audible can’t just declare I’m the owner of anything I click on. I have to re-enter my payment info every time I use Steam or buy anything from Warframe. Most people don’t want to deal with that kind of hassle, they opt for “Easy mode” and just leave their saved payment info. Right up UNTIL the moment Little Timmy buys someone at Epic a new Ferrari.

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Bruno Brito

I have to re-enter my payment info every time I use Steam or buy anything from Warframe.

That sounds awful, and you’re completely right.

EmberStar
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EmberStar

For myself on Steam, it’s a personal choice. Steam has had at least once incident where they derped their own database. If I remember, something went screwy with one of the Summer Sales events, and people were getting randomly logged into someone *else’s* Steam account at checkout. (Or something, I’d have to look it up.) I lucked out and wasn’t affected at the time. As soon as I could, I deleted my saved payment info, and now I refuse to let Steam keep it on file.

The fact that it makes buying anything on Steam really annoying has an added bonus for me – do I *really* want this game on sale enough to type everything in?

“But we’ll save so much money if we get it now!”
“Will we really? What are the chances you’re going to even play this, nevermind finish it? Or are you just going to keep playing Ark and Space Engineers?”
“…”
“Right. You know what would save even *more* money? Not buying this game right now.”
( T.T )

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Kickstarter Donor
Peregrine Falcon

Wow. I didn’t realize that it was actually that big of an issue. Thanks for the info

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Schmidt.Capela

Actually, while the regulation itself doesn’t mention lootboxes, if you go to the Children’s Code hub in the same site you linked to you will find further articles and information that reflect how the regulator who will be enforcing the Children’s Code sees children data protection; reading the blog posts and articles there, my gut feeling is that the regulator will be using data protection as the excuse to start fighting against some practices they see as damaging for children, such as unmonitored chat, reward loops designed to make players spend more time and money than initially planned on a game, egregious monetization practices, etc.

BTW, lootboxes are mentioned by name in the “Children’s Code Standard 5 – Detrimental use of data” document linked to in the hub as basically gambling even if not legally defined as such, a situation the document suggests in in the process of being fixed.

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Hikari Kenzaki

Out of touch politicians are out of touch. Film at Eleven.

WHAT DO YOU MEAN NO ONE WATCHES THE ELEVEN O’CLOCK NEWS ANYMORE?!?!

EmberStar
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EmberStar

Wait, you mean there’s news that comes on at specific times? But what if I’m not awake then? What if I just don’t feel like watching it then? Anything important is going to get Tweeted straight into my brain, because I am a Twit. (/justkidding)