December 7, 2017
U.S. Lawmaker Already Has a Plan For Games With Loot Boxes
Hawaii Democratic State Rep. Chris Lee has announced a detailed plan to reign in video games that include loot boxes. The representative previously entered the loot box debate in November, when he posted a video criticizing the practice.
The high-profile release of Star Wars Battlefront II has been plagued with controversy over the game’s loot box mechanics. EA, the game’s publisher, even overhauled Battlefront 2‘s progression system prior to launch (though not quite successfully). As loot boxes have gained increasing attention, some have looked to government regulation of video games as a means of combatting the practice.
PC Gamer reports that in a new video from Lee, the state representative proposes, among other things, prohibiting the sale of video games featuring what he calls “gambling mechanisms” to those under the age of 21. His definition of “gambling mechanism” is straightforward: it applies whenever a player buys a chance to get an in-game item, rather than buying the item itself. Lee would also like to limit the ability of game publishers to tamper with item drop rates. This, as PC Gamer points out, suggests a law requiring publishers to make drop rates public, as is the case in China. To effect his proposed changes, Lee invites the video’s viewers to write to their elected officials, and links to a letter template.
Battlefront II caused frustration with loot boxes to explode, but the problem goes far beyond one game. Titles like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive to Need for Speed: Payback to Overwatch have included either loot boxes or unsavory microtransactions. It’s true that, as the cost of making videogames rises, publishers need to figure out how to continue turning a profit. However, the expanding loot box economy goes beyond necessary sustainability. It is, as Lee describes it, predatory.
Now, government regulation of expressive mediums – be they videogames, TV, film, or anything else – is a slippery slope, because the notion of protecting consumers is open to interpretation. Cracking down on loot boxes, for example, could be seen as protecting consumers, but so could censoring the graphic violence of video games (an idea that many videogame players would reject). So in thinking about loot boxes and the best ways to keep them from bogging down games, it’s important to keep the broader context in mind. The solution should be both sustainable and conducive to the video game medium’s growth, not a band-aid fix that clears a path for less desirable limitations.
Source: PC Gamer