Politicians from Belgium and Hawaii Seeking to Regulate Loot Boxes

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Recently, there has been a lot of discourse about the practice of loot boxes in games, mostly sparked by Electronic Arts’ Star Wars Battlefront 2. The issue has attracted the attention of the political world, and there are at least two initiatives in the pipeline.

The first comes from the Belgian Minister of Justice Koen Geens, as reported by VTM News. Geens wants to ban in-game purchases with random results, based on a ruling by the local gaming committee which argues that mixing money and addiction is equal to gambling.

Geens also argues that mixing gaming and gambling, especially at young ages, is dangerous for the mental health of children. That being said, he mentioned that results will take time, as any such initiative will have to go through the European Union.

The second action comes from the State of Hawaii, led by Representative Chris Lee who also brought up the alleged effect of loot boxes on the younger generations, while calling Star Wars Battlefront II an “online casino designed to lure kids into spending money” and even topping it up with a Star Wars quote “it’s a trap.”

At the bottom of the post, you can see a video in which Lee argues his position, and he also made a statement on Reddit, which you can read below in its entirety.

“Chris Lee here – I’m the one in the suit. My staff just told me someone apparently found this youtube upload before we had a chance to finish putting it together, but I thought I’d leave it up and just post here to explain that this fight can be won if people step up. This fight is about protecting kids, protecting families, freedom from exploitation, and the future of entertainment in this country.

People are more powerful than they think. While we are stepping up to act in Hawaii, we have also been in discussions with our counterparts in a number of other states who are also considering how to address this issue. Change is difficult at the federal level, but states can and are taking action.

Even so, elected officials can’t do it alone. They need your support and you can compel action wherever you live by calling and emailing your own state legislators and asking them to act. But don’t stop there. Call your allies. Call your pastors and teachers and community leaders. Ask them to call your state legislators as well. Their voices are politically powerful.

I believe this fight can be won because all the key bases of political support across the country are on the same side. The religious community, the medical community, the education community, consumer advocates, parents, even many business leaders and local chambers of commerce. This is a fight that unites everyone, even the most polarized conservatives and progressives. Doing something is a political win for Democrats and Republicans alike. And frankly, we don’t need to change the laws in every state – we just need to change a few and it will be enough to draw the line and compel change.

These kinds of lootboxes and microtransactions are explicitly designed to prey upon and exploit human psychology in the same way casino games are so designed. This is especially true for young adults who child psychologists and other experts explain are particularly vulnerable. These exploitive mechanisms and the deceptive marketing promoting them have no place in games being marketed to minors, and perhaps no place in games at all.

Your future is whatever you make it, so make it a good one. You have the power to get involved and decide this and the choice is clear: stand up now, or let this be the new normal from this point forward.”

Lee and his team are looking at legislation that would prohibit the sale of games with loot boxes to minors, as well as forbidding the use of loot boxes in games.

It’s worth mentioning that, while Lee and others appearing in the video speak in present tense (apparently implying that children can currently be drawn into the equivalent of an online casino in Star Wars Battlefront II) microtransactions are currently inactive in the game and have been since launch day. Electronic Arts intends to bring back in-game purchases after changes are made, but we don’t currently have any insight on the final form those microtransactions will take.

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