games

Loot boxes would be adults only if the Australian bill passed

Following the lead of governments in countries like Belgium and the Netherlands, an Australian politician has introduced a bill that, if enacted, would massively restrict the use of loot boxes in children’s video games.

Independent federal politician Andrew Wilkie introduced the bill into Parliament yesterday. He suggests that loot box mechanics — where players use real money to buy random in-game items — rely on the same impetus as gambling, and they can serve as a way to get kids excited about it, he suggests that any game involving loot boxes (or similar systems) should not only be restricted to those over 18 (the legal gambling age in Australia) but also carry warning notices stating the reason for the classification.

While Australia has a reputation for being incredibly stubborn with its classification of video games – largely due to a broken old system from decades past that’s now been outdated (but still has some drug-related kinks in the pipe) – I think that’s a no-brainer?

I have a nine year old son who plays a lot of games and the extent to which this stuff is prevalent across platforms Roblox is dreadful. Then consider the popularity of sports games like FIFA and NBA2Kboth of which are heavily focused on what fundamentally gambling is, and you can see how this is a regulatory (and psychological!) time bomb that just keeps ticking.

Here is the full draft of the bill, which in some cases would not only restrict the sale of these games, but would outright ban them in some situations (“RC” means Refused Classification, and games without a classification cannot be legally sold here):

Loot boxes are interactive game features that contain undisclosed items that can be purchased with real currency. They may take the form of a virtual box, crate, prize wheel, or similar mechanism and contain a prize or item that may or may not benefit the player. For example, a loot box may contain a specific character, additional game time, or access to levels and game maps. Because the rewards contained within these loot boxes can provide competitive advantages within the game, they have significant value to players and may have resale value.

By enticing players with the potential to win game-changing items, encouraging risk-taking for a possible reward, delivering random prizes at irregular intervals, and encouraging players to keep spending, loot boxes evoke many of the emotions and experiences associated with poker machines and traditional gambling activities . This is of particular concern as many games that include these features are popular among teenagers and young adults. Despite this, loot boxes are not currently required to be considered in classification decisions, and games are not required to advertise if they include this feature.

This bill fixes that by requiring the classification board to consider loot boxes when classifying a game. Additionally, the board must set a minimum classification of R18+ or RC for games that include this feature, preventing children from buying and playing these games.

The changes also require that a warning be displayed when games contain loot boxes or similar features so that parents and guardians can easily identify them.

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