Loot Boxes in Video Games Should Be Classified As Gambling
Wed, April 21, 2021

Loot Boxes in Video Games Should Be Classified As Gambling

Certain online games are making players to either upgrade or get gifts in exchange for cash / Photo by: ExplorerBob via Pixabay

 

Certain online games are making players to either upgrade or get gifts in exchange for cash. These players are mostly children, who the Children's Commissioner in the UK says are spending hundreds of pounds to avail of these in-game features.

Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield says children are gambling for loot boxes, random gifts, and game tools that they need to pay for so that they can gain advantages to help them win or get reach a higher level in the game. She warns that this common feature could lead to children unable to maintain their control in spending for loot boxes and compensating for losses the same way that gambling addicts do.

 

Calling for Restrictions

Longfield wants to classify paying for loot boxes in online video games such as FIFA and Fortnite as gambling based on the reforms of the country's Gambling Act. She is also calling for the implementation of restrictions in games that children can play, according to the Daily Mail, a British daily middle-market newspaper published in London in a tabloid format.

"Children have told us they worry they are gambling when they buy loot boxes, and it is clear [that] some children are spending hundreds of pounds chasing their losses."

Longfield wants to classify paying for loot boxes in online video games such as FIFA and Fortnite as gambling based on the reforms of the country's Gambling Act / Photo by: BagoGames via Flickr

 

A "Gaming the System" report from the Children's Commissioner says that 93 percent of children play video games, which young gamers regard both as a source of enjoyment and a tool to help them enhance their planning, teamwork, and creative abilities. But it also highlights the problems that arise from the system where children are pressured to spend money to get further in the game or keep up with their peers.

"Playing games online can be rewarding and exciting and help children to develop strategic skills and friendships, but they are also open to exploitation by games companies," Longfield says, adding that these companies "play" on the users' need to keep up with their friends and advance to succeeding levels by encouraging them to buy loot boxes.

"I want the government to classify loot boxes in games like FIFA as a form of gambling. A maximum daily spend limit for children would also be reassuring for parents and children themselves."

“People Think You’re Trash”

The commissioner's report interviewed children aged 10 to 16, who were asked about their likes and dislikes about gaming as well as their suggestions on what could be improved. While the report shows many social benefits for kids, it also highlights the negative effects that come with video gaming—including peer pressure and bullying.

According to PC Gamer, a UK-based magazine for PC gaming and reviews, the report states that children are under pressure to spend money on additional gaming features, for example, "skins" on Fortnite.

Children are doing so to save themselves from the embarrassment of having their peers know that they can't afford new Fortnite skins. This is because "people think you're trash" if young gamers are using default skins, according to a 10-year-old interviewed in the commissioner's report.

Aside from pressure from friends, PC Gamer says influencers also have a hand in children's spending on loot boxes.

"The amount of money children spend on games varies," the magazine quotes the report. "In some cases, the amount of money children report spending on games has increased annually, with some spending over £300 (US$386.60) in one year."

"Peer pressure from friends and online strangers as well as influence from famous gaming YouTubers are all factors that children say lead to them feeling pressured to spend money on in-game purchases," the magazine adds.

Chasing Losses

Another online game mentioned in the report is FIFA, where children spend up to £300 (US$386.60) a year to buy random loot boxes for their online teams. Children are likely to spend more if they don't get the players they want in the loot they bought.

Purchasing loot boxes is not considered as gambling under current legislation since the digital prizes that the games offer are not considered to have monetary value, the British daily broadsheet Daily Telegraph reports.

It adds that the commissioner's report argued the current legislation failed to recognize the value that the online items have for children. The current loot box market is estimated to be worth £20 billion (US$25.77 billion) worldwide with £700 million (US$90.21 million) coming from the UK.

Aside from classifying loot boxes as gambling, the report also called on video game companies to share data about the gamers' average playtime to help children manage their time better. This would help them avoid feeling pressured to constantly play a game.

Legally enforcing a new age rating system is also advised in the report. The commissioner believes the current age rating system is not taken seriously enough, according to PC Gamer, and that both the government and the gaming industry should take more action in raising awareness about age ratings and parental controls.
Growth is always seen as a positive outcome for any industry. But the growth of the gaming industry is partly coming at the literal expense of children, which shouldn't be the case—especially if these expenditures stem from social pressures. Video games should provide enjoyment without a cost and children should not spend anything other than their time playing these games.

The current loot box market is estimated to be worth £20 billion (US$25.77 billion) worldwide with £700 million (US$90.21 million) coming from the UK / Photo by: Marco Verch via Flickr