After the massive backlash against video game publishing companies like Electronic Arts late last year, numerous politicians from around the globe have weighed in on the subject of loot boxes in games. Many of them call for an outright ban to them, with others demanding a review over their policies and ethics at the minimum.
United States Senator Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire has become the latest to join the cause, sending an open letter to the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) asking them to consider their internal review and rating systems in relation to games that include loot boxes. In it, she specifically cites the harm that these simulated gambling systems can and do have on children.
While there is still debate as to whether or not microtransaction-based loot boxes are a form of gambling (something Senator Hassan acknowledges in her letter), the fact that they so closely mimic gambling is cause for concern. She hopes to convince the ESRB to investigate as to whether or not loot boxes are marketed “in an ethical and transparent way that adequately protects the developing minds of young children from predatory practices.” She also urges that they collect data on how loot boxes are used by publishers and how players respond to them for future research needs.
While Senator Hassan has not joined the growing movement to have government regulators step in, she has posed the question as to whether or not loot boxes and microtransaction systems in video games should be a concern to all four Federal Trade Commission nominees recently. During the Commerce Committee hearing at which she posed these questions, she also made sure to point out that the ESRB is seen as extremely effective and a good example of what a voluntary enforcement board can accomplish.
It’s because of this last point that she feels confident progress will be made concerning loot boxes and their potential bad influence on children. Only time will tell whether or not her faith will be rewarded.