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State Rep: Games industry must self-regulate loot boxes before government steps in

State Rep: Games industry must self-regulate loot boxes before government steps in

December 1, 2017 | By Chris Kerr

December 1, 2017 | By Chris Kerr
More: Design, Business/Marketing

Hawaii State Rep. Sean Quinlan has waded into the loot crate debate by suggesting the games industry should self-regulate before the government is forced to step in. 

Speaking to Glixel, Quinlan said the industry should start "self-policing" sooner rather than later to prevent the government from overreaching. 

He suggested the best outcome would be for the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) to slap higher ratings and warning labels on titles that use loot boxes and similar methods, making it less likely for those games to fall into the hands of minors. 

"The ideal solution would be for the game industry to stop having gambling or gambling-like mechanics in games that are marketed to kids," he says, although he admits he doesn't believe publishers will let that happen. 

"I know [developers and publishers] have a fiduciary responsibility to shareholders, but I think they have a responsibility to customers too. So the ESRB could say that if a game has loot crates, it gets a 21-plus rating. I wouldn't want it to be a federal law. I think that could be a very slippery slope."

The ESRB, however, has already explained that it doesn't view loot boxes and certain other "voluntary" monetization methods as gambling. 

Quinlan, on the other hand, claims that while they might not be gambling in the traditional sense of the word, the parallels are there for all to see. 

"I think the mechanism is so close to gambling, when we talk about psychology and the way addiction and reward works, I think whether or not it means the strict definition of gambling, it’s close enough and the impact is close enough," he continues.

The Hawaii rep isn't the first official to weigh in on the issue, which has become a hot topic following the recent Battlefront II loot box controversy

Back in November, another Hawaiian representative, Chris Lee, called for a clampdown on "predatory" loot boxes. Meanwhile, a group of Belgian officials have started investigating the practice, with one suggesting they'd like loot boxes banned outright.

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