Amidst all the Star Wars Battlefront II loot box controversy, a few politicians chose to take a stand. At the time, Hawaiian state representatives Chris Lee and Sean Quinlan called out “predatory practices” in the gaming industry. EA backed down on the loot boxes, at least for Star Wars Battlefront II‘s launch, but the politicians continue to take a stand.
In a five minute video uploaded to YouTube, Chris Lee lays out some points he hopes to draft into a bill.
“The most obvious thing is prohibiting the sale of games with predatory game mechanics to those under 21,” Lee said. “That’s something that I think everybody should be able to agree on. And that might be enough, because if you’re taking away that share of the market from the gaming industry, they might actually change games across the board for the better.”
The predatory mechanics Lee calls out include anything where players pay money for a “percentage chance” to win an item or other in-game loot. In other words, if you pay five dollars for a skin, that’s fair game. If you pay five dollars for a 30 percent chance to win a skin, that’s out. Potential solutions include marking games with such gambling mechanics as ‘Adults Only,’ regulating the industry in the same way that casinos are currently regulated, and requiring developers to list the chances of getting a particular reward from a loot box (similar to the system currently in place in China).
Lee also acknowledged the difficulty of applying this to different game markets, including digital distribution fronts like Steam or GOG. Several games that are digital-only appear on these platforms without regulation from the ESRB. However, Lee hopes to create a “starting point” to end what he calls “absolutely unethical and unfair” practices, such as drop rates that fluctuate depending on a user’s predicted susceptibility to spending money.
“We don’t need to change the laws in every state,” Lee said. “We just need to keep the conversation going to keep pressure up and ultimately get enough attention to this issue so that maybe the laws in a couple states change, but that’s enough to compel the industry to build games that meet those laws. Stop exploiting folks who might have gambling addictions and others, and actually create better games.”
Lee encourages viewers to reach out to their elected officials and share their stories, and even adds a template letter outlining the issue for officials who may not be aware of the controversy. That letter can be found here.