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Loot box Senate bill gets bipartisan support (cnet.com)
52 points by mfrommil 25 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 14 comments

I have mixed feelings about this. My gut feelings here are:

1. Randomness in general is fine. Magic: The Gathering packs or blind bags or Kinder Surprise eggs should not be banned[1]. Plenty of digital games do have random drops too. If I pay Blizzard $15 per month for WoW, I can kill a dragon once per week, which has a chance of dropping an item for me, which has a chance of being a cosmetic appearance I need to complete a set. But that's fine, I think. (Right?)

2. Loot boxes in digital games are...fine...ish? I don't think Overwatch is a huge problem. Some titles have done this in a way which is fine, but overall it does feel a bit scarier than the things in example 1. (Although it's not always clear how it differs from the WoW example...)

3. In some cases, we have figured out ways to weaponise this in very dangerous ways (eg, kompu gacha). If you then target children, which some do...it's not good.

4. This is a very effective monetization technique. But to put it another way, it's a way that developers can obtain the resources they need to make good content (and there are many F2P game which do have good content!)

5. ....but those resources come from whales, and while some of those are just wealthy individuals with eccentric hobbies, others are what we'd call in other contexts "problem gamblers". "I get a cool game for free because other people have gambling addictions" is not a good argument to be making!

6. I'm reflexively skeptical of the governments ability to regulate things like this well, because it's fast moving and highly technical. There is every incentive for a company who has perfected a new more effective technique for exploitative monetisation to push for a ban on the methods its competitor's use. Unintended side effects and regulatory capture are very real.

So....I dunno. Some people are doing bad things, but I struggle to define it. We probably all have run across a mobile game doing pretty shady things, but does that mean all loot boxes should be banned? And would this law really help, on balance?

[1]: Yes, I know Kinder Surprise eggs are banned in the US due to them being, allegedly, choking hazards. I don't think they should be, but at any rate, they shouldn't be banned because they contain a random toy.

Agree with you on mixed feelings, this is complex in many aspects.

Compared to buying packs of Magic or Pokemon cards, where a couple cards in some sets are exponentially more desirable than any other card (and valued as such on the secondary market), loot boxes in many games aren't that different. Except there is physical/real friction/limits to buying a pack of cards as a kid- e.g. getting to the store, going to the store with a limited amount of cash, etc. Compared to a f2p game where, if access to IAP isn't restricted, there's essentially a limitless amount that can be spent on a credit card without the kid realizing the impact of doing so.

The gamer inside me hopes this could help get rid of a lot of the cookie cutter f2p games and possibly encourage more higher quality games to be developed that are bought upfront like old times.

I’m a little frightened that the US Senate even knows what loot boxes are. This level of awareness of the virtual addiction economy seems out of character for typical congressmen, to the point that it makes me wonder who might be lobbying for this and what other bans or regulations might they have in mind in the future?

Feels like the Magic: the Gathering community should be apprehensive and wondering when their randomized loot packs are going to be put behind the glass next to the Marlboros.

I'm strongly against this. Not because I like loot boxes (I really hate them and choose not to play games with them), but because I believe it is fundamentally the responsibility of a child's guardian to teach good habits and redirect compulsive behaviors. After all, the credit card is certainly not in the kid's name, so someone is fueling the addiction.

That's even before we get into what constitutes "a game targeting children" (which I don't think you can honestly define in good faith) and what "randomized paid content" means (DLC with a boss that has a random loot table?).

I mean, it's just ridiculously broad:

> permits a user to continue to access content of the game that had previously been accessible to the user but has been made inaccessible after the expiration of a timer or a number of gameplay attempts.

So, we're making arcades 18+?

There is precedent. They don't let kids use slot machines, even with parental supervision.

There's nothing stopping them from gambling on their own using a deck of cards, though. If kid-created games saw a comeback, maybe that's not so bad?

>There is precedent. They don't let kids use slot machines, even with parental supervision.

Exactly. Lootbox mechanisms are gambling gamified for kids, which makes it even more peverted than actual gambling. Which can lead to pathological behaviour and addiction.

This is no small matter. Companies who built business models on abusing the psychology of adolescents should be held accountable.

> After all, the credit card is certainly not in the kid's name, so someone is fueling the addiction.

As a not-parent how do kids' economy look like in 2019? Do they get their allowance in cash? Do they have debit card? Credit card?

I teach teenagers, and a lot of them have their own debit card... Even if they don't have a job. I'm not sure if it's their own account the parents deposit into, or if they're on their parents account, but quite a few do have one.

> After all, the credit card is certainly not in the kid's name

This makes a lot of sense to me.

I agree with the bill. Using tiny rewards can certainly be used to influence kids (or adults, really.) Look at the way Facebook and Twitter have influenced the world.

It's curious how 16 year olds are regarded as incompetent to handle a loot box, but should be given voting rights.

16 year olds do not have voting rights.

No, but there is a concerted effort in the US to extend voting rights down to that age (albeit, I don't believe there's much overlap between the proponents of these two issues).

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