If you have played a videogame released by EA or any other large gaming corporation in the past couple of years, then you probably know what a loot box is. And you probably are also aware of the fact that the loot boxes are slightly problematic. The fact that they are randomized in nature makes it feel like no matter how many loot boxes you buy, you can never get what you wanted or what you were looking for, so you get slightly frustrated whenever you try to open a loot box and don’t get what you want. And if you are anything like any of the other players out there, you will keep trying to get more loot boxes only to open them in hopes of getting what you want, which might cause you to spend more money than you would have otherwise spent on simply buying that one thing. Which brings us to the point that the lawmakers in the US and Australia are trying to make about them: loot boxes are too much like real slots in Australia or elsewhere. This makes them a tool for teenagers and children to get used to gambling, and that makes loot boxes incredibly problematic for everyone around the world.
The case of loot boxes started out pretty innocently. Once upon a time, they were nothing more than a vehicle of additional fun in a game. A free drop of some cosmetic or gameplay items that would enhance the experience and add a little bit of risk and fun to the game. These loot boxes became a very popular product with the players – everybody loved anticipating what would come out of a box if they waited for something to come out of it long enough. But over time, things changed. While most of the time loot boxes were earned through gameplay, now the users became able to buy them and soon enough, they were only able to buy the loot boxes. This meant that users were spending money on an unknown result hoping for the best outcome. And it all became too close to what we all recognize as gambling. As time goes on, more and more people recognize the traces of gambling in loot boxes and finally, we saw the result it was having on kids within certain countries. Kids that enjoyed games where loot boxes were prevalent were at a higher risk factor to grow up with a gambling addiction. Multiple scholarly articles and studies have connected loot boxes to gambling and now more and more people are paying attention. So much so that the US, UK, Belgium, and Australia are starting to have a discussion about taking a closer look at loot boxes and maybe even prohibiting them from being used in games, as a way to prevent children from becoming predisposed to gambling addiction.
So far, the only real action that has been taken in the direction of curtailing this kind of lootbox activity is Beligum, where the FIFA in game currency for purchasing lootboxes was bannedfrom being sold within the country. This was hailed as positive action for both preventing lootboxes from being further used within this country, to even making games feel like games instead of investments again. But this seems to not be enough for many countries.
Australia is considering banning lootbox related gaming in and of itself and altogether. The country already has some of the strictest media and game restriction laws in the world, with the rating system ahving been ciricized as being too strict. This only serves as proof that Australia is likely to act upon their first instinct of lootbox bans, and this does not come as a surprise. After all, Australia is known as the country that has a very special place for gambling in their hearts. They are also known for having the biggest gambling addiction problem in the world. So it is no surprise that the country would attempt to curtail the product that might be causing the problem in the first place.
Australia is not the only country that is considering doing so. The largest market videogames, the United States is in the middle of looking at their loot box policy, which there is none of. The thing with the US is that the gaming industry is large enough to have a significant impact on the economy, so they will take very slow and close steps at doing anything related to gaming. This means that if banning loot boxes might be seen as a detriment to the industry, they will not do it. Although, there has been much demand in the general public for specifically this kind of review and intervention in the industry. Many gamers who have grown up with games before loot boxes see them as a problematic addition to the game, as they observe their children purchase loot boxes in order to fulfill the thrill of getting “that one skin”.
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