Loot boxes would be adult-only if Australia’s bill passes

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Follow the example set by governments in places like Belgium and the Netherlandsan Australian politician has introduced a bill that, if passed, would massively restrict the use of loot boxes in video games aimed at children.

Federal politician Andrew Wilkie, an independent, introduced the bill in Parliament yesterday. Proposing that the loot box mechanics – where players use real money to buy random in-game items – feed off the same impulses as the game, and that they can serve as a pathway to get kids hooked , he suggests that any game with loot boxes (or similar systems) should not only be restricted to people over the age of 18 (the legal age to gamble in Australia), but should carry warning labels as well stating the reason for the assessment.

While Australia has a reputation for being incredibly authoritarian with its classification of video games, mainly due to a broken old system from decades past that has since been overhauled (but who still has some drug issues in the pipe)—I think it’s obvious?

I have a nine year old son who plays a lot of games, and the extent to which this stuff is endemic inside platforms like Roblox is creepy. Then consider the popularity of sports games like Fifa and NBA2K, both of which focus on what is essentially the gameand you can see what a regulatory (and psychological!) time bomb it keeps spinning.

Here is the complete plan of the billwhich in some cases would not only restrict the sale of these games, but in some situations would ban them outright (“RC” stands for Rating Denied, and games without a rating cannot legally be sold here):

Loot Boxes are interactive game features containing undisclosed items that can be purchased with real currency. They may take the form of a virtual box, crate, prize wheel, or similar mechanism and contain a prize or item that may or may not benefit the player. For example, a loot box may contain a particular character, additional game time, or access to levels and game cards. As the rewards contained in these loot boxes may provide competitive advantages in the game, they have significant value to players and may have resale value.

By tempting potential players to win game-changing items, encouraging risk-taking for eventual rewards, offering random prizes intermittently, and encouraging players to keep spending money, loot boxes loot evoke many of the same emotions and experiences associated with traditional poker machines and games of chance. This is of particular concern because many games containing these features are popular with teenagers and young adults. Despite this, loot boxes are currently not required to be considered in rating decisions and games are not required to advertise when they contain this feature.

This bill remedies this by obliging the classification board to consider loot boxes when rating a game. Additionally, the Board must establish a minimum rating of R18+ or RC for games containing this feature, which will prevent children from buying and playing these games.

The changes also require that a warning be displayed when games contain loot boxes or similar features, so they can be easily identified by parents and guardians.

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