Loot boxes have been one of the gaming industry's main talking points for a while now, albeit concrete measures were only taken in Belgium and Holland. Now, however, Children's Commissioner for England called for stricter regulation.
The Commissioner's recently published report called 'Gaming the System' takes a closer look at loot boxes, how widespread they are and what their effects are on children. Seeing as how the risk to children is increasingly being singled out as the main reason for stricter regulations, we'd say it was about time for a specifically focused report.
Right off the bat, the report states, "The overwhelming majority of children (93 percent) in the UK play video games. Yet despite its popularity, the culture of 'gaming' - its rules and its rituals, the varying profiles of players, the risks they face - tends to be spoken of by adults, whether they be policymakers or parents, as if it were an alien landscape."
Video games are one of the most popular pastimes for children and adults alike, which invariably increases the likelihood of minors talking to strangers, encountering some form of bullying or some other type of unpleasant social interaction. There are also developmental concerns, which should not be dismissed, risks of exposure to violent content, overindulgence, and the list go on.
Now, it can be argued that gaming has compensated for the lack of real-world socialisation of children with an online form thereof, and the report lists many positive examples of kids hanging out with friends, learning new skills and just plain ol' having fun. With such closely intertwined social and online lives, though, it's clear that video game experiences can be very impactful in a child's development, but none of the aforementioned issues has been flying under the radar as much as loot boxes.
"Adults who gamble often tend to have boundaries and control measures in place to mitigate against harm. Children are unlikely to be able to put these in place for themselves. If there are concerns around exposure to gambling at an early age offline, then those same concerns should translate into the online world", the report says in conclusion.
Several companies have been grilled in the UK over monetisation methods, but not much has come of it other than EA's renaming of loot boxes into surprise mechanics. Whether the Commissioner's report makes any difference is yet to be seen.