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UK MP says if gaming industry won't regulate loot boxes, we will

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Chair of the Addictive and Immersive Technologies Inquiry Damian Collins MP has accused the gaming industry of a lackadaisical approach to self-regulation, warning that if they don't want to do it, then the government will do it for them.

Having already grilled Epic and EA on this subject, in a session that produced EA's epic linguistic rebranding of gambling into surprise mechanics, the latest inquiry at Westminster involved King Digital, UKIE, TIGA, the Video Standards Council and the British Esports Association.

The inquiry was not nearly as entertaining without EA's verbal acrobatics, but it was quite useful, if only for Collins' insistence that things like gaming addiction and loot boxes, whatever our opinion on them is, are not being taken seriously enough by the gaming industry.

"I don't think the industry is engaging with these topics directly, and that's what's been certain to us throughout the inquiry", Collins told GamesIndustry.

"I think the concerns are real, particularly around gaming addiction... The consistent message we've had from the big game companies is this is not something they proactively monitor themselves", he added.

And therein lies part of the problem - behavioural psychologists are consulted when designing micro-transactions, which the industry representatives may or may not have shared with the inquiry, but once they're designed - players are on their own. Needless to say, it's an ethical dumpster fire. 

Collins insisted that these companies have the data and decide to do with it what they want, which all but discounts any proper scientific and forensic study.

"So it ultimately falls back to the government to look at things like the Online Harms White Paper, to look at the role of regulators with legal powers to run these sorts of investigations themselves, if industries or big companies don't want to facilitate them", he added.

AltCharPhotoshop of a No Loot Boxes Allowed sign in HollandThe Netherlands

In the end, and we've been droning on about this since February 2018 at least, the last thing the gamers want in their games is government hands, because that opens up a whole new Pandora's Box. Therefore, we're best off doing it ourselves.

Unfortunately, corporations will always err on the side of profit, while governments tend to err on the side of caution and its most sensitive populaces. If the gaming industry cannot muster the will to address the issue, which actually goes quite deep, then there is someone who will, for better or for worse.

You can find Collins' interview with GamesIndustry here.