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Senator Presses FTC and ESRB on Loot Boxes

Rolling Stone reports more scrutiny falling on the use of loot boxes in videogames, as U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) sent a letter to the Entertainment Software Ratings Board on the topic on the same day she raised it during a Senate committee meeting. The letter touches on the question of whether loot box sales represent a form of gambling, and asks the ESRB to direct some extra scrutiny toward this topic, suggesting that "at minimum" the rating system should identify a game's use of loot boxes. During a hearing of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, Senator Hassan solicited reassurances from four Federal Trade Commission nominees that they feel gambling concerns make this an issue that bears investigation by the FTC, depending on the ESRB's response to the Senator's letter. This video shows the questions at the committee hearing, and Rolling Stone also has the letter of response from ESRB president Patricia Vance, saying, "As the industry evolves, so does our rating system, and we will continue to make enhancements to ensure parents continue to be well-informed." Here is a portion of the original letter Senator Hassan sent to the ESRB:

The prevalence of in-game micro-transactions, often referred to as ‘loot boxes,’ raises several concerns surrounding the use of psychological principles and enticing mechanics that closely mirror those often found in casinos and games of chance. The potential for harm is real. Recently the World Health Organization classified “gaming disorder” as a unique condition in its recent draft revision of the 11th International Classification of Diseases. While there is robust debate over whether loot boxes should be considered gambling, the fact that they are both expensive habits and use similar psychological principles suggest loot boxes should be treated with extra scrutiny. At minimum, the rating system should denote when loot boxes are utilized in physical copies of electronic games.

To that end, I respectfully urge the ESRB to review the completeness of the board’s ratings process and policies as they relate to loot boxes, and to take into account the potential harm these types of micro-transactions may have on children. I also urge the board to examine whether the design and marketing approach to loot boxes in games geared toward children is being conducted in an ethical and transparent way that adequately protects the developing minds of young children from predatory practices.

Further, I urge the ESRB to consider working with the relevant stakeholders – including parents – to collect and publish data on how developers are using loot boxes, how widespread their use is, and how much money players spend on them.

Finally, I ask that you develop best practices for developers, such as ethical design, tools for parents to disable these mechanisms, or making them less essential to core gameplay.

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32 Replies. 2 pages. Viewing page 1.
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32. No subject Feb 17, 2018, 01:31 Mashiki Amiketo
 
Mr. Tact wrote on Feb 16, 2018, 08:35:
As for proving you are over 18, is there actually a meaningful way to do that online?
Credit cards generally work well, not always perfectly however. The other option is to restrict lootboxes to M rated titles. The laws are already in place in many states and provinces that restrict sales to those who are above the age of majority.
 
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"For every human problem,
there is a neat, simple solution;
and it is always wrong."
--H.L. Mencken
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31. Re: Senator Presses FTC and ESRB on Loot Boxes Feb 16, 2018, 14:12 RedEye9
 
jdreyer wrote on Feb 16, 2018, 02:22:
RedEye9 wrote on Feb 15, 2018, 18:15:
We love our guns more than our kids.

Why do you hate the constitution?
Thanks, I needed that.
 
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There's a fool-proof way to tell if something a conservative/right-wing/Republican said is true or not. If they call it "fake news", you can be sure it's the solid truth.
https://www.needtoimpeach.com/
http://projects.thestar.com/donald-trump-fact-check/
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30. Re: Senator Presses FTC and ESRB on Loot Boxes Feb 16, 2018, 13:59 Creston
 
theglaze wrote on Feb 15, 2018, 11:51:
The gaming industry's argument is that the player never "loses" when opening a loot box; a reward is always provided, even if undesirable.

It is the worst garbage argument of all time. Play Russian Roulette, you get a reward every time! If there was no bullet, your reward is you get to live! If there's a bullet, your reward is a bullet!

That said, Senator "I need to score some points with shit I know nothing about" is conflagrating two completely separate arguments. Micro transactions are not "often referred to as loot boxes." A loot box is (very often) a micro transaction, but the other way around does not automatically hold true.

I have a problem with the "You have a 0.00002% chance to get something useful" loot box garbage, especially if a game is completely designed around this horseshit grind. Straight up micro-transactions, eh. I could do without them, but as a long as a game isn't designed around me buying the $39.99 MegaWinRifle, I don't really care.

This comment was edited on Feb 16, 2018, 14:13.
 
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29. Re: Senator Presses FTC and ESRB on Loot Boxes Feb 16, 2018, 08:35 Mr. Tact
 
Mashiki Amiketo wrote on Feb 16, 2018, 01:07:
Problem is, it's not just people over 18. There's plenty of games marketed Teen which have loot boxes, which is a problem.
Right. Which is why I said it the way I did. I certainly would have no issue with legal requirements for publishing odds. As for proving you are over 18, is there actually a meaningful way to do that online?
 
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28. Re: Senator Presses FTC and ESRB on Loot Boxes Feb 16, 2018, 02:24 jdreyer
 
The prevalence of in-game micro-transactions, often referred to as ‘loot boxes,’ raises several concerns surrounding the use of psychological principles and enticing mechanics that closely mirror those often found in casinos and games of chance.

It's not microtransactions per se, but MTs with a random loot element. I don't mind a straight-up for-pay MT if I know what it is. ALthough pay-to-win objects can ruin a game, at least I can see what's for sale and how much it costs.
 
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27. Re: Senator Presses FTC and ESRB on Loot Boxes Feb 16, 2018, 02:22 jdreyer
 
RedEye9 wrote on Feb 15, 2018, 18:15:
We love our guns more than our kids.

Why do you hate the constitution?
 
Avatar 22024
 
The only thing that flat-earthers have to fear is sphere itself.
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26. No subject Feb 16, 2018, 01:07 Mashiki Amiketo
 
Mr. Tact wrote on Feb 15, 2018, 23:47:
On the other hand anyone over 18 who is falling for this nonsense is likely to lose their money in some other equally silly way if you prevent them from doing it on loot boxes.

So... six in one, half a dozen in the other.
Problem is, it's not just people over 18. There's plenty of games marketed Teen which have loot boxes, which is a problem. There's a huge swath of the mobile market that's marketed Everyone with p2w and loot boxes in it.

There's a reason why you can't buy lottery tickets under the age of majority in most places. On top of it, loot boxes offer no intrinsic value outside of the game itself.
 
--
"For every human problem,
there is a neat, simple solution;
and it is always wrong."
--H.L. Mencken
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25. Re: Senator Presses FTC and ESRB on Loot Boxes Feb 15, 2018, 23:47 Mr. Tact
 
I have mixed feelings on the subject. On the one hand, I don't like or care to see game companies effectively scamming people out of money using well established gambling tools. On the other hand anyone over 18 who is falling for this nonsense is likely to lose their money in some other equally silly way if you prevent them from doing it on loot boxes.

So... six in one, half a dozen in the other.

 
Truth is brutal. Prepare for pain.
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24. Re: Senator Presses FTC and ESRB on Loot Boxes Feb 15, 2018, 23:42 jdreyer
 
Turd Ferguson wrote on Feb 15, 2018, 10:46:
If more ppl would vote with their wallet, we would not have this kind of issue, however, having a label "loot box alert" attached to the game would be a small step in recognizing that this mechanic is a problem.


That's like telling a junkie not to buy cocaine cut with Borax.
 
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23. No subject Feb 15, 2018, 22:59 Mashiki Amiketo
 
Marvin T. Martian wrote on Feb 15, 2018, 18:09:
Yep--fix loot boxes but completely ignore being bought by the NRA and the deaths of even more children. One f'k up country!

Maybe you should ask a better question like: "Was it a really good idea for democrats, and progressives to destroy the mental health system in the 1980's? Turning it into the revolving door system that it is today, where people actively avoid getting treatment. And first responders are now the front-line in dealing with mentally unstable people." Now keep in mind that this wasn't a US only occurrence, it happened all over western countries. But it was pushed by one very specific side of the political spectrum, and it's caused no shortage of problems.

If you don't think it's a problem, go to your local courthouse and go read back over the last year. And you'll see "remand: MHR-eval, pickup threatening/others. Violent threat/physical attacks public/hospital/self-harm/etc" and the names will be listed over, and over, and over again. With the same revolving door. Into facility, on meds 7-14 days, off meds, repeat behavior, remand, back into facility. Start step 1, back on meds...
 
--
"For every human problem,
there is a neat, simple solution;
and it is always wrong."
--H.L. Mencken
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22. Re: Senator Presses FTC and ESRB on Loot Boxes Feb 15, 2018, 18:15 RedEye9
 
Marvin T. Martian wrote on Feb 15, 2018, 18:09:
Jivaro wrote on Feb 15, 2018, 17:50:
Will somebody think of the children?!


Yep--fix loot boxes but completely ignore being bought by the NRA and the deaths of even more children. One f'k up country!
We love our guns more than our kids.

after typing that I checked to see if I used than/then correctly and found this https://www.cnn.com/2017/11/18/opinions/guns-children-taylor-opinion/index.html
 
Avatar 58135
 
There's a fool-proof way to tell if something a conservative/right-wing/Republican said is true or not. If they call it "fake news", you can be sure it's the solid truth.
https://www.needtoimpeach.com/
http://projects.thestar.com/donald-trump-fact-check/
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21. Re: Senator Presses FTC and ESRB on Loot Boxes Feb 15, 2018, 18:09 Marvin T. Martian
 
Jivaro wrote on Feb 15, 2018, 17:50:
Will somebody think of the children?!


Yep--fix loot boxes but completely ignore being bought by the NRA and the deaths of even more children. One f'k up country!
 
Avatar 1746
 
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20. Re: Senator Presses FTC and ESRB on Loot Boxes Feb 15, 2018, 17:50 Jivaro
 
Will somebody think of the children?!

 
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19. Re: Senator Presses FTC and ESRB on Loot Boxes Feb 15, 2018, 17:32 Comet
 
I think a lot more pressure must be made.

They are focusing on protecting the children and that's not the the only issue.
People of all ages play games. And bringing gambling like tactics to mass market full priced games is a problem.

Besides it is extremely easy to circumvent age restrictions in games.
We all know it.
There are countless underage gamers that play M rated games.

 
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18. Re: Senator Presses FTC and ESRB on Loot Boxes Feb 15, 2018, 16:58 MattyC
 
Most publishers provide NO WAY of exchanging your loot (ie casino chips) into real cash.

Yep, and that is a good thing. This is a purely optional purchase in a game - something you should be playing for fun.

teens could be targeted for what is arguably petty gambling

Are prizes in candy and cereal gambling? I mean you paid for those 45,000 boxes of Diabeetus0's, but you had to! How else could you win the prize? Curse those awful sugar barons targeting our teens! Get your pitchforks! We have to think of the children!!

How is this drastically different from baseball cards (which actually can be worth a lot of money)? CCGs?

Now, if you could exchange your loot box for cash then you might be on to something, but that isn't the case. Not to mention you can get the Great Golden Derp Gun of +1 without grinding and the "house" gets your cash. You winning and the house winning (or whatever) are no longer mutually exclusive events. They don't really need to act like a casino, a player with cosmetic items is really just an advertisement for their loot box system.

I don't really like loot boxes that much (micro trans ones anyway - ones for progress can be kind of fun) and we may need to mark games that have them. Beyond that I really can't see how this can be an issue. We have random chance based things all around us, gamers have been able to buy progress (gold farmers in MMOs etc), and it looks like civilization is still here. We seem to be fairly resilient when it comes to great moral panics.
 
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17. Re: Senator Presses FTC and ESRB on Loot Boxes Feb 15, 2018, 16:29 Task
 
It would be nice if publishers/developers simply stopped adding loot boxes as a thing. Thankfully I can still choose games that simply don't have it, at this point in time. Heck, they even added lootboxes to one game I despise above all others, even more than Elder Scrolls and Elder Scrolls: Fallout, and that would be MWO - Mech Warrior is dead as a franchise as far as I'm concerned when its currently base wish for "MWO2" - "Please Sir, could I have some more F2P Grind and Lootboxes!"  
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16. Re: Senator Presses FTC and ESRB on Loot Boxes Feb 15, 2018, 14:45 KS
 
Saying you never lose because you always get something (when it is always one or two special things among hundreds) is like saying you never lose a car lotto for a Ferrari because everyone is always guaranteed at least a Matchbox car. For which you paid $15 for the ticket.

 
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15. Re: Senator Presses FTC and ESRB on Loot Boxes Feb 15, 2018, 14:09 Quboid
 
It's basically the ESRB's job to ignore problems until the government threatens to do something isn't it? Then they step in and implement the softest regulations they can that will get the government to back off. That's probably what will happen to lootboxes if the US leads the way - the ESRB will reconsider their position and implement something weak like more warning labels and hope the controversy goes away.  
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"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." - Edmund Burke
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14. Re: Senator Presses FTC and ESRB on Loot Boxes Feb 15, 2018, 13:53 StingingVelvet
 
Turd Ferguson wrote on Feb 15, 2018, 13:30:
Personally I don't want any government getting involved in anything video game wise, I also feel that when they do, rather than helping us, the gamers, they'll find a way to profit themselves while ignoring the core of the problem.

Usually I'd want the government to mind their own business while the free market votes, whether I agree with the outcome or not. In this case though a few "whales" could ruin games for the masses, and teens could be targeted for what is arguably petty gambling, which makes the government's involvement at least understandable.
 
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13. Re: Senator Presses FTC and ESRB on Loot Boxes Feb 15, 2018, 13:30 Turd Ferguson
 
Personally I don't want any government getting involved in anything video game wise, I also feel that when they do, rather than helping us, the gamers, they'll find a way to profit themselves while ignoring the core of the problem.

However, if the developers and publisher houses don't have the minerals to police and monitor themselves, who is there to do it for them? A public oversite committee? That was hell for music industry back in the day (referring to Twisted Sister vs Parental Control & Censorship).

My hope is with the devs & publisher houses...but won't hold my breath.

Would be nice to see "Because of profits..." not being the answer to everything for change....but again, won't hold my breath, lol
 
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