Published: Wed, January 22, 2020
Health Care | By Cedric Leonard

NHS Calls for Loot Box Ban; Ubisoft to Restructure Editorial Team

NHS Calls for Loot Box Ban; Ubisoft to Restructure Editorial Team

Mental health director Claire Murdoch believes that video game developers and publishers are "setting kids up for addiction" by building mechanics like loot boxes and other gambling tasks into their games.

In a report titled Gaming the System, a 16-year-old Federation Internationale de Football Association player specifically said that loot boxes were like gambling: "You could lose your money and not get anything good, or get something really good". Many countries like Belgium and the Netherlands have taken action in relation to gambling laws, and the United States Federal Trade Commission also investigated how loot boxes impact children.

A Department of Digital, Media, Culture and Sport select committee past year into addictive and immersive technologies said that publishers and developers needed to work with European rating agency PEGI on the subject of loot boxes and advised the organisation to label "gambling" content as such.

Ms Murdoch said: "Frankly, no company should be setting kids up for addiction by teaching them to gamble on the content of these loot boxes". No company should sell games with this random element to children, so yes, those sales must end.

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Loot boxes have been seen as a controversial aspect of the games industry.

While loot crates and microtransactions have been an industry staple for a number of years now, the loot mechanics in games like Star Wars Battlefront 2 and Overwatch has drawn the attention of gambling regulators elsewhere. That includes spending limits, as well as indicators about the percentage chance of picking up a particular item from a loot box. Her comments come as the NHS begins to open treatment centres for gambling addictions.

In response to today's NHS statement, the UKIE said: "The gaming industry takes its responsibility with players very seriously and recognizes that some people are anxious". We need an evidence-based approach to ensure our young people and gamers in general do not continue to be subjected to new and increasingly harmful products without our intervention'.

Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the Royal Society for Public Health, said: "The rise of gambling by stealth in video games is a threat to the health and wellbeing of young people, and we commend the NHS for coming out with this bold call". However, then as now, that report never sought to establish a causal link between videogame loot boxes and what the commission considers actual gambling.

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