US Senator Demands Regulation of Loot Boxes

US Senator Wades Into Loot Box Controversy, Calls on ESRB to Review Ratings

Hassan read an open letter to the ESRB today during Commerce Committee hearing in front of nominees for the Federal Trade Commission.

Hassan went on to point out that the World Health Organisation recently announced that "gaming disorder" has been classified as a medical condition on the group's latest Classification of Diseases document.

During the meeting, according to Ars Technica, Hassan asked FTC nominees whether games with loot boxes featuring "surprise" items deserved the government body's attention. Without going as far as liking loot boxes to gambling, she noted how such things could turn into an "expensive habit" as such microtransactions share "similar psychological principles" with games of chance. "At minimum, the rating system should denote when loot boxes are utilized in physical copies of electronic games".

Hassan, who said she heard about loot boxes from a constituent, took time during the hearing to highlight the FTC's previous finding that the ESRB is "one of the most effective voluntary enforcement boards" in entertainment.

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. Hawaiian state lawmakers have already issued four bills that if legislated will ban the selling of loot boxes to anyone under 21.

In recent months, state legislators in Hawaii, Washington, and in have introduced legislation meant to regulate or restrict the availability of loot boxes in games, especially for minors.

The prevalence of in-game microtransactions, 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 Senator has also called for a study to be conducted on the reach and impact of loot boxes in games.

Writing to Patricia Vance, President of the ESRB, Senator Hassan commended the ESRB rating system as being "of great value to parents across the country, empowering parents to make informed decisions on behalf of their children".

What's more, Hassan said the ESRB should work with "relevant stakeholders" to put together and ultimately publish data regarding how video games use loot boxes, how commonplace they are, and how much money is spent on them. She also asked developers for the implementation of tools which allows parents to disable loot boxes, or at least make them less essential to gameplay.

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