The Gambling Health Alliance calls for a Christmas boycott on games featuring loot boxes

The Gambling Health Alliance, led by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), has called for a Christmas boycott on games that feature loot boxes.

The campaign is, and I’m afraid this is unfortunately real, using the hashtag #LidOnLoots and is inviting young gamers to “take back controllers.”

How do you do, fellow kids?

#LidOnLoots is calling for paid-for loot boxes to be classed as a form of gambling and banned from video games played by under 18s.

The campaign cites research that 91 per cent of young gamers view loot boxes as a form of gambling, but seemingly doesn’t trust them to express that opinion themselves, and has instead provided example posts for their fellow kids to post on social media.

Examples include “FIFA was voted as having the most negative gaming experience because of featuring loot boxes. Let’s put an end to gambling in video gaming @EA #LidOnLoots,” and “I support #LidOnLoots and the call for gamble free games for under 18s. Video gaming shouldn’t encourage young people to gamble #LidOnLoots.”

However well intentioned, quite literally putting words in the mouths of “young gamers” surely isn’t the way forward. And while the argument about potentially tougher regulations on certain monetisation practices is a reasoned debate worth having, Government statements on such practices are often poorly informed – as we’ve encountered in the past.

The monetisation model is no longer flavour of the month – with season passes having taken over – although a few large holdouts still feature loot boxes, with FIFA being the title that is always namechecked in such discussions. And while they attract the ire of some consumers and a few grandstanding politicians alike, it’s worth noting that research says very few gamers ever make use of such mechanics.

This isn’t to be dismissive about the potential harms to a small minority, of course. But it would be more useful if these campaigns would co-operate with the industry to better understand the situation, rather than trying to stir up a broad moral panic about video games in general. Especially at a time when games have been proven to be key social links for young people. To our knowledge The Gambling Health Alliance did not give the industry an opportunity to put its points to it before launching the campaign.

Asked to comment on the campaign, and politely asked to never use the phrase “take back controllers,” a Ukie spokesperson stated to MCV/DEVELOP:

“The industry has taken a number of major steps to provide transparency and control over in game spending in response to concerns over loot boxes. We promote the use of controls on consoles that let players limit, manage or turn off in game spend entirely through the industry backed Get, Set, Go! Campaign.

“We’ve also added a ‘paid random item’ descriptor to our age rating system and probability rate disclosures to our platforms to inform players about loot boxes in games. We have a long track record of effective and responsive self-regulation, while also working constructively with Government, and will continue to take appropriate steps to support our players.”

About Chris Wallace

Chris is a freelancer writer and was MCV/DEVELOP's staff writer from November 2019 until May 2022. He joined the team after graduating from Cardiff University with a Master's degree in Magazine Journalism. He can be found on Twitter at @wallacec42, where he mostly explores his obsession with the Life is Strange series, for which he refuses to apologise.

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