TIGA, a trade association representing the UK video games industry, has responded to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee’s report on immersive and addictive technologies and called on the government to fund research studies into gaming disorder “to ensure impartiality”.
Following a nine-month investigation, the UK parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee yesterday recommended the British government should regulate loot boxes under gambling law, accusing the games industry of a “lack of honesty and transparency”, giving the government grounds to “question what these companies have to hide”.
Following an inquiry that took evidence from a range of industry representatives – including trade bodies, academics, senior games industry executives, and developers themselves – the 84-page report into immersive and addictive technologies made a raft of recommendations, including assertations that paid loot boxes should be banned in children’s games and be regulated under gambling law.
“TIGA agrees that the Government should urgently carry out research to examine the connection between loot boxes and gambling. This research would recognise that loot boxes take many different forms,” said Dr Richard Wilson OBE, CEO of TIGA. “TIGA recommends that platform owners and those operating an online game should: disclose the use of paid or hard currency loot boxes (or other paid or hard currency chance systems such as roulette wheels) upfront; describe their potential contents; and, clearly lay out the chance of items being included.
“The current PEGI descriptor for in-game purchases does not specifically differentiate between loot boxes and other items,” the statement added. “TIGA encourages PEGI to consider should consider explicitly identifying the existence of loot boxes in games by means of one of their descriptors/icons. This would have the advantage of providing consumers with more relevant information so that they can make informed decisions when they access, download or purchase a game.”
However, according to Wilson “TIGA research indicates that most UK game developers do not employ loot boxes” and stated that of a sample of 150 games released in 2018, “89 per cent did not use loot boxes”, but the organisation did concur more work was needed to better understand gaming disorder, an official addictive disorder that was added to the 11th International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) earlier this year.
“TIGA agrees with the Committee that research into gaming disorder is scarce and more, high-quality studies are required to fully understand the condition. We also agree that the Government should commission further research into gaming disorder and to ascertain appropriate time limits for playing games. At present, this is unclear.”
“TIGA and our members would like to be able to refer players, parents and guardians to authoritative, independent research and advice concerning appropriate screen time for players,” added Jason Kingsley OBE, TIGA Chairman and CEO and creative director at Rebellion. “We encourage all members to cooperate with researchers and share data, we also encourage games businesses to consider design features which address the issue of gaming disorder. In our best practice guide, entitled Safeguarding Players, we suggest that games businesses could explore the use of the game mechanics that manage screen time, such as using reminder messages and narrative messages in which characters in the game advise you to take breaks.
“TIGA is keen to work alongside relevant parties to find solutions for UK game developers, publishers and platform owners and operators to address the concerns raised in this report, and ensure that players of all ages can enjoy games in a responsible and safe way.”