EA Says Loot Boxes Are Just 'Surprise Mechanics'

The United Kingdom’s House of Commons grilled representatives from Electronic Arts and Fortnite developer Epic Games for two and a half hours on June 19. It didn’t go well for Epic and EA. When MP Brendan O'Hara asked if loot boxes were ethical, EA took issue with the term itself. “We don’t call them loot boxes,” Kerry Hopkins, Vice President of Legal and Government Affairs for EA, said. “We look at them as surprise mechanics."

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/xwnk7d/ea-says-loot-boxes-are-just-surprise-mechanics

Can someone please explain to me how EA has the uncanny ability to make people dislike them even more every time one of their top executives opens their mouth?

I mean in reading those exchanges, there’s just so much garbage coming from these people, I’m legitimately at a loss for words right now.

However, I can share my favorite exchange in the meantime:
“If you’re asking me if we have a duty of care under law, I can say there’s not a law yet,” Hopkins said. “I do think we have a duty to our players and we take that responsibility very seriously, but legally I don’t think this is the place to discuss whether there’s a legal requirement.”

“We’re the House of Commons,” MP Lucas said. “This is exactly the place.”

Sidenote: on the whole “We have no qualms that they’re implemented in an unethical way” bullshit, I do highly recommend people check out this troubling piece Ellen McGrody wrote for Waypoint last year if they missed it (and the other articles it links to)


If you are going to call loot boxes “surprise mechanics,” then just think of the inevitable government regulation that you’re inviting as “ethics enforcement mechanics.”

When you’re trying to dodge legal regulation you don’t give a fuck how many people you piss off. They’re going to say whatever they think will let them continue to sell lootboxes.

Yeah, this, no EA Exec is going to go to prison over this, so they will say whatever they deem necessary to continue a practice that has proven to provide significant profits for shareholders, even if it only prolongs the practice by a matter of months

There’s a really interesting/disturbing thing about the way corporations frame ethics.
I work for a medium sized company that was family owned until we were recently acquired by a larger corporation. We had an ethics and code of conduct training session. There was a handout that included among its 10 pages a list numbered 1 to 8 of our ethical obligations as employees. 1 was to be respectful of other people in the company. Pretty standard. But number 2 was “to recognize the continuing obligation of all associates to maximize shareholder value.”
Corporations literally view maximum shareholder value as a top ethical responsibility.

Very much from the Al Capone playbook just “helping” people lead the life they want to lead.

Big tobacco lobby vibes

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FIFA Ultimate Team has been their main cash cow for years now, and it’s likely the one pillar that’s keeping them afloat through their string of disasters over the past couple years. I’m expecting we’ll see a lot more ugly business rhetoric around this legal battle.

These are the kinds of stories that make me feel like we are in a cartoon cyberpunk dystopia (partially because we basically are). There are stories that make me see the cli-fi dystopia, the fascist dystopia, but the kind of weasley manipulation of language going on in this hearing just screams “Corporate Hell has Arrived”. I casually skipped around in the video linked in the article and it was easy to stumble into some form of quotable nonsense.

What does give me some hope is voices within that hearing that were not having any of their bullshit. My hope is that that results in actual reform instead of the typical Liberal thing of falling into the rhetoric. This is easily one of the most important conversations that needs to be had about games. Fingers crossed.


Surprise mechanics are like what happen in the final boss of Beyond Good and Evil when they invert the controls on you. Everything about it sucks.

But y’all know me, I don’t like surprises.

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Right. The first Time playing Eternal Darkness is surprise mechanics. Or the weird hack n slash death sequence in metal gear solid 3. Loot boxes are not surprise at all.

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I might not agree with Jim Sterling on everything, but the first several words of his video on this topic pretty much sums up my feelings (CW: language, anger)