U.S. Senator Introduces Bill To Ban Loot Boxes And Pay-To-Win Microtransactions

Per a report from Kotaku, Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) has announced “The Protecting Children from Abusive Games Act," a bill that would ban loot boxes and pay-to-win microtransactions in “games played by minors.”

I can’t seem to find the the actual bill itself or a statement from the Senator but this should be… interesting.

edit: The Kansas City Star has an article that goes in to slightly more detail on the subject.

edit 2: Kotaku has updated there piece with the following:

UPDATE (12:18pm): The Entertainment Software Association, the video game industry lobbyist group, sent over a statement shortly after this bill was introduced: “Numerous countries, including Ireland, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, determined that loot boxes do not constitute gambling. We look forward to sharing with the senator the tools and information the industry already provides that keeps the control of in-game spending in parents’ hands. Parents already have the ability to limit or prohibit in-game purchases with easy to use parental controls.”

Since the average Congressperson’s inbox and sent folder in their email is a wall of FW: FW: FW: FW: FW: FW: FW: FW: FW:… This probably isn’t going anywhere.

I feel that it is inevitable. Some European and Asian countries have essentially already done it.

Big publishers overplayed their hands. I think they know it’s coming and that’s why suddenly many of them (Fallen Order from EA, Borderlands 3 come to mind) are embracing the “no loot boxes” mantra.

I also think they’ve found a new solution for “live” games—battle passes. I would be unsurprised if Overwatch adds one this year. Sadly, I also think battle passes have labor consequences that are immoral and untenable, but they appear to be the next big thing in the neverending struggle.

I find it extremely hard to believe that U.S. representatives like Hawley are doing this entirely out of good faith concern for children. This guy sounds like every other reactionary hack who got mad that facebook finally did something about the fascists and are lashing out.

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My purest cynical reading on this subject is reps like Hawley “care” about this issue because they have not received lobbying money telling them not to care about it. Having said that, if some reactionary dipshit like Hawley is the person who starts a larger conversation in the house of representatives about gambling mechanics in video games aimed at children, I’ll take it.

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While I’m down for regulating the predatory aspects of games a couple things here kinda give me pause. I’m a little concerned about the general language used being applied in a way that ultimately leads to a lot of confusion as to what is allowed in games and something like DLC some small studio released still qualifying as a microtransaction. But mainly, the focus on children raises a lot of questions for me.
I feel like the calls to not allow monetization when “a game is designed for kids” is going to be a pain to really define if we’re trying to legislate stuff. Also the part about having a separate kids section free of microtransactions in ‘games for adults’ raises my eyebrow as to what invasion of privacy is going to be needed to confirm someone’s age.

Of course, we don’t have anything even written down yet so this is incredibly speculative. I think the hope I’m riding on now is that companies will just put their hands up in the air and not bother with trying to wriggle around any of this. Maybe using a less exploitative way to make money in games.

Considering his attitudes towards women in general and human trafficking among others. It’s very unlikely that he is.