Here’s Rep. Chris Lee (D) from Hawaii standing in front of a camera and making an announcement about steps being taken to combat the “predatory behavior” of video game publishers, with particular emphasis given to Electronic Arts and its inclusion of loot boxes within Battlefront II.
And I mean particular emphasis: the video is titled “EA predatory behavior announcement”, and Lee specifically calls out Battlefront II, labelling it a “Star Wars-themed online casino, designed to lure kids into spending money”.
“It’s a trap”.
The video was actually published before accompanying press material had been written up, but Lee—upon seeing that the clip was being viewed and shared—took to Reddit to explain the announcement (emphasis mine):
People are more powerful than they think. While we are stepping up to act in Hawaii, we have also been in discussions with our counterparts in a number of other states who are also considering how to address this issue. Change is difficult at the federal level, but states can and are taking action.
Even so, elected officials can’t do it alone. They need your support and you can compel action wherever you live by calling and emailing your own state legislators and asking them to act. But don’t stop there. Call your allies. Call your pastors and teachers and community leaders. Ask them to call your state legislators as well. Their voices are politically powerful.
I believe this fight can be won because all the key bases of political support across the country are on the same side. The religious community, the medical community, the education community, consumer advocates, parents, even many business leaders and local chambers of commerce. This is a fight that unites everyone, even the most polarized conservatives and progressives. Doing something is a political win for Democrats and Republicans alike. And frankly, we don’t need to change the laws in every state - we just need to change a few and it will be enough to draw the line and compel change.
These kinds of lootboxes and microtransactions are explicitly designed to prey upon and exploit human psychology in the same way casino games are so designed. This is especially true for young adults who child psychologists and other experts explain are particularly vulnerable. These exploitive mechanisms and the deceptive marketing promoting them have no place in games being marketed to minors, and perhaps no place in games at all.
Your future is whatever you make it, so make it a good one. You have the power to get involved and decide this and the choice is clear: stand up now, or let this be the new normal from this point forward.
One state introducing measures to combat loot boxes—seen by many, and an increasing number of official bodies, as a form of gambling—wouldn’t make too big of a difference in the global scheme of things, but if “a number of other states” from the US were to possibly join forces, as Lee is suggesting, that would be a different story.
Lee’s proposal would see legislation introduced in Hawaii that would prohibit the sale of games featuring loot boxes to minors, and believes “these issues should be addressed before this becomes the norm for every game”. He also mentions “prohibiting different kinds of mechanisms” within games.
“We didn’t allow Joe Camel to encourage our kids to smoke cigarettes”, State representative Sean Quinlan adds, “and we shouldn’t allow Star Wars to encourage our kids to gamble.”
It’s worth remembering that this is simply a preliminary announcement. But it’s still a sign that after all the protests over the game’s payment and progression systems amongst its target audience, there may be genuine cause for action at a legislative level as well.