Fifteen EU-based regulators plus Washington State have made a joint declaration while Australian based study likens loot boxes to gambling, not baseball cards
Fifteen EU gambling regulators from the UK, Ireland, France, Austria, Poland, Latvia, the
Czech Republic, Spain, the Isle of Man, Malta, Portugal, Jersey, Norway, and the Netherlands plus US representation from the Washington State Gambling Regulator published the letter, noting their concerns with the business model.
In addition to
the loot box problem, the letter addresses how it will take on websites that let players either gamble or sell in-game items like skins or weapons with real-world money.
One of the signatories, Neil McArthur, CEO of the UK Gambling Commission
We have joined forces to call on video games companies to address the clear public concern around the risks gambling and some video games can pose to children. We encourage video games companies to work with
their gambling regulators and take action now to address those concerns to make sure that consumers, and particularly children, are protected.
The letter speaks of the groups concerns but does not detail the direction sthat the group
will take in reacting to the concerns.
According to VentureBeat, a study conducted by the Australian Parliament's Environment and Communications References Committee showed that there were links between loot box spending and problematic gambling.
The population sample size was 7500 people.
The more severe a gamers' problem gambling was, the more likely they were to spend large amounts of money on loot boxes. These results strongly support claims that loot boxes are psychologically akin to
gambling, said the report, conducted by Dr. David Zendle and Dr. Paul Cairns.
In a statement, the pair added loot boxes could potentially act as an introduction to gambling or take advantage of gambling disorders. They note that the industry tends
to brush off loot boxes as similar to harmless products like baseball cards, football/soccer stickers, and products along those lines.
In related news games maker EA could face legal issues for ignoring a ruling by the Belgian government to remove
the Ultimate Team portion from FIFA 18.
Online game distributor Steam has approved its first uncensored adult game, Negilgee : Love Stories.
Steam had announced its change of policy in June of this year ironically after a bit of backlash when Steam proposing to step up the censorship
of adult games. The previous policy required explicit content to be censored at sale but allowed subsequent patches to restore the cuts.
On Friday, Dharker Studios is slated to start selling an uncensored version of its game Negilgee : Love
Stories, which features nudity and sex scenes.
Other developers have also submitted uncensored games for approval on Steam.
An indie developer called Kagura Games, meanwhile, said some developers have already put up their uncensored games
up for review, so we'll be following that closely, and consult with Steam to decide what the best course of action is for releasing our future titles on Steam.
Video games sold in European stores are set to carry a new label warning that the game includes in-game purchases.
Popular titles like Fortnite and FIFA are examples of games that generate revenue using this approach.
The labels are pitched as
a warning to parents that their children need to be watched lest they spend significant money on digital items.
Last December, the Metro reported that a teenager had accidentally spent his mother's entire monthly wage on FIFA 18 because her debit
card was registered to his PlayStation account.
PEGI (Pan European Game Information) - which provides age ratings for games in the UK - has now announced it plans to introduce a new badge for physical releases to help inform parents as they
shop.Simon Little, managing director at the classification board, said:
Making parents aware of the existence of optional in-game purchases upfront is an important first step. FIFA allows players to spend extra money
to build their teams.
The Australian Censorship Board has banned another console, Song of Memories published by PQube. It is another Japanese games no doubt featuring too sexy behaviour by characters of indeterminate, but young looking age.
The censors have yet to
explain their reasons with just a worthless catch-all statement posted so far on their website.
The next Wolfenstein game might not even need to remove Adolf Hitler's moustache. Germany's Entertainment Software Self-Regulation Body (or USK), an independent, industry-funded board that oversees age and content ratings for videos games
available in the country, announced on Thursday that it will now permit the sale of games featuring Nazi imagery within the country, something that had previously been banned. The USK's decision reportedly came after a heated debate involving the
Nazi-killing Wolfenstein series , particularly a pair of anti--Third Reich games in 2014 and 2017 that were visibly, and somewhat humorously , self-censored in Germany in order to avoid violating a provision of the country's constitution.
video games with Nazi symbolism were heavily censored or outright banned based on the German criminal code's Section 86a , which forbids the use of symbols, flags, insignia, uniforms, slogans, propaganda, and greetings relating to unconstitutional
organizations in German products. Section 86a violations could be met with up to three years of imprisonment or a hefty fine.
USK will now assess games on a case-by-case basis to determine if they meet a reinterpreted standard of the country's
social adequacy clause that allows for Nazi imagery if it serves one of the following purposes: artistic, scientific, or if it depicts current or historical events. This metric is currently used for films screened in Germany because they are considered
works of art.
We recently surveyed more than 2,000 parents on our platform and found that more than half of parents allow their children to play video games for over 18s, without supervision or knowledge of the game
beforehand. In contrast, just 18% said they would let 10-14-year-olds watch an 18+ movie.
We also discovered that 86% of parents admitted that they don't follow age restrictions on video games, compared to 23% who said they didn't
follow age restrictions on films.
43% of parents say they have seen a negative change in their child's behaviour since playing games aimed at adults, and 22% of the 2,171 respondents said their kids now understand and use negative
or offensive language since playing these games.
86% of parents don't believe that games will impact their child's behaviour or outlook on life. However 62% admit they have tried to take the games away from their kids but gave
them back soon after because of tantrums and 48% fear that their child is addicted to video games.
Richard Conway, founder of Childcare.co.uk said:
It's difficult in this day and age to govern
what your child is exposed to, because if your 10-year-old has friends who are playing Fortnite, which is rated 12, you want them to be included in the fun. However, it's always worth looking into the game to see if it's suitable rather than leaving them
to their own devices.
What's interesting is that the majority of parents follow film age ratings, but when it comes to video games they maybe aren't as strict. It's important to remember how impressionable children are; if they
see behaviour or language in a video game or movie, they may mimic it.
Australia's Classification Review Board has unanimously overturned the ban on the video game, We Happy Few by the main Classification Board. The appeals boards has now passed the game with the adults-only R18+ for Fantasy
violence and interactive drug use.
The game's developer, Compulsion Games, has expressed sympathy for the censor board saying it wasn't sure the Board could have ruled any other way.
In an email with Kotaku Australia, Compulsion Games chief
operating officer and producer Sam Abbott said he wasn't sure that the Classification Board had any room to move, given the constraints of the rating guidelines:
I think originally the board made the best decision they
could given (a) the guidelines they work within, and (b) the information we provided them, Abbott said. I'm not sure I'd make a different original decision given those constraints.
Abbott went on to explain that Compulsion Games could
have outlined more information about Joy -- the drug that is a centrepiece of the dystopian society in which We Happy Few is set -- including the positive and negative aspects of its consumption.
The censor board banned the game for its use
of drugs in-game, under the clause about incentivised drug use including:
New skills or attribute increases, extra points, unlocking achievements, plot animations, scenes and rewards, rare or exclusive loot, or making
tasks easier to accomplish,
The latter of which was the reason We Happy Few originally fell foul of in the rule. In the Board's opinion:
The game's drug-use mechanic making game progression less
difficult constitutes an incentive or reward for drug-use and therefore, the game exceeds the R 18+ classification that states, drug use related to incentives and rewards is not permitted. Therefore, the game warrants being Refused Classification.
The Classification Review Board will issue details reasons for its decision in due course.
The Classification Review Board has now published its reasons for overruling the censorship board's ban of We Happy Few and awarding an uncut R18+ rating instead:
Reasons for the decision
The premise of this computer game is for the playing characters to escape a fictional town where the inhabitants are in a state of Government mandated euphoria and memory loss. Although the non -playing characters appear to be happy
due to their continual use of the Joy drug, the computer game quickly establishes that this state is undesirable and the playing characters are on a quest to avoid the use of the Joy drug. The actual use of the fictitious drug as a game progression
mechanic, questions the viability of such a gameplay decision at each stage/level. The character's action in taking the drug is usually the only viable option given and while it may enable the character to pass a stage/level of the game, the benefit is
short term and is followed by a loss of memory and a reduction in health points, the depletion of the body and/or withdrawal symptoms. In the Review Board's opinion, the use of the drug is not presented as an incentive nor does it constitute a reward for
the player in achieving the aim of the computer game. In the Review Board's opinion, the interactive drug use does not exceed high, therefore the computer game can be accommodated at R 18+.
In the light of Australia's Classification Review Board overturning the Classification Board's ban of the video game We Happy Few , the Australian government is now considering whether games censorship rules need 'modernising'.
of the Communications and the Arts has confirmed that talks have begun to modernise the classification guidelines. Any adjustment to the classification guidelines for computer games must be agreed by classification ministers in all Australia's states and
territories. The department also said it will consult extensively with industry stakeholders and communities.
We Happy Few an indie game, was initially banned over the prominence of the drug Joy, which underpins the game's dystopian society by
being used as a method of controlling the populace. The Board's initial finding found that the presence of Joy violated the clause on incentivised drug use:
The games developer appealed against the ban and the Classification Review Board - a
separate statutory body the unanimous overturned the Classification Board's original ban resulting in an adults-only R18+ classification.
The department did not provide a timeline as to when said discussions might take place.
France's online gaming authority (ARJEL, Autorité de Régulation des Jeux En Ligne) has decided that loot boxes in premium-priced games are not gambling. It determined that loot boxes are not legally considered gambling, and therefore are not
However, ARJEL will continue to monitor the matter and is also calling for more unilateral support from the European Union in order to achieve a sound consensus on whether or not to consider loot boxes gambling.
ARJEL, the fact that you can't readily cash out your rewards from loot boxes for real-world currency means that in the minds of regulators it's not quite gambling. For them, the only way it would be gambling is if players could actually retrieve the
money that they invested into the product.
However, ARJEL also believes that loot boxes do contain questionable psychological hooks that work very similar to slot machines and roulette wheels in terms of luring gamers into a feeling of needing to
spend more money in order to acquire the item they seek.