The UK government has launched a consultation on video game loot boxes and invited the public to summit their thoughts.
This has been expected since June, after the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) launched an inquiry into ‘immersive and addictive technologies’.
Loot boxes have already been classed as a form in gambling in some countries on the European mainland, including Belgium.
Submissions will be accepted until the closing date on 22nd November.
Concerns about loot boxes in video games for minors
The UK government acknowledged that video games are a vital part of the country’s economy. Around half of the country’s population plays them, while the industry was worth £2.6 billion in 2018.
Loot boxes offer players the chance to win prizes or acquire items in video games. Rewards are randomised, meaning that the outcome is unknown beforehand. Critics have argued that this instills a gambling mentality into children from a young age.
Some loot boxes also allow players to spend real-life money in order to open more of them.
Initiatives to raise awareness about loot boxes have already been carried out by some organisations. YGAM, for example, has created an online hub for parents so they could educate themselves about risks for minors related to spending too much time digitally-connected.
“It’s right that we fully examine and understand any evidence”
Caroline Dinenage, Minister for Digital and Culture, explained the reasons for launching the consultation.
“Our valued video game industry is making good progress developing safer environments for our children to play in, such as parental controls that can be set to schedule and limit playtime.
“But we’ve listened to parents’ concerns about loot boxes and it’s right that we fully examine and understand any evidence of the harm or links to problem gambling they can cause, so we can decide if action is needed.”
In addition to the consultation, the government has stated that it will carry out additional research on how video games impact individuals’ behaviours. A programme framework for this research will be set out by the DCMS in due course.