Democrats are calling for laws to be put into action that will keep loot boxes away from children, citing new rules being placed in the United Kingdom coming this September.
The Verge reported that Sen. Ed Markey (D‑MA), Rep. Kathy Castor (D‑FL), and Rep. Lori Trahan (D‑MA) wrote a letter to bring the UK’s Age Appropriate Design Code to the US. The letter addressed 12 mainstream game companies like Microsoft, Sony, Epic Games, Disney, and Activision Blizzard.
The US Congress members claim in the letter that loot boxes are “encouraging purchase before a child knows what the “bundle” contains–akin to gambling.” This is unlike microtransactions, where the player is aware of what is inside the bundle before purchase. It could take several loot box purchases to obtain an item you’re after. Some games allow players to preview the possible rewards inside the box. These Congress members believe that games need stricter rules beyond the Entertainment Software Rating Board’s (ESRB) regulations.
The UK did look into loot box addiction of loot boxes in 2019 and 2020 and has since enacted changes in the Pan European Game Information (PEGI) guidelines, but it’s not part of the AADC. This resulted in the ESRB changing its guidance as well, but these Congress members feel it’s simply not enough.
Democrats are citing the AADC for something it never refers to. The AADC “is a set of 15 flexible standards–they do not ban or specifically prescribe–that provides built-in protection to allow children to explore, learn, and play online by ensuring that the best interests of the child,” according to the AADC page. It doesn’t directly target loot boxes or microtransactions.
The AADC pushes for social media sites and popular games like Minecraft and Roblox to prevent unsavory practices on children until the age of 18. It would provide extra privacy settings and prevent usage of unhealthy services.
The US, however, already has the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act that protects the privacy of young children. This would mean citing the AADC could be seen as way to completely ban loot boxes. Congress seems to go through this every year, and in early 2021, lawmakers in Chicago wanted to ban games like Grand Theft Auto V because of an increase in carjackings.