Loot boxes have gotten a bad rep ever since EA took things too far with Star Wars Battlefront 2 back in 2018. Since then many nations like the Netherlands and Belgium have out-right banned loot boxes and made selling them a criminal offence. Similarly, a recent statement made by the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) suggests that they’ve become the latest member of the anti-loot box club.
The NHS’ health director, Claire Murdoch, has claimed loot boxes are “addictive,” and putting “young people’s health at stake.” Whilst she doesn’t necessarily want loot boxes completely banned, Ms. Murdoch has made it clear she believes selling them to minors should be illegal.
On behalf of the NHS, she outlined a few criteria that could be regulated in order to make loot boxes more ethical. Her primary requests are that loot boxes shouldn’t be sold to minors, all RNG related odds should be completely transparent to players, and mandatory spending limits should be put in place to protect vulnerable individuals.
The statement reads: “55,000 children are classed as having a gambling problem,” in the UK and realistically there’s only one way these kids are getting addicted. With zero access to casinos or adult arcades, the assumption is that both online gambling and accessible loot box filled video games are to blame. After all, even a kid-friendly mobile title like Pokemon Masters is filled with microtransactions and loot box mechanics.
The NHS’ Argument Is Hardly New
If truth be told, these findings and claims from the NHS are by no means new. Just last September, the UK Parliament published findings accusing games publishers of a “lack of honesty and transparency.” Unfortunately, UK law has never been known for developing quickly.
All proposed legislation has to go through various stages before being approved. Firstly, someone has to propose a formal bill which sources from some sort of public demand. Usually, either the government or individual MP will do so to make themselves more popular in the long-run.
After this, these NHS proposed laws would need to be formally drafted, go through three readings in parliament, get approved by multiple committees and then do all this again in a separate house. It’s undoubtedly a thorough process to make sure no half-hearted laws get passed.
The reason the NHS are even making this statement is because a loot box ban has hardly been touched by parliament. As of today, a formal draft has not been proposed nor have any readings taken place. In other words, we’re still a long way off having any meaningful loot box regulation in the UK.