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Are regulations against in-game purchases a violation of freedom?

Should governments be allowed to infringe on rights of grown up gamers or are adults to make their own decisions and take responsibility for them? Restrictions in games are happening and I want to discuss if it’s justified.

As a liberal and a hardcore gamer I would like to take a moment and discuss the topic of freedom in games. You probably already know that a heap of titles offer its users different in-game purchases, such as skins and outfits among many other things. A lot of game developers have even made a business out of it by offering games for free and making money through optional in-game purchases. 

While many of these purchases are perfectly fine for governments, some are not. I’m talking about loot boxes which have taken a lot of heat in recent years. They were completely banned in Belgium in 2018 and the same year the Netherlands also banned loot boxes that contain transferable content. Furthermore, a couple of senators in US states have pushed for the criminalization of them. 

So why are governments so much against Loot Boxes?

They consider them as gambling, because as is often the case the rewards from the boxes are randomized with probabilities being lower for the most valued items. It is, in other words, kind of like spinning on a slot machine at a casino.

I understand that introducing aspects of gambling to minors is problematic as they are more prone to addiction. However, shouldn’t a grown up person have every right to spend their money however they wish as long as they don’t cause harm to anyone else? 

Should it be up to regulators to decide if we are allowed to do these purchases or not? Isn’t that an affair solely between me and the game developer? Am I not the one to decide as long as the terms from the developer are clearly stated and minors are kept protected from the purchases? 

Instead of outright banning loot boxes, shouldn’t a game with “problematic in-game purchases” come with an age restriction? I don’t know how this would practically work as it does sound disturbing to gate content behind age. But that’s not my problem to solve – that’s up to the game developers. Don’t you agree?

We live in a world that’s getting all more restricted

This is about gaming so I’m not going to go too much off-topic, but sometimes it feels like we’re taking one step forward just to take two steps backwards. We get more freedom and right to do whatever we want in some areas, but then in others we get all more restricted. Do we really want everything to be controlled? Can’t we think for ourselves and make our own decisions and take responsibility for the consequences that those decisions may possibly have?

In terms of in-game purchases it’s not only loot boxes that are affected. If we stretch our views on gaming just a tiny bit, we find that restrictions are being made on slot machines online. A fairly new mechanic is that players are able to buy bonuses in slots as opposed to relying on luck by spinning in hope of triggering them. The bonuses are of course what every player wants to get their hands on.

The casino industry is already heavily regulated with measures that make it very difficult for minors to play. So these slots are clearly targeting an adult audience. Thus you wouldn’t think that they would be a problem. However, in 2019 the UK decided to ban this mechanic. They have also infringed other player rights such as making it impossible to spin on a slot more often than every 2.5 seconds. 

I’m asking; where will it all end?

With all of these restrictions going on and the way the world is turning, it makes me wonder. Will shoot’em up games become banned because they’re too violent? Have their bullets replaced by bunnies? Will game developers be allowed to create politically incorrect games in the future? Will our entire gaming experiences be scripted by governments à la North Korea style? Probably not. I hope not. But I’m certainly worried.
Let’s discuss. 

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