The Children's Commissioner for England has said urgent action needs to be taken to better regulate online games, and claims some aspects of game design are starting to "look less like play and more like gambling."
Digging into the state the video game landscape in a recent report, which asked children for their view on the pros and cons of games, commissioner Anne Longfield found that certain titles are guilty of using design elements that actively encourage younger players to spend real-world cash.
It also posits that peer pressure from friends, online strangers, and even popular influencers and YouTubers are all factors that children claim can lead to them spending cash on in-game purchases.
When specifically discussing loot boxes, some children acknowledged the controversial monetization technique is "similar to gambling," largely because of the lack of a guaranteed rewards (FIFA was one of the biggest culprits mentioned). With that in mind, the report asserts that if gambling isn't permitted in a child's offline life, it shouldn't be permitted in their online world.
"Adults who gamble often tend to have boundaries and control measures in place to mitigate against harm. Children are unlikely to be able to put these in place for themselves. If there are three concerns around exposure to gambling at an early age offline, then those same concerns should translate into the online world," reads the report.
"The Government’s proposed duty of care addresses some of the harms revealed in our research, including cyberbullying and violent content. Underage use is also a problem, however the white paper refers to this specifically in relation to social media, not gaming. And our research reveals major harms on online gaming platforms, especially financial harms, which are currently not listed as within scope of the duty of care."
To combat the harms associated with loot boxes and similar monetization methods, the commissioner has made a number of policy recommendations to the UK government including implementing maximum daily spend limits in all titles that feature in-game purchases, conducting a wider review into the current definition go gambling, and preventing developers from linking paid-for items to in-game progression.
A number of other measures were also recommended, while the report also touches on some of the positive effects of video games. Check it out in full by clicking here..