The director of mental health at the British National Health System (NHS) has warned that loot boxes “prepare children for addiction by teaching them to bet.”
In a recent statement, director Claire Murdoch has demanded action to avoid the risks of gambling addiction, a move that would require video game companies to withdraw loot boxes in games played by children.
The NHS has also confirmed the opening of a new treatment center in response to growing concerns about gambling addiction, which joins the other fourteen NHS centers designed to treat mental problems related to addiction.
Last year the loot boxes and their risks in video games made headlines. During a meeting in June 2019, representatives of EA and Epic met with the Digital, Culture, Media and Sports Committee of the United Kingdom Parliament to discuss the implementation of loot boxes in video games such as Battlefront 2 or Fortnite. The EA representative defended the loot boxes and defined them as “surprise mechanics,” comparing them with Kinder eggs.
Murdoch states: “Honestly, no company should prepare children for addiction by teaching them to bet on the contents of those loot boxes. No brand should sell loot boxes to children with that element of chance, so yes, sales must end. “
“The health of young people is at risk, and although the NHS is facing these innovative new services for families through the long-term plan, we cannot do this alone, so that other parts of society must do as much as possible to limit risks and safeguard the well-being of children. “
A report from the Royal Society of Public Health last December determined that almost half of young people believe that playing video games can lead to gambling, and that the relationship between video games and betting is negative.
Murdoch wants to ban video game sales that include loot boxes that encourage children to bet, and that companies introduce “fair and realistic” spending limits to prevent a person from spending thousands of dollars on the game. He also asks that players be specified what percentage of probability they have of getting the items they want before buying the loot boxes, and that the industry supports the parents by letting them know the risks involved.
The NHS ensures that the Betting Commission does not regulate loot boxes due to a “legal vacuum”, since it is not classified as a bet.
Shirley Cramer CBE, CEO of the Royal Society for Public Health, agrees with Murdoch: “The rise of gambling in video games is a threat to the health and well-being of young people, and we commend the NHS for warning about it. “
“There is no doubt that loot boxes should be considered a form of gambling, and in fact our research shows that three out of five young people see them that way. And yet, the world of online gaming remains unregulated, an opaque market that evolves rapidly without safeguarding children. “
In response to the statement, the UKIE, the company responsible for regulating the age classification, has said: “The video game industry takes its responsibility with the players very seriously, and knows that some people are worried (…) The industry has already pledged to take steps to inform players about purchase options, including loot boxes. “
But will you listen to the video game industry? Last year, Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft said they wo n’t allow loot boxes on their consoles unless the odds are shown .