US Senator calls on ESRB to keep pace with 'predatory gaming tactics'

US Senator calls on ESRB to keep pace with 'predatory gaming tactics'

Separately, in a Q&A session with nominees for the post of commissioner at the Federal Trade Commission, senator Hassan suggested that if the ESRB fails to take action against loot boxes, the United States government, via the FTC, could step in. But Hassan's letter is the first public attention the issue has received from the federal government.

Hassan went on to point out that the World Health Organisation recently announced that "gaming disorder" has been classified as a medical condition on the group's latest Classification of Diseases document. She also asked the board to "collect and publish data" on how developers and players use loot boxes. Without going as far as liking loot boxes to gambling, she noted how such things could turn into an "expensive habit" as such microtransactions share "similar psychological principles" with games of chance.

The Senator continued that the ESRB should label physical games containing loot boxes. "And depending on how the ESRB responds to my inquiry, would the FTC be willing to look at loot boxes as an issue independently?"

Hassasn added that she is urging the ESRB to review its policies around loot boxes and, in future ratings, take the "potential harm" that loot boxes could have on children into consideration. Hawaiian state lawmakers have already issued four bills that if legislated will ban the selling of loot boxes to anyone under 21.

US Senator calls on ESRB to keep pace with 'predatory gaming tactics'
US Senator calls on ESRB to keep pace with 'predatory gaming tactics'

Washington State Senators Kevin Ranker (D), Reuven Carlyle (D), and Karen Keiser (D) have also introduced a bill concerning loot boxes in online games and apps.

The Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) has an important mission in both providing parents with the necessary information to make decisions about the suitability of games, and their content, for children, as well as ensuring that the industry is following responsible marketing practices.

Hassan's interest in loot boxes echoes somewhat the interest former senator Joseph Lieberman and others showed in video game violence in the early '90s. She advised the ESRB "to keep pace with new gaming trends, including the in-game micro-transactions and predatory gaming tactics, particularly as they are deployed on minors".

The Senator said since the ESRB is "one of the most effective voluntary enforcement boards", she openly called upon it to take the loot box issue seriously, and to "inform parents about their options when it comes to these types of games". Lastly, Hassan said the ESRB should put together a "best practices" document that developers can look at in an effort to make loot boxes "less essential to core gameplay".

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