Gambling for kids?

Callum Revell, Copy Editor

Earlier this month, Belgium began an investigation that startled many big name video game developers. Belgium had begun an investigation into whether or not the highly popular trend of loot boxes was gambling. It was shortly joined by Hawaii in the questioning, “Are loot boxes actually gambling aimed at young people and children?”

Loot boxes are an alternative, in-game way of unlocking character cosmetics, weapons, perks, and more that can be either unlocked at a steady but slow rate or via real-life money. These boxes, purchasable with real-world currency, are highly present in games, many of them aimed at children. This was Belgium’s, and later Hawaii’s, initial qualm.

Belgium later released an unofficial statement that they are “starting to believe [loot boxes] are gambling and want them banned throughout Europe.” This was followed up by a statement about “Battlefront II”, a game that has recently received a large amount of negative attention from its community for its paywall practices, from Rep. Chris Lee (D) from Hawaii. “[‘Battlefront II’] is a Star Wars-themed online casino, designed to lure kids into spending money,” he said.

With these statements from government officials, the gaming community naturally split into two halves: those for the microtransactions and loot boxes and those against them. Steven Williams, better known as gaming YouTuber and internet personality Boogie2988, offers a strong argument against government involvement in regards to loot boxes and regulation, “As an old school gamer, I do not like government intervention in my video games. I want video games to be self-regulated and that’s the job of the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board).” This view is a very common one among those who wish the loot boxes to be left alone.

The opposing side feels as equally strong, feeling as if they and their fellow gamers are being taken advantage of. “The way the loot [box] systems are all structured is just like a casino game. They manipulate human psychology and a lot of younger kids end up wasting a ton of money on them,” comments Tyler Woolison, a senior and avid gamer.

As Belgium continues their investigation into loot boxes and their potential status as gambling, many gamers look to the future and how their favorite multi-billion dollar game developing companies will change the way game content is obtained.