Wednesday, 25 December 2019

Video Game Loot Boxes Are Harming Young People, Says RSPH Charity

Loot Boxes Gaming

The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) has criticised loot boxes in video games.

The charity has called for tighter regulation regarding gambling features in video games following the release of a study by Gambleaware. The research, titled Skins In The Game, surveyed 1,025 young people between the ages of 11 and 24 across the UK and found that over half of all respondents view loot boxes (58%) and skin betting (60%) as “highly addictive”.

According to reports, loot boxes are items which can be bought with real money or earned in-game which provides the player with rewards that can only be seen once opened. Skin betting is the act of purchasing in-game items such as weapons and outfits with real money.

Following the publication of the study, the RSPH has called on the new Conservative government to introduce legislation that will classify the features as gambling. If introduced, this would require game developers to drop the features from their video games or implement age restrictions.

The same study also discovered that children and young people regularly interact with gambling-related accounts on social media platforms. According to Gambleaware’s study, one in eight 11 to 16 year-olds (12%) follow gambling companies on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube and around 41,000 followers of gambling-related accounts in the UK are estimated to be under the age of 16.

What They Say

In a statement to The Guardian, RSPH Chief Executive Shirley Cramer said: “Young people have told us that gambling and gambling-like activity are slowly but surely polluting hobbies and pastimes that have traditionally have been beneficial to their wellbeing.

“Today, the vast majority of young people take part regularly in video-gaming and no doubt many will receive video games as Christmas presents. However, we, and the young people we’ve spoken to, are concerned at how firmly embedded gambling-type features are in many of these games.”

She continued: “The rise of loot boxes and skin betting have seen young people introduced to the same mechanisms that underpin gambling, through an industry that operates unchecked and unregulated on the back alleys of the internet, which young people can access from their bedrooms.”

A spokesperson for the UK government told The Guardian: “Problem gambling can devastate lives, which is why we are absolutely committed to protecting young people from gambling-related harm. we have committed to a review of the Gambling Act and take concerns around loot boxes in video games very seriously.”

Back in September, a group of MPs from the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee called for loot boxes to be banned from being purchased by children. The same group of MPs had urged the government to regulate loot boxes under the 2005 Gambling Act.

Last year, loot boxes were classed as gambling in Belgium and developers were forced to drop the gambling feature from games released in the country. When EA Games, a prominent video game developer, refused to comply, the Belgian government launched an investigation into the firm.