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The UK government asks the public whether loot boxes should be regulated

Despite multiple countries scrutinising loot boxes for their supposed link to gambling, the United Kingdom has taken a rather reserved approach by dismissing the connection on numerous occasions. Fortunately, further investigations from the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee into “addictive technologies” is allowing the public to have their say in the matter.

Over the past few years, publishers and developers have been exploring new ways of monetising. This has caused controversy, from microtransactions in the single-player Middle-earth: Shadow of War, to EA’s progression-based loot box system in Star Wars: Battlefront II. Both decisions were ultimately reversed, but the damage had been done as loot boxes and their connection to gambling had become the forefront of conversation throughout last year.

Many countries began exploring the link between loot boxes and gambling, with Belgium and the Netherlands quickly dubbing the in-game practice illegal. Other boards from Ireland, the United States and the United Kingdom came to the conclusion that loot boxes could not be defined as gambling by its current definition, while the latter two continued their investigations.

The UK’s effort has surfaced once again in 2019, as the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee looks towards public opinion regarding the “addictive nature of some technologies can affect users' engagement with gaming and social media, particularly amongst younger people.” Although the game isn’t mentioned, this has likely been fast-tracked thanks to the sheer popularity of Fortnite sweeping the world.

Following the terms of reference, contributors can submit a document up to 3,000 words filled with evidence towards their point. Each paragraph must be numbered at pertain to at least one of the six broad umbrella headings that the regulator is enquiring about:

  • The immersive media industry
  • The future of eSports in the UK
  • The wider uses of “gamification” and VR/AR
  • Tackling digital and gaming addiction
  • The links between gaming and gambling
  • Data security and infrastructure

The immersive media industry could include dangerous social media trends, such as the Bird Box challenge, while the “gamification” of VR/AR is likely to discuss “deep-fake” films, which use augmented reality to superimpose the face of someone onto something else without their consent. Data security could include Facebook’s overwhelmingly negative press pertaining to the selling of user data, and finally, tackling digital and gaming addiction could look into reworking the outdated laws of the country by bringing them into the digital era.

KitGuru Says: All of these are brilliant topics, desperately in need of discussion and it’s great to see the UK finally motivated in modernising itself. Do keep in mind that submissions are in an advisory capacity and could have varying influences on the final outcome, but almost every opinion is worth voicing.

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