United States politicians representing the state of Hawaii have condemned the use of loot boxes in Star Wars Battlefront II, describing it as a “predatory practice” that can take advantage of vulnerable people. In a press conference, state representative Chris Lee said he was taking action in order to “ensure future protections for kids, youth, and everyone [else].”
“This game is a Star Wars-themed online casino designed to lure kids into spending money. It’s a trap,” he said. “This is something we need to address to ensure that particularly kids who are underage, who are not psychologically and emotionally mature enough to gamble–which is why gambling is prohibited under [the age of] 21–are protected from being trapped into these cycles which have compelled many folks to spend thousands of dollars in gaming fees online.”
Star Wars Battlefront II allows players to purchase loot boxes that contain rewards capable of impacting gameplay. It’s also possible to unlock some of the Star Wars franchises most iconic characters quicker by purchasing these. Crucially, the rewards contained in the boxes are randomised, leading many to draw comparisons to gambling.
According to Lee, legislation that could change the way games with loot boxes are sold is being looked at in Hawaii and other states.
“We’re looking at legislation this coming year which could prohibit sale of these games to folks who are underage in order to protect these families, as well as prohibiting different kinds of mechanisms in those games,” he explained. “We’ve been talking with several other states as well [and] legislators there are looking at the same thing. I think this is an appropriate time to make sure these issues are addressed before this becomes the norm for every new game.”
State representative Sean Quinlan emphasised that Star Wars Battlefront II is a game that he believes is being marketed at young players. “[It’s] a AAA title that’s being released by the world’s largest gaming studio, and it has the most popular intellectual property in the world attached to it, and it’s marketed squarely at children.”
A video of the press conference was posted on Reddit (and you can watch it above). Lee later responded to comments on Reddit and compelled readers to support the effort by “calling and emailing your own state legislators and asking them to act.”
He added: “These kinds of loot boxes and microtransactions are explicitly designed to prey upon and exploit human psychology in the same way casino games are so designed. This is especially true for young adults who child psychologists and other experts explain are particularly vulnerable. These exploitive mechanisms and the deceptive marketing promoting them have no place in games being marketed to minors, and perhaps no place in games at all.”
On November 21, French Senator Jerome Durain penned a letter to the independent agency, ARJEL, noting worry among the gaming crowd that microtransactions such as those in Star Wars Battlefront II could have a “deleterious” effect on the video game industry.
Battlefront II is out now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Much of the news cycle around the game has been focused on its microtransaction system, which, though removed for now, is coming back at a later date. Management at Disney was reportedly displeased with the negative response around the game, which comes just a few weeks before the release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
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