US Congress Members Want Loot Boxes Kept Away From Children

Democrats have signed a letter calling for new laws to shelter children from loot box purchases, citing the UK's new privacy codes.

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Democrats are calling for new laws which will keep loot boxes away from children, citing new rules being placed in the United Kingdom this September.

The Verge reports that Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL), and Rep. Lori Trahan (D-MA) wrote a letter to bring the UK's Age Appropriate Design Code to the United States. The letter addressed 12 mainstream game companies such as Activision Blizzard, Disney, Sony, Microsoft, and Epic Games.

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The US Congress claims in the letter that loot boxes are "encouraging purchase before a child knows what the “bundle” contains--akin to gambling." Unlike micro-transactions, players are unaware of the contents inside the loot box until they purchase it. It usually takes at least a couple of purchases to get what you want. Some games let players preview possible rewards inside the loot boxes. The Congress members believe that games need stricter rules beyond the Entertainment Software Rating Board’s (ESRB) regulations.

Although the UK looked into the addictive aspect of loot boxes in 2019 and 2020 and has since enacted changes in the Pan European Game Information (PEGI) guidelines, it's not part of the AADC. It resulted in ESRB changing its guidelines as well, but some members of Congress feel like it was not enough.

Democrats are citing the AADC for something it never refers to. The AADC "is a set of 15 flexible standards--they do not ban or specifically prescribe--that provides built-in protection to allow children to explore, learn, and play online by ensuring that the best interests of the child," according to the AADC page. It doesn't target loot boxes or microtransactions.

The AADC pushes for social media sites and popular games such as Roblox and Minecraft to prevent questionable practices for children until the age of 18. It would provide increased privacy settings and prevent unhealthy usage of a service.

However, the US already has the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act to protect the privacy of young children, so citing the AADC could be seen as another excuse to attempt a loot box ban. It's a conversation in Congress that occurs seemingly every year, and earlier in 2021, lawmakers in Chicago wanted to ban games such as Grand Theft Auto 5 due to an increase in carjackings. This new letter also states "exposure to violent content" as another concern for young gamers.

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