EA made headlines this month with its predatory loot box system in Star Wars Battlefront II. Arguably the worst implementation of loot boxes ever, EA tied most game progression to its loot box system. What’s more, unlocking new characters, like Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, requires the same currency as purchasing loot boxes. The grind is strong with this one (sorry, had to do it once).
The conversation stopped being about if Battlefront II is a fun game and revolved entirely around loot boxes. The backlash from gamers (especially on Reddit) was so great that EA disabled all crystal purchases as the game officially launched on Friday, November 17. EA’s previous “fix” of reducing hero purchase costs was quickly dismissed as early access players discovered that the company also reduced mission credit rewards. EA conveniently forgot to announce that half of the update.
Belgium, hero of the gamer?
Belgium declared this week that it considers loot boxes a form of gambling. The Minister of Justice wants to ban the sale of anything in-game that doesn’t specifically tell you what it is. Oh, and that ban should be across the EU. It’s not specified exactly how far this idea reaches. Does that include Hearthstone card packs? Overwatch cosmetic loot boxes? Opening a pack in Hearthstone was a rush; you never knew when you’d see that beautiful orange glow that meant you got probably one of the bad legendaries. Would your Overwatch box have that amazing Halloween costume or just another emote for Roadhog?
But what about the children?
Back in 2005, Penny Arcade was involved in Jack Thompson’s battle against violent games to protect children. The Grand Theft Auto series had reached a new height of violent roleplay (paying a prostitute for sex acts then killing her and taking the money back, primarily). Parents were up in arms asking why nobody was protecting their children. I wasn’t a parent yet, but I stood on the side of game developers and logical adults who argued that parents should act as the first line of defense against violent games. If those parents did their jobs properly, their kids would never be exposed to games designed for and marketed to adults.
Jack Thompson capitalized on a nation of uninformed parents blaming everyone but themselves. When I think about why I started PlayStation Compass, this part of gaming history actually stands at the front of the reasons. Not to tell parents they’re wrong, but to help parents become more involved in the gaming hobby—especially since my own parents refused to learn anything about gaming.
So, ban loot boxes?
Like violence in video games, I believe that parents should control the type of content exposed to their children. If we let the government limit how companies like EA and Blizzard implement loot boxes, what’s next? Why do we, as parents, have to throw up our hands and ask the government to save us? There are countless people on Reddit and other gaming forums chiming in on the dangers of gambling addiction in children, and I don’t disagree with that. I let my kids open my boxes when I get them, but it’s not an everyday thing. If I buy, say, five loot boxes with my credits we will take turns opening them, hoping to see that blue or purple glow. And that’s it. Back to toys, or drawing, or Peppa Pig.
Kids can only become addicted to loot boxes if parents enable them to.
We don’t need the government to step in. If gamers don’t like EA’s loot box practice the solution is easy: don’t buy its games. If your children are in their bedrooms buying loot boxes in any game, spending real money and developing an addiction to gambling, then I’m sorry, but you have done something wrong, not the developer. Don’t ask the government to step in. As a parent, put an end to that behaviour. Be aware of the dangers that are out there, but don’t throw your hands in the air and give up. Asking (or hoping) for the government to step in is not parenting.