COLUMN: The predatory nature of video games



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Companies exist to make money. That being said, there are ethical and unethical ways to do so. Currently the video game industry is raking in the billions by exploiting one of humanity’s worst vices. 

The idea is simple. You pay five dollars for a chance to win a virtual item of differing quality by opening a loot box. If regular gambling is a foolish endeavor, then I imagine gambling for something that is not even real is far worse. And indeed it is worse because this gambling isn’t age-restricted.

Federal regulations must be implemented to stop this predatory market from going further. Luckily, Belgium began to ban the practice but the rest of the world has yet to act against it. 

Unlike the real world where only adults can throw away their life savings, anyone can gamble in video games. Children are becoming addicted to gambling, and no one is stopping them. It is heinous that it has been allowed to continue for so long.

The odds of winning or losing aren’t even posted. This effectively means their odds could be impossibly long and no one would know it. It wasn’t even until China established new regulations in 2017 that forced companies to publish odds. Even then, no kid in America would find them because they are only on the Chinese version of the website. 

These companies know that what they are doing isn’t right. They don’t want people to know what they are doing is gambling. They want you to think its good fun. It isn’t good fun, and it’s affecting how games are made.

Perhaps this wouldn’t be the biggest issue in the world if the gambling was limited to cosmetic items, fancy hats and the like. However, it has come to the point where a loot box can contain necessary items for progression. That goes way over the line when people are already paying $60 for most big budget games.

Thankfully, the great machinations of government are starting to move against this predatory market. Belgium and the Netherlands have declared loot boxes gambling and therefore illegal in their respective countries. Australia called for a review of the subject last year, and the FTC is currently in an ongoing investigation into the subject.

I do not want a collective ban on loot boxes in general as they have their place. I want them to be regulated and out of the reach of children. Adults who are fiscally responsible for themselves should be allowed to throw away their money however they see fit. Children are not and should not be allowed to engage in it, especially since their psychology is still evolving. 

The loot box gambling market is rapidly expanding, and will reach $50 billion by 2022. The video game industry will continue to use this system for as long as possible. It isn’t even willing to consider it as gambling. This market needs to be brought under reigns and quickly before an entire generation of gamers become gambling addicts as well. 

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