Last month, it was announced that the state of Hawaii had begun an investigation into Star Wars Battlefront 2‘s loot boxes. Democratic State Representative Chris Lee was incredibly critical of the business model and accused EA of creating a “Star Wars-themed casino.”
But in a new YouTube video, Lee explains that more can be done than just investigate, as the United States lawmaker also proposes a ban on video games with loot boxes. The proposed legislation would prohibit games with “gambling mechanisms” that include a “percentage chance” of getting an item (instead of an outright purchase), from being sold to anyone under the age of 21. Some states already restrict people under the age of 21 from gambling in casinos and so this video game ban would be in line with that.
The ban wouldn’t just affect physical retail copies of games, either. Games with loot boxes that are available digitally would also be prohibited from being sold to those under 21, meaning that platforms such as Steam would also have to comply. It’s unclear what would happen if retailers chose not to comply or if lawmakers deemed that the storefronts aren’t doing enough to keep the restrictions in place.
Lee and his colleague Sean Quinlan (another Hawaii official who has spoken out against loot boxes) aren’t merely thinking out loud, as they are actively drafting documents that other states could use to address the loot box issue. Moreover, Lee calls upon gamers to write to their elected officials about the issue and to ask them to consider the impact of loot boxes on families and young people. The description of the video also includes a link to an email template that people can use.
Lee is not the only politician taking a stand against loot boxes and microtransactions, nor is he the first lawmaker to call for a ban. For example, authorities in the Netherlands suggested that games with “systems of chance” could be banned from sale altogether or their creators could face a heavy fine if they include the mechanics before the country has put a licensing system in place.
The comments of Lee and other lawmakers suggest that the controversy and the discussion surrounding the issue is not going to quieten down any time soon. And although the video game industry is taking some steps into self-regulation, it doesn’t seem as though this will be enough to satisfy players or the elected officials who represent them.