The controversial issue of regulating loot boxes in video games is once again in the political spotlight, sparking debates across Europe. Across the continent, different countries are finding their own ways of tackling the problem.
While countries like Spain are considering age restrictions on loot boxes, Austria is pursuing a legal channel. This is due to the lack of regulatory efforts in this area so far.
A similar course of action may be required in Germany if the local regulatory authority does not act soon. Possible approaches to this problem were covered in detail in a round table discussion on Gluecksspielwesen.de.
The debate surrounding regulation has already reached the Bundestag and is being driven by MPs from different parties. Lena Werner, a member of the Bundestag from the Social Democratic Party, believes it’s up to the government to put responsible gambling protocols in place.
“Gaming should be a leisure activity that is enjoyable and not gambling through the back door,” she says. “Especially with an eye to children and young people, it is our responsibility to establish safeguards to protect them from possible negative effects.”
Give loot the boot?
Fellow Bundestag member Linda Heitmann, of the Green Party, is already submitting proposals for regulation. She is critical of the loot box mechanic and its effects, particularly on young people.
“I see a need for tighter laws and regulations here,” she says. “Educational campaigns are needed, but above all the providers of games and apps must be held accountable by offering information and prevention, as well as by providing technical solutions such as automatic slowdowns when games last too long by rewarding breaks and even banning loot boxes.”
Heitmann highlights the necessity of research into online gambling addiction. She emphasises the role of the Federal Agency for the Protection of Children and Young People in the Media. The agency is responsible for enforcing age ratings, as well as improving information on complaint mechanisms and age verification systems.
German politicians are issuing warnings for children and parents. These warnings claim that the same youth protection measures should apply to “simulated gambling” just as they do to traditional forms of gambling.
This intense debate around loot boxes and the increasing prevalence of gambling addiction among young people has managed to draw attention from political figures across the spectrum.
Fabian Gramling of CDU/CSU suggests that regulatory proposals should be developed in collaboration with industry stakeholders. Further, he says the proposals should be based on solid research in this area.
Gramling expects the government to actively engage in the ongoing discussion and propose protection methods and financial support for research into loot boxes and their effects on players.
At the Federal Congress on Gambling, which will take place on 5 October, MPs will be discussing possible regulatory measures with legal experts in order to move forward in the debate and produce solutions.