The ESA, the trade association of the video game industry, roundly condemns a proposed bill that likens loot boxes in today’s games to a form of legalized gambling for children — issuing a blistering statement Thursday that ridiculed its assertions.
“This legislation is flawed and riddled with inaccuracies. It does not reflect how video games work nor how our industry strives to deliver innovative and compelling entertainment experiences to our audiences,” ESA CEO Stanley Pierre-Louis said in a statement released Thursday, May 23. “The impact of this bill would be far-reaching and ultimately prove harmful to the player experience, not to mention the more than 220,000 Americans employed by the video game industry. We encourage the bill’s co-sponsors to work with us to raise awareness about the tools and information in place that keep the control of video game play and in-game spending in parents’ hands rather than in the government’s.”
The statement was released shortly after an interview with U.S. Republican Senator Josh Hawley on Kotaku regarding the proposed loot box and microtransaction ban bill, which he said had received “great reception” from parents and gamers.
Hawley’s bill aims at the gambling nature of loot boxes, likening them to casinos, and microtransactions that take advantage of children. Casinos are the main target when discussing the monetization mechanics because they are easily relatable, and casinos are regulated in the way this bill hopes to regulate microtransactions. Although the bill impacts more than children, Hawley believes the vulnerability that loot boxes and microtransactions exploit will help to garner bipartisan support of his legislation.
The statement doesn’t leave much room for negotiation. It categorically dismisses the bill’s concerns and puts forth the idea that no regulation of any kind should be implemented, opting to collaborate with the bill’s co-sponsors to put more tools in the hands of parents “rather than in the government’s.”
As Hawley stated, he believes that, at worst, this bill could encourage a deeper conversation about monetization in games. The ESA suggesting that regulation would be “harmful to the player experience,” for instance, is a point of contention that deserves further exploration. If a different version of the bill eventually comes into play, the game industry already has regulatory organizations like the ESRB and PEGI that can be brought into the conversation as well.