Gaming Industry Facing Potential for More Regulations

Peyton Gouzien | @PGouzien

Senator Josh Hawley from Missouri announced he will introduce a bill to ban “manipulative” online game features. The Republican calls his bill the “Protecting Children from Abusive Games Act”.  The bill will prohibit games marketed towards children from adding features that require money for advancing or receiving random rewards. These features being “Loot Boxes” and “Pay to win” in the video games industry. Additionally, the bill gives the Federal Trade Commission the power of enforcement of the ban. Furthermore, it gives state attorney generals to files lawsuits against companies who violate the ban.

In addition, Senator Hawley defended the policy in a statement with the assertion “Game developers who knowingly exploit children should face legal consequences.”. However, the Entertainment Software Association came out against the policy. Acting President and CEO, Stanley Pierre-Louis, pointed out other first world countries decided these features are not gambling. Louis added, “We look forward to sharing with the senator the tools and information the industry already provides that keeps the control of in-game spending in parents’ hands”.

Not the First, Not the Last

In March, Senator Hawley and Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts introduced a bill to protect children’s data privacy. While the bill mostly focused on social media, the bill did address data obtained from children’s video games. The bill sought to prevent internet companies from using children’s data to targeting ads at children. Additionally, the bill seeks to provide more information on how they collect and use children’s data. The legislation would be an update to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act passed in 1998. This legislation and Hawley’s are not the first pieces of legislation that seek to further regulate gaming.

Hillary Clinton, while a senator, introduced the Family Entertainment Protection Act in 2005. The bill sought to create a federal mandate for the enforcement of the Entertainment Software Rating Board’s (ESRB) rating system. This was in an effort to “protect” children from inappropriate content in video games. The bill would have levied hefty fines or community service to those who sold minors “Mature” or “Adult Only” rated games. The bill ultimately did not pass, but several state governments passed similar bills. Those policies were all declared unconstitutional in the “Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association” Supreme Court case.

Regulations on the video gaming industry do not seem like they will stop with Hawley though. Video games continue to be blamed for mass murder and gamers have been calling for a loot box ban for some time now.

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