When US Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) announced “The Protecting Children from Abusive Games Act”, it caused panic all among the creators of predatory video games. Hawley’s bill aims to remove loot boxes and pay-to-win microtransactions from video games. In a recent interview, Hawley talked extensively about his bill and went deeply into the reasons why he considers this bill should come into effect immediately.
According to Hawley, his concern “stems from being a parent of two little boys”. Even though Hawley isn’t a gamer himself, he argues his concern for the wellbeing of our younger generation comes from “talking to lots of parents, and also hearing, by the way, from lots of gamers who are concerned about what the C-suite is doing here, basically adding casinos to children’s video games.”
Of course, more and more developers are using microtransactions to essentially add life to a game even after its release. Other games are borderline pay-to-win as they are offering the player a considerable advantage over those who don’t pay more.
Loot boxes are of course massively different from pay to win games. In fact, many developers use this argument to defend their games. When Hawley was asked if his bill focuses on loot boxes or pay to win games, he replied by saying,
Both loot boxes and pay to win. We think the reason why is that its foremost addiction development. It’s an attempt for kids to, as I said before, adding casinos to kids’ games in an attempt to get them hooked, in an attempt to exploit them. We don’t allow actual casinos to exploit children in this way. Why should we allow the gaming industry to do so? These C-suite executives who are driving this trend.
During the interview, Hawley was also asked about developers such as EA being reliant on loot boxes in games such as FIFA and how exactly would his bill impact such developers, he responded by saying,
“And FIFA would indeed be covered by this legislation, to be clear. They’ve certainly expressed their, shall we say, concern over this legislation. But I think that’s probably a good indication that we’re getting somewhere.”
When Hawley first came forward with his bill, a lot of financial analysts expressed their skepticism by saying that this is just a publicity stunt. When Hawley was asked whether or not he thinks he will be able to accomplish something with this bill, he responded by saying:
“I think if they thought it were a publicity stunt they wouldn’t be so concerned. I think the reaction of the corporate lobbyists… sort of strongly suggests that they’re very worried about this. I think it probably also suggests that they know this practice is not going to stand up to public scrutiny. Once parents really understand what’s going on here, and once the general public understands how these games are being manipulated, how their integrity is being compromised, how basically these companies have found a way to make whole gobs of money without really being upfront about it, and of course the addictive nature of it, I think they’re pretty worried that it’s going to result in public backlash, and it should.
It will be interesting to see just how Hawley’s bill will impact gaming. Just last month, EA and Respawn Entertainment announced that their new game “Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order” will not have microtransactions. It is likely that this bill will force other game developers to change their existing games, removing all micro-transactional materials from them. If this bill comes into effect, it will allow existing game developers and their games to face legal charges thanks to Hawley’s “The Protecting Children from Abusive Games Act”.