We already know that about the ESRB loot box stance, which amounted to a shrug of the shoulders and a heartfelt “meh”. Now a Senator from the state of New Hampshire is joining recent efforts from the US and the world to call for better oversight.
In an open letter to the ESRB, New Hampshire Senator Maggie Hassan has called for the group to look into whether or not game publishers and developers are marketing loot boxes in “an ethical and transparent way that adequately protects the developing minds of young children from predatory practices.”
While Hassan would not classify loot boxes as gambling outright, she did express concern with “psychological principles and enticing mechanics that closely mirror those often found in casinos and games of chance” and acknowledged that loot boxes can become an expensive habit and that they present potential harm.
The ESRB responded to the letter, offering assurance that the group is changing with the times. “As the industry evolves, so does our rating system, and we will continue to make enhancements to ensure parents continue to be well-informed,” reads part of the response. “We will also continue to provide information about additional tools, including parental control guides, that help parents set spending and time limits and block potentially inappropriate games based on the ESRB-assigned age rating.”
The ESRB’s response does raise a reasonable point in that parents should indeed take more agency in what their children are playing and better sources of information may be helpful. However, both the ESRB and Sen. Hassan are missing a large part of the point on why loot boxes are predatory, as gambling-style mechanics can affect older minds just as deeply, if not moreso.