Paige FTW: Should Loot Boxes Be Banned?

As we continue our deep dive into the murky seas of downloadable content, we run into a great beast of the deep: the loot box.

The mechanic is simple: pay your money, whether it is in in-game gems or real-world dollars, open the box and see what you get. Most times, you will get nothing of note, but sometimes you will get fabulous rare monsters, weapons, outfits or … in-game advantages.

This is where Star Wars Battlefront II enters the picture, of course.

Leaving aside its punishing demands of gameplay (or money) to unlock characters like Luke Skywalker, its game-altering loot boxes quickly swept the headlines. But Battlefront toed the line by dropping competitive boosts into their crates. These are things that can really turn the tide of gameplay. But the insult is that … you can’t even just purchase these boosts! You have to gamble for them. You might pay and then get nothing in return.
Is it a terrible, predatory mechanic? Yes. Little wonder that EA backtracked so forcefully and shut down the system altogether.

Should it be banned?

Hawai‘i state Rep. Chris Lee says yes, they should.

“The structure of the game was designed specifically to compel players to buy into these mechanisms in order to advance,” he laments.

His solution is two-pronged. He wants more transparency from developers (as in, listed odds so people know what they’re getting into) and he wants an age restriction on any game containing loot box gambling mechanics.

It’s a controversial stance but one he feels is necessary.

“There continues to be an increased focus on these sorts of exploitative mechanisms by the gaming industry because there’s frankly incredible profit for the investors in these companies, but unfortunately that’s come at the expense of gamers and families around the nation.”

Reaction to his declarations online have been mixed, with some agreeing that loot boxes need some kind of regulation, and many others bristling at the idea that the government wants to stick its nose somewhere new.

Stay tuned — the legislative session convenes in January, and we’ll surely hear more then.