Update: We’ve found Senator Hawley’s one-page proposal regarding loot boxes and exploitative practices in video games. It has not yet been introduced formally to Congress, so it exists merely as a statement of purpose. Titled “The Protecting Children from Abusive Games Act,” it does call out “Games targeted at those under the age of 18” and states that the proposed “bill would prohibit several forms of manipulative design,” including loot boxes and pay-to-win practices.
Original story: Oh, it’s on now.
United States Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) today introduced legislation targeting microtransactions in games, particularly those geared toward minors. It’s the latest in Howley’s ongoing crusade against tech companies and their addictive practices. He’s already introduced a bill restricting the information game developers can collect from children under the age of 13 and has called for the conclusion of an investigation into Facebook’s violation of a consent agreement from 2011.
“When a game is designed for kids, game developers shouldn’t be allowed to monetize addiction,” said Hawley said in a statement announcing his bill. “And when kids play games designed for adults, they should be walled off from compulsive microtransactions. Game developers who knowingly exploit children should face legal consequences.” While Hawley specifically targets Candy Crush Saga and its $150 “Best Value” Luscious Bundle, it’s obvious that his measure could be applied to other companies’ games.
All of this is, of course, predictable. In late 2016, following the Star Wars Battlefront II fiasco, Hawaii Representative Chris Lee introduced bills to restrict them in his state (they failed). In November, the FTC was called upon to investigate loot boxes, prompting me to predict that “something” would happen regarding loot box legality in the U.S. this year. I can even recall an Extra Credits video from a few years back where they said that, if loot box legislation does come to the U.S., it will be in the guise of “protecting the children.”
That appears to be what’s happening here, though Hawley’s measure could presumably have a wide-reaching effect on adults, as well. I say “presumably” because I can’t seem to find actual text of the bill on Congress’s website — even the page purportedly listing all of Hawley’s sponsored legislation doesn’t appear to have it — but it will be something to keep an eye on in the future.