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The Australian government has long been an opponent of video games that contain gambling elements or simulated gambling. Now, the government is forwarding a proposal that will apply an R18+ rating to any game that simulates gambling, including loot boxes.
This move results from growing concern about the accessibility of gambling or gambling-like elements in games by children. Studies show that early exposure to these elements could lead to problem gambling in the future.
Reports from ABC News and other sources confirmed on Monday that the government is moving forward with a plan to require a rating of 18+ on any video game with gambling elements. These elements include the popular loot box mechanic found in many online games.
According to Communications Minister Michelle Roland, the proposals are looking to address concerns that online video games are grooming potential problem gamblers. She states, ”There is growing community concern around the harms of simulated gambling.”
“A parent, for example, would expect that if their children had purchased and was playing a game, and that game contained some simulated gambling, that they have a right to know about that.”
Under the plan, any game that contains loot boxes would require at least a rating of M for mature content. However, the program would also require similar ratings for games that even provide simulated gambling content. For example, a game that had a free online poker game, such as Red Dead Redemption, would even require a mature rating.
These ratings would prohibit underage youth from purchasing any games with this label. This would impact games like FIFA soccer games that are usually appropriate for all audiences outside of the loot box elements.
Ms Rowland spoke on the strict nature of the proposals, stating, “We want to be very clear and very binary in this regard, and the certainty that is provided by a proposal that says if there is simulated gambling in a game, then it is subject to a particular rating.”
“That is the clearest indication that we can give not only to consumers, but also to industry.”
The concerns over simulated gambling are not new. In the past, multiple lawmakers have voiced concerns and have called for a ban on loot boxes. Some responsible gaming developers are already taking steps to ban loot boxes. One such example of the popular Fortnite. The game has already removed loot boxes as part of the game.
However, if these new proposals go into effect throughout Australia, some companies must change how they present gaming in the region. For example, we see EA Sports or other companies removing these elements rather than allowing significant restrictions on content.
Many games already have regional restrictions that are based on location. The simplest fix would be to remove the elements altogether. For areas like Australia, we could see companies simply disabling those features.
If these proposals were being considered in other countries like the United States, then they would likely fail. However, Australia is taking a more rigid stance on gambling. This is mainly due to the issues stemming from casinos in the country.
Many politicians and citizens are concerned about the impacts of gambling on both youth and the community as a whole. This level of concern will likely result in many localities approving these new proposals.
While some may think these proposals go a bit overboard, there is some logic involved. Some games present loot boxes or other gambling-like elements in a way online casinos offer online casino games like roulette or pokies. While these elements are appropriate for adults, they may not be suitable for children.
As such, it would be best if game developers provide other reward systems that do not involve gambling-like elements. For example, fixed rewards for completing a level that is the same for all players would be a great alternative.
This will be a comprehensive process that will take a while to implement fully. For now, we have to wait and see which states agree to implement the proposal and the alternatives that game developers offer.