ESRB: Rate Games with Quasi-Gambling "Mature"

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It has recently become a trend in the gaming industry for games to include "loot boxes"; virtual items that can be purchased for real-world money. The contents of these loot boxes are randomized, with the majority of them containing low-value items, but with the possibility of containing high-value items. This adds up to a system that is disturbingly similar to gambling; and while there is usually not a way to financially profit from loot boxes, they promote the same psychological effects that gambling does. The immediate gratification of these loot boxes prey on society's most impulsive individuals, which often means children.

In North America, the content of video games are rated by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), who determines the age-appropriateness of each game based on factors such as violence or profanity. Currently, they also take gambling into consideration, separating it into two categories: simulated gambling, and real gambling. Simulated gambling refers to using virtual money to win more virtual money, while real gambling refers to using real money to win more real money. Loot boxes fall somewhere in between the two, as real money is spent on them to win virtual money; however, loot boxes are currently not factored into the ESRB's age rating for games. I feel that this is an oversight on the part of the ESRB, as loot boxes, while lacking the appearance of gambling at a brief glance, can still be just as addictive and harmful as real gambling.

The ESRB generally gives games with simulated gambling their "Teen" rating, and games with real gambling their "Adults Only" rating, so it would be appropriate to give games with loot box quasi-gambling their "Mature" rating. This change will only further the ESRB's mission of informing parents of objectionable content in video games, and make children less likely to come across across games that instill real-world gambling habits.

 

To help:

Other than signing this petition, you can visit http://www.esrb.org/about/contact.aspx to send a comment/complaint regarding this issue.



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