A US senator wants to ban loot boxes in video games directed at children, claiming they can promote addiction.
On Wednesday, Senator Josh Hawley (R-Missouri) said he plans on introducing legislation cracking down on loot boxes and other "pay-to-win" mechanics, such as microtransactions that can unlock new content. His goal is to bar video game makers from ever using the practices on minors under the age of 18
"When a game is designed for kids, game developers shouldn't be allowed to monetize addiction," he said in a statement. "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."
Hawley talked up the coming legislation as governments across the world have been investigating whether loot boxes can be a form of gambling. The concept generally works like this: in exchange for some real money, you can buy a mystery box, which might contain a valuable in-game item or something entirely worthless.
Hawley claims loot boxes and other pay-to-win mechanics can needlessly force players to spend money to progress through the game. He also argues the same practices can spur gaming addiction among children. "Social media and video games prey on user addiction, siphoning our kids' attention from the real world and extracting profits from fostering compulsive habits," he added.
His upcoming legislation will call on the US's Federal Trade Commission to enforce the proposed rules. State attorneys would also be able to file lawsuits against video game makers that violate the ban.
In response to Hawley's threat of regulation, the video game trade group, the Entertainment Software Association, said that many other countries have found that loot boxes do not constitute a form of gambling.
"We look forward to sharing with the senator the tools and information the industry already provides that keeps the control of in-game spending in parents' hands," the group said in a statement. "Parents already have the ability to limit or prohibit in-game purchases with easy to use parental controls."
The FTC has already started to look into the potential "negative effects" video game loot boxes may have minors. In August, the commission plans on holding a workshop discussing the matter with experts.