A bill, called Protecting Children from Abusive Games Act, or PCAGA, has been authored by Missouri Senator Josh Hawley, which aims to (as the name would suggest) protect children by banning "manipulative systems" like loot boxes and pay-to-win mechanics in games sold to minors.
The bill hasn’t been introduced to the senate floor yet – that’s supposed to happen next week – so it’s impossible to know exactly what the contents of the bill are, what defines a “pay-to-win” purchase in a game, how this ban would be enforced, or what kind of games would be subject to this ban: would it only be games aimed explicitly at children, or would it be for any non-M rated game? The only thing we know for sure is that apparently it will be enforced by the Federal Trade Commission, which would mark the first time a government agency would be involved with the regulation of game sales.
Of course, the Entertainment Software Association, the pro-video game lobby group, is not totally keen on this plan, and released a statement:
"Numerous countries, including Ireland, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, determined that loot boxes do not constitute 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. Parents already have the ability to limit or prohibit in-game purchases with easy to use parental controls."
I’m not exactly on the senator’s side with this, considering government regulations are almost always a bad thing when used in such a way, but I do feel compelled to point out that a system doesn’t have to be gambling to be manipulative and problematic. But I guess the ESA is really more concerned about loot boxes than anything else.
Anyway. This will no doubt come up again later. We’ll keep our eyes peeled.