Many countries over the past couple of years have been pushing back on loot boxes with a very narrow scope targeting video games. The main arguments have always been minors are gambling or they allow illegal gambling to take place online. While I dislike these kinds of practices it’s a far wider issue than a lot of these governments are letting on. Far before there was digital online loot box I growing up gambling all the time as a kid. It was called the arcade, opening booster packs for card games and so many other avenues. I would not be a shock if their true intention was just to raise taxes and not solve the underlying issue if it even is one.
Loot And Mystery Boxes
The basic idea behind a loot box is you pay something to receive a box of unknown goods and get to open it. Many online games will even post the odds you have at getting each item. With the best items naturally, have the lowest drop rates so you keep buying more and more till you get it or run out of money.
There are also many different systems in how loot boxes work. Some games will allow you to sell at a loss of that item’s point value if you don’t want it. Some won’t let you get duplicates of items so you either get another item of that same rarity or you get another roll. Others will even provide some kind of insurance point system where you can flat out buy what you wanted if you fail to get it after so many tries.
The loot box industry as I’ll call it has evolved far beyond just video games and being digital. It also not the first iteration of it’s kind. This makes it rather odd so many politicians yet again just want to target video games as something to bash. You can flat out buy loot boxes or as some have been rebranded them “mystery boxes” online with all kinds of different themes that even come monthly with physical goods.
You have some sites like Lootcrate that are set up as a subscription model to receive a monthly box of stuff. At least in that instant, everyone is more or less getting the same thing so you’re not trying to gamble for some crazy rare thing. It at least has some predictability in what you end up getting. It also would not be that hard if suddenly they were not within compliance to make small changes. Since they have mailed people a list of everything that was included in their box in the past. I really don’t take any issue with this kind of bossiness. You’re not going go out and buy 500 of these boxes hoping one of them has some rare item in them. They just send you out a different theme box that fits the genre that you paid for each month.
I do however take quite the issue with a number of other sites I won’t be linking out to as they are more focused around the gambling aspect. You get to open digital “mystery” boxes for physical items you can redeem that is 100% targeted towards minors and use popular YouTubers for promoting them. You have people like Jake Pauls or Ricegums of the world who do this kind of unboxing video trying to sell this concept to their minor aged audience. Where they are showing them how to play it and trying to encourage the behavior.
There was for a while a very common trend of opening mystery boxes from the darkweb. Many of them were filled with broken old items that seemed like the stuff the people creating the video tossed into a box to make the video. Even more so with how strange some of them are.
You even have people in industries like collective card games repacking bulk worthless cards and selling them as mystery box. They can make a killing selling worthless cards in bulk that would have cost them too much money to sell individually on eBay or other sites due to fees and shipping. The lure will be you could get some crazy expensive card out of them. Then you have a bunch of videos of people opening them and you start to wonder if they got the good cards in exchange for the video.
Loot boxes are not just an online thing either. At one point you had a bunch of local stores selling in-store excavation kits called things like “Dig It.” Where you would get kid-sized tools to excavate harden sand where they hide in the middle low-quality ruby, gold, silver, emerald or you know a worthless rock with some very basic “educational” information which sounds like another loophole to me. These thankfully seemed to have disappeared and can now be found on places like Ebay. Instead, you can still at your local Walmart here in America find other products like Blind Boxes where you can get one of the dozen figures that target popular kid networks and shows among other products per box. Sounds like a loot box to me.
Some of these items listed above seem to be following a rather fraudulent and misleading trend. Trying to exploit the loot box craze and the people that buy into them. It’s not Fortnite or an online video game that’s “corrupting” the youth with gaming so it could easily fall through the cracks and keep going as it does not fit the narrative.
Minors Have Been Gambling For Ages
Growing up at least in my area it was every kid's desire to have their birthday at Chuck E. Cheese or other arcade and restaurant places. We also wanted as kid’s, booster packs to whatever collective card game we were hooked at the time whether that be Magic The Gathering or Pokémon or Jurassic Park cards among many others. Any time our parents took us out to the fair we wanted to play carnival games as well. Which when you came to think of it at a later age we were all gambling addicts that could not wait to blow entire months’ worth of chore money on these actives.
The biggest offenders in my eyes are arcades. You buy tokens and then play games trying to win tickets so you can exchange for a prize. They have lots of flashing lights and if you’re getting a lot of tickets oh man they start to really give you a light show and make very loud sounds. Much like winning a jackpot at a slot machine in a casino how odd they are so similar in these aspects.
One of the arguments has always been that it’s a game of skill, not luck. Therefore it’s not gambling. Well if that was the case how are they still in business? My friends and I were really good at video games or played sports growing up and had amazing hand and eye coordination. We also went to places like these a lot of times during the year. Yet every time we were just off from hitting the big jackpot on so many games and always getting the smaller ticket amounts.
This whole argument that if it’s skill based and not luck so, therefore, it’s not gambling won’t be a hard loophole to get around. You could argue that many carnival games while they are shady in how they are set up to mislead people into thinking they have a chance. I have at least seen people use skill to win again and again till they were flat out told they were no longer allowed. That’s right you can be told you’re too good we no longer want you playing.
Then you get the sad reality you could spend a lot of money at these places and you end up with a couple dollars’ worth of items at most. You can buy a pack of 144 pieces of many very similar items these places have. Heck, I even remember getting some of these items in fact. I don’t want to know how many hundreds of dollars’ worth of tokens to get tickets it would have taken to get 144 of them.
It was also quite interesting how children wanted to go to the card store to buy booster packs for a random chance to get the card they wanted. That sounds like the modern-day equivalent of loot boxes. Yet people don’t seem to be taking issue with that. In fact, if you go and look up say War of the Spark booster box for Magic the Gathering they say on them ages 15+. Why that's far below the gambling age! They also had no issue back in the day selling a booster pack to an 8-year-old. Yet something like that might be considered an “investment” and that is another way to get around the whole minors are gambling issue. Since it has worked in the past for games like Entropia Universe. Where the idea was sold as a place for players to invest in but people were going out gambling on hunting, crafting, and mining activities inside of the game. Sounds like modern day blockchain games!
Over Reaching Legislation
You also have the fear of legislation going way too far in an attempt to take gaming out as a whole. The fundamentals of most games are you buy the game or even a DLC for that game for new monsters that have a random chance to get the item you want.
While I personally think it’s trying to stretch things out too far to call monsters to loot boxes. There are games out there that I’ve played where monsters don’t respawn for that character once it has killed it so you need to create a new one. While they are quite rare who to say you are not selling character slots so people can have more than one chance without deleting there main to get the item they wanted.
You could even do something far more direct and simply sell a pack of five monsters that drop items you needed to defeat the next set of five monsters that have a chance at the item you really want. They don’t always drop said items so you have to keep buying more. At some point, it could be considered a loot box.
The issue with the law tends to be people get around it quicker then it passes. Which we have seen here in the US and I’m sure many other countries around the world when it came to banning something like bath salts. They ban an ingredient in them and they just go out and make something different. People would go out and buy them in droves until it was banned and then the whole cycle repeats itself. That went on for quite some time until you don’t hear or see it anymore.
End of the day I don’t think politicians true intent is to ban or even age restrict something that is considered a loot box. You see they love to use video games as a scapegoat every single time something bad happens and they can somehow link it and mental health together. Here in America, our mental health system is so bad it’s alarming which makes it an easy pain point to target.
It’s more plausible they are trying to use this as a ploy to get what they really want. The video gaming industry is worth billions in America. Instead of confronting the issue head-on and risk losing voters they can just tax it. Meanwhile, tell that voting audience what they want to hear “it’s Fortnite’s fault “ and if we just tax the daylights out those kinds of games why it will fix everything for your child and any issues due to their parenting or lack of.
When in reality much like many of the things I’ve talked about above. It’s the parents enabling the behaviors. It’s their money buying the items. It’s them transporting their kids to arcades, fairs, and stores to buy things or even gamble at said places. Eight-year-olds don’t have a credit card to buy loot boxes let alone other content in games like Fortnite here in America. End of the day it’s really a parenting issue and if they want their kid to keep playing and consuming these products they will keep enabling. Which I think is there right to do.
It’s like when they claimed in quite a few cities if they add a tax on sugar it will fix obesity. That “extra” money can go into programs that will help. You knew what would have really helped? If parents stopped buying their kids a twenty-four pack of soda per week to drink that be a good start. Making the enablers pay an extra twenty cents is sure not going to detour it and they also don’t have to point the finger at the real root of the problem either.
If they do happen to pass and get age restriction on loot boxes it’s not going stop it. Just go look at all the board or video games you played as a kid and there recommend ages lists on the boxes. While the stores might not have allowed kids to buy them those around them at the end of the day still did. Like they have been for their kids when it comes to acquiring loot boxes to open in the first place.
This is a parenting choice stop blaming video games. Governments just want more tax money and look like a hero. Watch when they overtime determine that less money in the budget needs to be allocated or no increase is needed toward whatever they sold people on once there is a tax to help fund it. This will result in more money flowing into the special projects politicians for one reason or another want to award with piles of money.
Much like them taxing gambling to help a fund school which was again for the “children”. So many local schools should be swimming in money from all the scratch-offs the states allow. Yet schools have outdated books and not enough classrooms to the point many are being taught in classroom like portable trailers (good times). More taxes were not the solution and you would be crazy to think it ever would be.
Content is written by @Enjar.