At a recent meeting of the UK Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Electronic Arts and the rest of the AAA industry has found itself in hot water with gamers again this week.
SNP’s Brendan O’ Hara posed a question to the assembled reps of the games industry and MPs concerning loot boxes and their ethical nature, or complete lack thereof. EA’s vice president of legal and government affairs, Kerry Hopkins led the response to this line of questioning, with the first words spoken already sparking backlash. She insisted the loot boxes are not what EA likes to call them, instead they are “surprise mechanics”.
She goes on to make a pretty weird comparison with loot boxes, citing a real-life version of the mechanic in blind bags. You know, those tiny bags of plastic junk that are specifically marketed to children so that they pressure their parents into wasting hundreds of dollars on said junk. Those same blind bags that have created a secondary market for monetary gain due to artificial scarcity. Sounds a lot like a predatory gambling mechanic to me.
Hopkins said, “If you go to a — I don’t know what your version of Target is — a store that sells a lot of toys, and you do a search for surprise toys, what you’ll find is that this is something people enjoy. They enjoy surprises. And so it’s something that’s been part of toys for years, whether it’s Kinder Eggs or Hatchimals or LOL Surprise.”
Hopkins finished by saying that loot boxes “aren’t gambling”, sure whatever you say.
Am I missing something? How is that not a gambling mechanic that preys on the ongoing trend of consumerism targeted at children. This sounds like a comedy skit, it’s so transparent and stupid that it has to be hiding a punchline somewhere. Sadly, it’s not.
I’ll be clear, Hopkins isn’t to blame, she’s simply toeing the current party line of the more insidious elements of the AAA games industry and trying to help this industry sidestep the economic, social and political consequences of its more questionable practices. We’ve seen it time and time again, with hot button issues like loot boxes, aggressive monetization, stripping away desired features and unionization all being swept under the rug in the endless pursuit of corporate cash-grabbing.
Surprising no one, the games industry and its fans don’t really care what EA calls them, and they’re not too happy about the obvious implications of what Electronic Arts is trying to do. This isn’t the first time we’ve heard this song and dance either. Take Two and the ESRB have made basically the same comparisons before, to equally laughable degrees of transparent nonsense.
Let’s be real here, regardless of what they’re called, loot boxes are gambling, and the attitude companies like Take Two and Electronic Arts have taken towards pushing them to children and vulnerable people are despicable. The attempts to silence the need for the elimination of crunch and the desire for unionization are equally horrid. Firing hundreds of people so executives can have nice golden parachutes is fucking disgusting.
But I guess because EA said it we all have to abide by their word now. Guess we should all just give up on banning not loot boxes and go back to
paying playing FIFA UT.