As the lines between video games and gambling games are becoming increasingly blurry, the UK government has been struggling to convey a clear understanding of what does and does not constitute gambling in video games. There is continuous controversy surrounding the topic, as video game creators struggle to hold players’ interests without glorifying gambling to children.
Many slot machine games include prize boxes that award players with free cash and other perks similar prize boxes are now being incorporated into video games, drawing concern that children are receiving the message that it is acceptable for them to gamble.
One argument is that since the prize boxes in video games have no value in the real world they can’t be considered gambling. However, this is an argument that not everyone agrees with. The House Of Commons’ Digital, Culture, Media and Sports Committee released the results of a study where they stated that they don’t accept that prize boxes in video games aren’t worth anything in real life. Their feeling is that when video game players win these prizes they perceive them to have real-world value and that means that video games do involve underage players gambling.
The theory is that when underage players win these prizes in video games it will cause them to chase the prize the way gamblers chase a winning hand of cards or spin of reels.
The committee recommends that video game creators team up with the rating board for the industry, Pan European Game Information Council. They are calling for the labeling of games that include prize boxes to state that the gamble involves aspects of gambling. This would eliminate the perceived problem of software companies releasing video games that appeal to children by labeling games with gambling features as mature, for players over 18/21.
If lawmakers in the UK adopt the thinking of the committee, it could change the way video games are created and marketed. There may be an eventual ban on including prize boxes in video games. The other option is to simply restrict those games so that they can only be purchased by players of legal age.
However, the UK has a long way to go before this issue is resolved. A UK lobby group called The Entertainment Software Association teamed up with game publishers throughout the country to fight these restrictions. Their argument is that more studies need to be conducted to determine the effects of prize boxes in video games that children play.
Though UK game companies are expressing interest in conducting their own studies, the general consensus is that those studies would be biased, so any conclusions reached, as a result, would be seen as invalid. Only time will tell whether games are well regulated so that these issues aren’t issues anymore. It will be a struggle between video game companies and the UK government, and no one can predict the eventual outcome.