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The government wants to ban minors from accessing payment rewards in video games

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Every day, millions of users around the world fight against temptation. Your favorite video game invites you to buy a more powerful gun for yourself alter ego, or a football legend revolutionizing his team. So they pay and cross their fingers because what they get is a closed box. Maybe they will get what they were looking for. Or, more likely, not. The Department of Consumer Affairs defines this phenomenon, which is becoming increasingly common in the industry, as Random Reward Mechanisms (MAR). “They have properties very similar to traditional games of chance” and can lead to “thoughtless, compulsive or even pathological” consumer behavior, especially among the youngest, Minister Alberto Garzón said a month ago. Hence the call regulation bill loot boxes published by the government this Friday prohibits minors from accessing it, as confirmed by EL PAÍS.

Dozens of games as famous as Fifa, e-soccer, NBA 2K, Overwatch either heart stone, and mostly classified as recommended from 12 years, they use it. And millions of users spend their money there. When the purchase is confirmed, a light and sound show will appear on the screen. Most titles allow a few seconds of suspense to pass before they resolve. Although one is almost always disappointed. Some will accept it, others will be frustrated, but some may pull out their wallets to try again. And other. And other.

The government’s strategy mixes options such as mandatory registration with the DNI or biometrics for minors if they do not materialize. And it won’t prevent them from using the video game itself: just by the loot boxes this contains. The distinction is very important to the Ministry: it is by no means intended to equate video games with gambling. In other words, consumption has nothing against the vast majority of titles in a sector whose cultural and artistic value is increasingly recognized and whose sales now exceed cinema and music combined on a global scale. The focus of the draft is on the MAR, where the prizes are interchangeable: basically when the activation of the reward mechanisms costs money or other virtual objects acquired with money directly or indirectly. Therefore, the regulation not only affects the boxes within a video game, but also Web pages or external exchange platforms.

In addition, the ministry wants to implement a mechanism to limit the spending of people over 18: it is suggested that they can set a maximum time and amount for a gaming session or even a similar self-exclusion system from casinos, but it is always Still Needing to Develop the Fine Print The bill also requires operators to be truthful about actual odds of winning, which in many cases is not the case today. And the promotion of the physical MAR is prohibited, on-line in digital environments, including social networks unrelated to video games, as well as on radio and television, except from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m.

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The text begins this Friday with the public hearing: Interested parties can submit contributions until July 23. Then it goes to the Council of Ministers – the aim is for it to be passed this year – and later it will be dealt with as a bill in the Cortes. Perhaps the layman of video games will be surprised by a regulation ad hoc. But in the industry, MARs are one of the most discussed and controversial topics. Belgium and Japan have already banned them.

Most studies estimate that 40% of the world’s population plays video games, be it on computers, consoles, tablets or mobile phones. The traditional format was to buy a track and enjoy it. Soon came the so-called expansions, paid content that added a new storyline or more challenges to the main game. And some time ago microtransactions appeared: several games are offered to the user for free or for a very small amount of money – although sometimes it also happens with works of 60 or 70 euros – but they include the option to buy more content within the title.

It works so well that the category “on-line and microtransactions” was the second revenue stream for video games in Spain after costume apps, according to the SGAE Yearbook 2021 and you get exactly that. It happens every day in Fourteen days, one of the games on-line most popular with young people halfway across the planet.

The next development was then loot boxes. Added to this are cosmetic purchases (clothes, icons, etc.) and others that affect the development of the game: it is likely that who will acquire many boxes FIFAfor example, collect better soccer players than your rivals on-line and thus win more games. The only option for those who don’t want to pay is hours upon hours, as playing will also result in rewards being obtained more slowly. The same as accessing it every day, even if it’s only five seconds, or playing in certain temporary windows that draw a system designed to encourage the user to keep coming back. However, there is no strong clinical evidence of its association with gambling and the disorders it can cause. The critics, yes, just put it down to the fact that the investigations haven’t had time to prove it yet.

Participants in Milan Video Game Week 2019 play “Fifa 20”.Emanuele Cremaschi (Getty Images)

There are generally nuances in the debate. So much so that EA Sports, creators of FIFAwas convicted in the Netherlands for the similarities between the loot boxes and gambling, but acquitted in the second and final instance as the court did not consider that it was a different game “isolated” from the main game. On the one hand, it is clear that a free video game democratizes access. On the other hand, according to the critics, a shopping system runs the risk of becoming addictive, especially among minors, if it is arbitrary. And about when the internal currencies, no matter how much they are bought with euros, are called in other ways, reducing the perception of spending. There are also those who argue that the loot boxes They hardly differ from the old maps. And who answers that these could be exchanged between friends for free and that they ended with the completion of the album. The MAR, on the other hand, seems to have no end.

Its presence has skyrocketed over the past decade, and more than 58% of games on Google Play and iPhone according to a 2020 study by Dr. David Zendle, one of the leading experts in this field. And another recent study, carried out by Joaquín González-Cabrera, PhD in Social Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Methodology at the International University of La Rioja-UNIR, concluded that 30.4% of the 6,603 Spaniards between 11 and 30 years old had purchased at least one MAR in the last year (28.9% for minors).

Therefore, the phenomenon attracted the attention of economists, psychologists and politicians from several countries. Now Spain is preparing to regulate them with the first “specific law in Europe”, as Minister Garzón suspected. The rewards still depend on chance. But at least there are some certainties.

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Source elpais.com

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