Monday, January 27, 2020

The NHS Jumps On The Loot Box Bandwagon

I really wonder if the people who began the crusade against lootboxes knew the force they were unleashing on our hobby. Today's example comes from the United Kingdom. On 18 January, the National Health Service published an article by NHS mental health director Claire Murdoch calling for the elimination of loot boxes.
“Frankly no company should be setting kids up for addiction by teaching them to gamble on the content of these loot boxes. No firm should sell to children loot box games with this element of chance, so yes those sales should end.

“Young people’s health is at stake, and although the NHS is stepping up with these new, innovative services available to families through our Long Term Plan, we cannot do this alone, so other parts of society must do what they can to limit risks and safeguard children’s wellbeing.”
Look, I get it. Loot boxes are bad. When I played Guild Wars 2 and ArenaNet asked me to purchase keys to unlock the loot boxes that dropped from NPCs, I was pissed. But the NHS isn't just concerned about gambling for kids. The article also quoted Dr Henrietta Bowden-Jones, a psychiatrist and founder of CNWL’s National Problem Gambling Clinic.
“As the Director of the National Centre for Gaming Disorders, the first NHS clinic to treat gaming addiction, I am fully in favour of taking a public health approach and bringing in a regulatory body to oversee the gaming industry products currently causing great concerns to parents and professionals. Loot boxes are only one of several features that will need to be investigated and indeed researched. We need an evidence-based approach to ensure our young people and gamers in general do not continue to be subjected to new and increasingly harmful  products without our intervention.
I think a lot of gamers and talking heads on YouTube see the loot box issue as a central issue. They do not see that gambling is just a part of a bigger issue to those outside the video game ecosystem. In September 2018, the World Health Organization declared "gaming disorder" a disease.
Why is gaming disorder being included in ICD-11?

A decision on inclusion of gaming disorder in ICD-11 is based on reviews of available evidence and reflects a consensus of experts from different disciplines and geographical regions that were involved in the process of technical consultations undertaken by WHO in the process of ICD-11 development.

The inclusion of gaming disorder in ICD-11 follows the development of treatment programmes for people with health conditions identical to those characteristic of gaming disorder in many parts of the world, and will result in the increased attention of health professionals to the risks of development of this disorder and, accordingly, to relevant prevention and treatment measures.
I'm old enough to remember moral crusaders like Jack Thompson railing against the harmful effects of video games. Back then, politicians introduced legislation in the United States to protect children from the contents of video games. A law was passed in California doing so, but was ruled unconstitutional in 2011. In Brown v Entertainment Merchants Association, the Supreme Court ruled in a 7-2 vote that video games deserve the same constitutional protections as books and movies. As the Washington Post reported at the time:
Writing for the majority, Justice Antonin Scalia said that “like the protected books, plays and movies that preceded them, video games communicate ideas — and even social messages” that are guarded by the First Amendment.

He continued: “No doubt a state possesses legitimate power to protect children from harm, but that does not include a free-floating power to restrict the ideas to which children may be exposed.”

...

Scalia was unmoved. “Justice Alito recounts all these disgusting video games in order to disgust us — but disgust is not a valid basis for restricting expression,” Scalia wrote.

He said that violence has never been found to be outside the First Amendment’s protection. And he noted that children through the years have been fed a hefty portion of it, from fairy tales (“Cinderella’s evil stepsisters have their eyes pecked out by doves”) to high school reading lists (“Lord of the Flies recounts how a schoolboy called Piggy is savagely murdered by other children”).
At a time when video games are more popular than the movie, music, and television industries, I can't help but think people are thinking about cutting the legs out from a competitor. But whatever the reason, the anti-lootbox bandwagon has another passenger.

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