On March 26, after the Bundestag, the Bundesrat also approved the new Youth Protection Act from a draft by the German Federal Ministry for Family Affairs. The new law is set to come into force on May 1, 2021, and will include new rules on the highly controversial lootboxes in online games. The Ministry of Family Affairs writes: “The law stipulates that cost traps, unlimited contact functions or gambling-like elements, for example, must be made transparent by means of labeling with symbols, which occurs alongside the familiar age labeling.” A labeling requirement on the packaging? If necessary, an adult label on the box for overly hard in-game gambling? Originally, there were even talks of “disabling cost traps such as ‘Loot Boxes’ by default.” There doesn’t seem to be much of that left in the final law. In today’s Mixtakes, we therefore ask: Labeling obligation for loot boxes: Is that enough?
When I was a kid, I once gambled away all my wrestling cards in the schoolyard. Everyone threw one against a wall and whoever was closest got all the cards that had been thrown. Over and over again. We were pretty smart. That’s why I spent all my money on new cards afterwards, so I could throw them against walls as well. Kids can’t handle money. Loot boxes address exactly that and try to profit from it. Controlling this is incredibly important. Ultimately, though, it’s also up to parents to teach kids to watch their money. I didn’t get any ice cream during my wrestling card days.
My knowledge about lootboxes comes from pupils in “my” 9th grade class. One of the pupils reminded his classmate during the 5-minute break that he still owed him 20 euros. His pocket money – as well as money borrowed from friends – consistently went to pay for lootboxes in Counter Strike: GO. With a little luck, he explained to me, you could earn several thousand euros with just one knife skin on the relevant marketplaces. Perhaps even worse than the money he lost on “weapon cosmetics” was the amount of time his gambling addiction had taken on: when his money ran out to buy lootboxes, he would instead watch livestreams (several hours a day on YouTube) of other CS: GO players opening one lootbox after another with big money at stake. In addition to financial debt, this is another typical symptom of gaming addiction. A labeling obligation is not enough here: Children and young people must be protected from this by strict legal regulations.
We all remember the Lootboxes of our childhood: Panini stickers, Pogs, Gogos… Luckily, with the Diddl block pages, at least we knew in advance what we were getting. We also remember that even though it could cost us our entire pocket money, there was always a light at the end of the tunnel. With FIFA, there is no such light. Ultimate Team has to be restarted every year, a team has to be built up again and again. By just playing, the process takes an endless amount of time, so you cut corners via lootboxes in hopes of drawing top players. These addictive mechanics combined with game progression need to stop. If only because our children no longer learn what really makes a good game and why effort to progress is definitely worthwhile. A labeling requirement is therefore not enough. Even if it is hard to imagine at the moment, a FIFA would have to change fundamentally in terms of content to prevent the adult label.
This post is also available in: German