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NHS Says Video Games ‘Push’ Kids Towards Gambling Addiction

The NHS has spoken.

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The Mental Health Director of the UK’s National Health Service, Claire Murdoch, has called for a tough crackdown on gambling mechanics in the video games industry, in particular those that are aimed towards children. 

It’s no secret that loot boxes and other gambling mechanics have been getting a lot of negative attention as of late and for good reason, as some feel that they’re inadvertently grooming children into the world of gambling for later in life.

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Loot box mechanics are especially common and quite aggressive in sports games, more recently with the likes of NBA 2K20 and FIFA 20, both of which have a recommended PEGI age rating in the UK of 3+ years.  This practice is also common in first person shooters and, despite heavy campaigns, it doesn’t seem like this trend is perhaps slowing down as much as it should.

In a statement released by the NHS, Murdoch says video games are “setting kids up for addiction” by “building gambling tasks into their games.”

She calls for a ban on the sale of games with loot boxes that encourage children to gamble, with the aim of also introducing “fair and realistic spending limits to prevent people from spending thousands.”

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Murdoch also wants to clarify a lot of the issues with loot boxes to the potential buyer by making the percentage chances clearer, and aims to raise parental awareness on the risks of in-game purchases and loot box mechanics.

In my personal opinion, as a gamer and as a parent, I think the governing bodies need to do more to cut down on gambling mechanics if publishers don’t do more themselves. Not only would this help to stop the the issue of of children adopting these addiction tendencies, but it would also help adults with diagnosed addictive personalities.

Some awareness has been made and information such as the win percentages are now being shown, but more can always be done.  There are also apps on systems such as the PS4, that allows full control of a child’s accounts from playtime to any spending limit and more, but not everyone is aware of such applications.

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In response to the statement from the NHS, UK games industry body UKIE said: “The games industry takes its responsibility to players very seriously and acknowledges that some people are concerned. That is why on the 10th January we launched our Get Smart About PLAY campaign, which is designed to help parents and carers manage play online and in the home.

“It shows that it is already possible to manage, limit or turn off spend in games with the help of family controls, providing practical guidance on how to do so at askaboutgames.com.” 

While the above is true in certain aspects, I can’t help but think that this campaign could potentially divert attention from publishers who want to continue to exploit gambling mechanics in video games. More can be done by publishers to reduce risk and temptation to those that are particular vulnerable when playing their games directly.

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I know some will say “well, they are optional” and “you don’t have to buy them,” but when a title’s in-game purchases offer pay-to-win mechanics as many still do, it’s easier said than done for lots of players.

What’s your opinion on this hot topic?

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