The games industry must self-regulate on loot boxes, says Hawaii state representative Sean Quinlan.
At a recent press conference, Quinlan voiced his concerns surrounding the potential dangers represented by loot boxes in games, drawing comparison to '80s and '90s cigarette mascot Joe Camel.
In an interview with Glixel, Quinlan said the games industry must take responsibility for how it handles loot boxes and microtransactions.
"The fear when you introduce government legislation into private enterprise is that we are going to overreach," he cautioned. "That is my fear. Ultimately, it's best for the industry to self-police."
Quinlan added that legislation would be a "slippery slope", but suggested that the ESRB could introduce protections for younger audiences.
"We've been on this path for 15 years with day-one DLC, subscription passes, pay-to-win," said Quinlan. "We as consumers kept accepting that, kept buying those games. Now we're at a place where we need to consider, do we need to legislate? Does the ESRB have to consider a new rating that could deal with gambling and addictive mechanics?"
While Quinlan is aware that loot boxes may not technically constitute gambling, he suggested that the psychological tricks associated with gambling are too prevalent to ignore.
"I think the mechanism is so close to gambling, when we talk about psychology and the way addiction and reward works, I think whether or not it means the strict definition of gambling, it's close enough and the impact is close enough," he said.
The discussion around loot boxes has been bogged down in the technicalities of gambling legislation, often used as a defence by the companies that adopt the mechanics. However, in a recent open letter to EA, a self-confessed gambling addict warned of the pernicious influence microtransactions could have on vulnerable people.