A few hours ago, Kotaku writer Jason Schreier interviewed US Senator Josh Hawley about a new anti-loot box bill that will be introduced and put in motion to the US Senate in the near future. Whether Hawley is an advocate for video game players and their psychological state, or whether he’s an ambitious politician who sees a win-win situation in this fledging industry ruled mostly by gacha games remains to be seen.
You can judge his motives and his drive from the interview excerpts and answers below.
On Whether He Has A Personal Stake In This
“I have to be honest with you […], I am not myself a gamer, so it does not stem from my personal experience. It stems from being a parent of two little boys and talking to lots of parents, and also hearing, by the way, from lots of gamers who are concerned about what the C-suite is doing here, basically adding casinos to children’s games.”
On The Focus On The Youth Playing Video Games
“Adults can for sure be exploited. I think that children—there are a couple of things as we know in a variety of contexts, whether it’s casinos proper or public health issues, we often look at kids and say they’re uniquely vulnerable.”
“They don’t necessarily know the nature of these microtransactions, being on the lookout for them in the way that an adult might. And while I realize that these microtransactions, these particular kinds, compromise the integrity of the game no matter who is subject to them, there’s something I think that’s pretty unique to kids and the addiction angle I think is pretty unique to kids as well.”
“So this is an area too where I think we ought to be able to come together on a bipartisan basis and say, ‘Look, when you’re directing this sort of pro-addiction activity, pro-addiction behaviour toward children, or practices toward children, we oughta be able to say ‘no’ to that.”
On The Skepticism & Publicity Concerns Of The Upcoming Bill
“I think if they thought it was a publicity stunt they wouldn’t be so concerned. I think the reaction of the corporate lobbyists… sort of strongly suggests that they’re very worried about this. I think it probably also suggests that they know this practice is not going to stand up to public scrutiny.
Once parents really understand what’s going on here, and once the general public understands how these games are being manipulated, how their integrity is being compromised, how basically these companies have found a way to make whole gobs of money without really being upfront about it, and of course the addictive nature of it, I think they’re pretty worried that it’s going to result in public backlash, and it should.”
On Whether His Peers And Colleagues In Congress Will Get Behind The Bill
“I think everybody though cares about the health and safety of kids. And they also should care about this broader problem of what I’ve started calling the addiction economy, which is a great example.
We see this in other spheres by the way—we see it in social media, we’re seeing it here in the gaming industry, where you’ve got these corporations finding new ways to try to hook folks, extract personal information from them, in the case of social media. Extract money of them in the case of games.”
“Without regard to what that does to either in the case of gaming the game itself and then to people’s general health and wellbeing. So I think there’s a lot of concern about that and we hope to drive a conversation in this space.”
On The Free Market & Microtransactions Being About Personal Accountability
“Well, similarly, as with casinos, we don’t allow children to go into casinos. We very carefully control, regulate what our children are exposed to. This is well within that model.
This is something every parent should care about, and I actually don’t think that exerting—when people understand that what’s essentially happening here is online gambling being inserted into these games, I think is a concern about— […]
Once again it’s a microtransaction that’s not necessarily expected, especially from a child up front. And it is meant to induce obviously further playing, but also further spending of money. So it works in much the same way I think. The same arguments would apply.”
On Video Game Companies Who Worry About This Bill Possibly Causing A New Video Game Crash
“These are very resourceful people, and I’m sure they can design games that don’t rely on gambling directed at children in the centre of the game.”
Why Should This US Issue Concern Us?
Because the majority of games we play like Dota 2, League of Legends, and Overwatch are all made and published from a parent company that’s from the United States of America. While China is arguably the biggest country on the planet, USA is just right behind and is still considered a huge influence in how it shapes the world’s economy and its video game business.
If the bill passes through and it’s part of US law, no doubt other countries may see this as a progressive step in regulating video game business practices that in turn have affected its workforce and wavering ethics. Don’t forget: Fortnite got to where it is today thanks in part to its microtransaction tactics and its use of crunch to justify keeping the game alive and running to pay off its shareholders and CEOs.