"Keep ur politics out of muh vidyagams!"

Representative Josh Hawley announced a new bill that aims to ban loot boxes and pay-to-win (P2W) microtransactions in games that are "played by minors." The senator understands that it's a broad label but clarified that this will include games designed for kids under 18 and games "whose developers knowingly allow minor players to engage in microtransactions."

Sure, that is still a fairly broad umbrella since there are just so many games that this would apply to. Which is actually kind of sad when you think about it. Not "sad" in the "woe are those game developers" kind of way but "sad" in the "holy crap, how did it ever get to this point" sort of way.

Senator Hawley will introduce the "Protecting Children from Abusive Games Act" to the United States Senate "soon." As part of a public press release announcing the bill, Hawley referenced the tried and true pay-to-win classic, Candy Crush. Specifically, Hawley cites the $150 "Luscious Bundle" that includes a bunch of digital boosters that help you to speed past levels.

The full text of Hawley's press release can be found below.

Senator Josh Hawley, a fierce critic of social media practices that prey on the addiction of users, announced today that he will introduce landmark legislationbanning the exploitation of children through “pay-to-win” and “loot box” monetization practices by the video game industry.

Senator Hawley said, “Social media and video games prey on user addiction, siphoning our kids’ attention from the real world and extracting profits from fostering compulsive habits. No matter this business model’s advantages to the tech industry, one thing is clear: there is no excuse for exploiting children through such practices.

“When a game is designed for kids, game developers shouldn’t be allowed to monetize addiction. And when kids play games designed for adults, they should be walled off from compulsive microtransactions. Game developers who knowingly exploit children should face legal consequences.”

  • In recent years, the video game industry has become increasingly reliant on monetization models that promote compulsive “microtransaction” purchases by consumers.

The most abusive such practices are:
  • Pay to win: Pay-to-win games take two forms. In some cases, designers engineer games with artificial difficulty curves to induce players to spend money on upgrades simply to progress. These games are often offered for free, enticing players to download and even offering them a false sense of progression upon initial download before artificially increasing difficulty to induce compulsive purchases. In other cases, designers create multiplayer games offering players who purchase paid upgrades competitive advantages over other players.
  • Loot boxes: Loot boxes, incorporated both in free and paid games, offer players randomized rewards for spending money, combining the addictive properties of pay-to-win with the compulsive behavior inherent in other forms of gambling.

One notorious example of this practice:
  • Candy Crush, a free puzzle game featuring a Candy Land style cartoon aesthetic that offers players additional lives on a set timer, allows players to purchase a $149.99 “Luscious Bundle” including 1000 units of its “gold bar” in-game currency, a variety pack of temporary “boosters” to reduce game difficulty, and 24 hours of unlimited lives. The game touts this offering with a medal labeled “Best Value.” Candy Crush Developer King earns parent company Activision Blizzard $2 billion annually, boasting 268 million monthly active users.
And you know what? I can't say I disagree with him on this. The ESA, on the other hand... Well, let's just see what they said about this particular bill in a statement presented to Kotaku. Specifically, the ESA seems to focus solely on the passing mention of "gambling" in the Senator's press release while actively ignoring everything else mentioned.

The Entertainment Software Association, the video game industry lobbyist group, sent over a statement shortly after this bill was introduced: “Numerous countries, including Ireland, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, determined that loot boxes do not constitute gambling. We look forward to sharing with the senator the tools and information the industry already provides that keeps the control of in-game spending in parents’ hands. Parents already have the ability to limit or prohibit in-game purchases with easy to use parental controls.”
Keep in mind that the ESA is made up of various developers and publishers. Some of those companies include Activision, Bungie, Deep Silver, Gearbox, Epic Games, EA, Microsoft, Nexon, Nintendo, PlayStation, Tencent, and WBIE.