NHS mental health director Claire Murdoch wants game studios to crack down on young gamblers by banning sales of loot boxes in the UK.
The country’s top mental health nurse released an official statement over the weekend, warning of the risks of video games and loot boxes on mental health.
“Frankly no company should be setting kids up for addiction by teaching them to gamble on the content of these loot boxes. No firm should sell to children loot box games with this element of chance, so yes those sales should end”, said Murdoch.
“Young people’s health is at stake, and although the NHS is stepping up with these new, innovative services available to families through our Long Term Plan, we cannot do this alone, so other parts of society must do what they can to limit risks and safeguard children’s wellbeing”.
Loot boxes are in-game purchases, promising players exclusive items and content in exchange for microtransactions. However, players often don’t know what they’ll get until after they pay, making the concept a gamble.
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While, in theory a fun add-on, loot box spending can get out of control. Players might repeatedly roll the dice in pursuit of specific items, causing bills to run up, fast.
Children are no exception to this issue. According to the NHS, investigators have recorded cases of kids spending money without their parents’ knowledge. Instances include a 15-year-old who spent £1,000 on a shooting game, and a 16-year-old who spent £2,000 in a basketball game.
In fact, recent stats from the Gambling Commission suggest that as many as 55,000 children are classed as having a gambling problem, while the NHS estimates there are around 400,000 people with a serious gambling problem in England.
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Murdoch wants four things from game studios:
- Ban games with loot boxes which encourage kids to gamble
- Introduce spending limits to prevent people from spending thousands in games
- Make it clear to users what percentage chance they have of getting the item they want before they buy
- Increase parental awareness of the risks of in-game spending
This statement comes after the NHS revealed its five year, £2.3 billion Long Term Plan to improve mental health in the UK.
The plan involves the opening of 14 new NHS gambling clinics nationwide to treat those suffering from addiction, including gaming addictions.
This isn’t the first time loot boxes have come under scrutiny in the UK. Last year, MPs demanded that loot crates be regulated under the Gambling Act due to similar fears. Doing so, would force game companies to stop selling them to children.