The EU Parliament’s Internal Market and Consumer Protection committee, has called for greater player protections for minors as well as actions to control ‘manipulative practices and addiction’. The move comes alongside a call earlier in the year for a union-wide resolution on supporting and working alongside the video game industry due to its importance to European culture and the economy.
The latest moves perhaps represent increased interest from regulators as games quickly become the dominant media channel for many people in the EU and beyond.
The committee calls for a number of actions, including controls on loot boxes, legislation against ‘gold farming’ and protection of both vulnerable groups and user data in regards to games. Although the committee does not endorse any specific actions, it does call for there to be a union-wide discussion and harmonisation of rules for these aspects. In particular they cite a study on the effect loot boxes have on consumers, particularly younger people.
It is interesting to note that the main crux of the committee’s call is still centred around minors within the gaming space. Of course, you’re probably familiar with horror stories of parents finding their toddlers have ‘accidentally’ spent a thousand pounds on a mobile game, so it’s unsurprising that this is where the committee first turns its eye. However, if it is indeed concerned about unethical practices in video games it should also be recognising that the vast majority of players are older, and are still vulnerable to practices directed at them.
Certain game companies have already taken steps to anticipate regulations like this. Epic Games for example recently debuted ‘cabined accounts’ to prevent younger players from engaging with aspects of the game that could expose them to any harmful content, without parental permission or verification that they are 13 or older. This includes preventing them from using text and voice chat or receiving marketing emails.
Although the EU does not have the power to establish rules without the permission of member nations, a vote could be called to see legislation or further endorsements of official action passed. It’s important to note this announcement and call to action is not a sign of any impending legislation being passed, but a clear statement of intent for what will be on the EU’s mind with regards to video games as a whole.