US politicians call on developers to cut back on predatory game design

US politicians have written letters to a dozen gaming companies asking them to better protect young people from online risks and predatory game development.

The letters, written by three members of Congress, implored executives to explain what changes they were making based on new UK law that protects children online and, if so, what effect this would have on their products in the United States. United. The Verge first reported the story.

The UK law, known as the Age Appropriate Design Code, is due to come into force in the UK on September 2, after a 12-month transition period. The rules aim to protect children’s data online and could also prohibit companies from using nudge tactics such as loot boxes as a method of selling items to children in the UK.

The law does not extend to children in the United States, but executives from Microsoft, Blizzard, Sony of America, and Take-Two Interactive were among several US-based companies that received letters encouraging them to advocate for similar values ​​for child safety.

“It is imperative that Congress act urgently to enact strong 21st century child and youth privacy law,” wrote US politicians. “As we work towards this goal, we urge you to extend to American children and adolescents any privacy enhancements you implement to comply with the AADC. “

Members of Congress commented on the use of microtransactions in games, saying they had “resulted in high credit card bills for parents” before addressing the controversial inclusion of loot boxes in games played by parents. children. “Loot boxes go one step further, encouraging purchase before a child knows what’s in the ‘package’, which is akin to gambling,” US lawmakers said. “Children are particularly vulnerable to the manipulation and peer pressure associated with in-game purchases and loot boxes,” the letters continue.

In addition to calling for surprise boxes, the letters also address the dangers children face during social interactions in online games. Members of Congress claim that “social interactions in games allow cybercriminals to manipulate conversations and gather detailed personal information” before stressing the need for stricter online privacy settings for children.

The United States already has legislation in place that protects the privacy and data of children online. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) protects children 12 and under against certain risks associated with online gaming, which prohibits the collection, use or disclosure of children’s personal information without parental notification or consent. However, given that minors do not transition to adulthood until they are 18, Congress and business arguably need to do more to protect young people through their teenage years.

If you are interested in learning more about the links between Loot Boxes and problem gambling, you can read this article which details the findings of an April report by researchers at the universities of Plymouth and Wolverhampton.

Jared Moore is a freelance writer for IGN. You can follow it on Twitter.