The ESRB Have Crafted A New Element For Their Ratings That Deal With In-Game Gambling

The ESRB Have Crafted A New Element For Their Ratings That Deal With In-Game Gambling
Credit: ESRB via

Oh loot boxes; literally no one asked for you to enter our lives with your wild and awry schemes that offer us a nickel for every dollar spent just to get some decent-looking cosmetics, and yet just like my in-laws, you refuse to leave when you’ve been given the hint in three different languages. The infinitely small chance of getting the one item you actually want in loot boxes is eternally mired in a lake of crappy items with unmitigated chances to receive those items instead, so people continue to shell out their money in a hope that they’ll ‘strike it big’.

Even if you aren’t necessarily aiming for a specific item, it’s definitely a game of luck; in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, items gained from loot boxes could sell for well over $1,000 for the measely entry cost of ~$1.50.

While other nations that have a focused and operating legal system that operates in tandem with new technologies, the United States has been wildly hit and miss thus far. The European Union as a whole has handed out stiff fines and bans for loot boxes, calling it ‘gambling’ with a shiny coat of paint. Finally, however, the ESRB have stepped up and included a rating element that informs everyone that the specific game has gambling within it.

Or course, they didn’t use the term gambling; that’s a dirty word, and would scare people off of the purchase. So the legal word vomit that a bunch of people have officially decided on is ‘In-Game Purchases (Includes Random Items)’.

Yeah, take that Valve, and Electronic Arts, and every other developer. Now everyone will know that your game doesn’t encourage gambling, it’s random items, perchance with a side offering of a sense of pride and accomplishment.

Many fans of the game industry have taken to calling the Entertainment Software Rating Board (now you know what ESRB means, you’re welcome) limp-wristed inclusion of in-game gambling as notably poor, even more so when the industry is raking in billions of dollars annually on loot boxes and ‘surprise mechanics’. The entire FIFA franchise operates almost entirely based on gambling as a foundation for their FUT game mode that has players opening packs in the hope that they can get someone that carries their team to victory.

It’s better than nothing, perhaps, but it’s admittedly far weaker verbiage than ESRB could have opted for when warning purchasers of what a game contains. Why won’t they just call it what it is, and save everybody a lot of frustration in the future?