Hawaii Plans to Regulate Lootboxes

If there is one good thing to come from Star Wars Battlefront 2, it is that people around the world being more aware of loot boxes. In regards to a past article, EA (Electronic Arts) faces heavy scrutiny from gamers and government officials regarding the loot box system in Star Wars. Buying loot boxes gave unfair advantages to players in competitive multiplayer and were the best option to unlocking all of the content in the game. Hawaii was very critical against EA and video game companies pushing loot boxes in their games as they viewed it as a form of gambling towards children. Now Hawaii lawmakers are trying to push new bills to regulate loot box purchases.

Chris Lee of Oahu

One pair of bills, House Bill 2686 and Senate Bill 3024, would prohibit people under the age of 21 purchasing any games with randomized rewards using real money. House Bill 2727 and Senate Bill 3025, would require video game companies to label games with randomized purchases and the probability of loot box rewards. State Rep. Chris Lee of Oahu, who spearheaded the bills, stated “I’ve watched firsthand the evolution of the industry from one that seeks to create new things to one that’s begun to exploit people, especially children, to maximize profit.”

While games like Overwatch make earning loot boxes plausible and only offer cosmetics, some are providing advantages in game which encourages people to buy in order to win. Lee stated because the games are only rated T, the games promote gambling at a young age on virtual goods. Despite the backlash, Star Wars Battlefront 2 sold well but not as good as EA had hoped. EA was hoping to make more based on micro-transaction but based on the backlash, had to remove them.

Micro-transaction and in-app purchases are common among video games, including games for younger audience such as Minecraft and smart phone games. GDC (Games Developer Conferences) stated that 1/10 upcoming games would have loot boxes in some manner. One anonymous GameStop employee is wary that the law could lower the cost of sales based on the labels.

Image result for loot boxesMicro-transactions are a huge profit for video game companies. Activision Blizzard made over $4 billion on loot boxes alone in 2017. Often, companies use micro-transactions to earn higher profit margins rather than relying on sales alone. Gamers throughout the world have complained about the system and “games as a service” that has become more prevalent. Whether the law passes will force the industry to change a huge part of sales and potentially shake up the practices.

Sources:

Hawaii Tribute

Rolling Stones – GDC

PC Gamer – Blizzard makes $4 billion

WHO considers Video Game Addiction a Mental Disorder. What happens next?

WHO (World Health Organization) is considering to add Video Game addiction to the list of mental disorders in 2018. It would be known as a mental disorder. As stated by WHO, excessive gaming addiction can determined by:

  • impaired control in playing  or quitting games
  • Prioritizing video games over anything else
  • Continuing to play games despite the negative effects affecting you

Like all mental disorder affects, it would considered to have an affect on your personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning. It would take about 12 months to diagnose game addiction as a mental disorder. ICD-WHO

Image result for WHO

What does that mean?

Medical:

The first effect for gaming addiction would be medical based. Gaming addiction falls under the substance abuse/addictive behavior category. This would include drugs and gambling. More funding and research towards creating drugs/medicine to “reduce” the effects of playing video games similarly to anxiety or bi-polar disorder. Although Gaming addiction falls within the category for substance abuse, the body doesn’t need to detox from gaming sessions. Treatment would be similar to gambling addictions such as therapy groups.

Business:

If the change passes then there may be more warnings in games to suggest to players to stop playing after certain hours. The message comes often in MMOs (Massive Multiplayer Online) such as World of Warcraft or Final Fantasy XIV. While parents and adults can find information regarding game addiction online, they have never been shown in game. Gaming stores may face new regulations. Selling a object that falls under substance abuse would have stores need licenses to sell similar to cannabis. There could also be a age restriction for buying video games similar to alcohol.

bird break
Legend of Zelda: Link Between Worlds (3DS)

Opinion:

Everything is negative when done in excess. Video games are no different. While I agree that playing video games too much can be negative, considering it a mental disorder sounds a bit extreme. There are obvious pros and cons to video games. The effect it could have on introducing video games to all people is negative. If games are considered a cause for mental illness, it would make it difficult to grow the medium and introduce it to new people.

Sources:

WHO

Mental Disorder Definition – WHO

Gambling Addiction Treatment

 

Nexus Mods plan for compensation for Content Creators

Nexus Mods has always been a popular site for mods for PC Games, specifically, Skyrim. Mod authors have created thousands of mods to improve the game and add unique features that were never available in the game. The mods were provided by the community members and didn’t cost a single dollar. Now Nexus Mods is going to provide a compensation plan for content creators who want to join the new program. It will be known as a Donation Point Program.

How it works:

Nexus Mods will contribute $5000-$10,000 to a monthly pot. Based on how many donation points (DP) are earned, it will create a larger fund that will be distributed through to mod authors based on downloads. $1 is worth 1,000 DP so mod creation will not be able to replace a full-time job. For example, if the total donation money pool is $10,000 (which is 10,000,000 DP) and the total unique download count is 5,000,000 then that means each unique download would be worth 2 DP. Ergo, a mod author who receives 25,000 unique downloads that month will receive 50,000 DP, which is the equivalent of $50 to redeem. The money value can be redeemed for PayPal donation or Amazon credit or unique items in the future directed towards modding.

What counts as unique downloads?

Unique downloads refer to a mod author’s page visit. So if the author has 14 mods on one page, any download from one user counts as one dp. Even if a user downloads all 14, the author would still only receive one point. All previous downloads will not count for the program. The unique download was considered the safest method by Nexus Mods.The start of the Donation Point program will begin in Q1 2018.

How to make the System safe and fair?

It would be extremely difficult to create unique views as somebody would need to create 20,000 accounts to receive at least $200 from downloads. Authors will only receive points after 3 months after the download. That way, downloads can be reviewed to see if there are any misconducts. Nexus Mods is pushing the program until Bethesda states otherwise.  Any Mod author can opt out of the system. You can even state which mods you would want to opt in or out. If your mod is being used in the point system for a packaged mod program and you’re uncomfortable with them earning points on it, you can ask to remove it. The author always has the rights to the mod they created.

What else?

You can also save your points to redeem at a future date. The points won’t disappear each month. They are also expected to add a point transfer system if you want to give it to another author.

Opinions:

The Nexus Mods community has been relatively split on whether it is a good system or not. I don’t know much about the modding community but you can check the comments to hear from many people’s perspectives: mod authors and consumers alike.

Sources:

Nexus Mod – Skyrim

 

Epic sues 14-year old for cheat mods in Fortnite

FortniteEpic Games‘ battle royal type game, has an issue with cheat mods in the game and community. They have filed two civil complaints against two alleged associates who use cheats from Addicted Cheats to actively kill Twitch Streamers players live online. This is known as stream sniping. Players actively look at Streamers live cam footage to find them and actively hunt them from an unfair advantage.

The service from Addicted Cheats is $5 – $15 a month. It allows people to use aimbots and track players throughout the map. The cheat has to modify the game’s source code which is against Fornite’End User License Agreement and the Copyright Act. Fortnite‘s rule of conduct doesn’t forbid stream sniping like Player Unknown Battlegrounds but forbids cheating. One defendant has been banned multiple times and has created multiple accounts and continued cheating. When asked why “Because its [sic] fun to rage and see streamers cry about how loaded they are and then get them stomped anyways.” He also found another way to cheat after Epic created a block on cheaters stating “Now method is exposed . . . Epic Eat my ass.” As you can tell, he doesn’t feel guilty over his actions.

The other accused is a 14-year-old. Whether Epic was aware of their age prior to the lawsuit. The mother is quite unhappy and has written a letter to the court which attacks Epic‘s handling of the case. TLDR version below from Kotaku:

  • She says that Fortnite’s terms require parental consent for minors and that she never gave this consent.
  • She says the case is based on a loss of profits but argues that it’s a free-to-play video game. In order to prove a loss Epic would need to provide a statement certifying that Rogers’ cheating directly caused a “mass profit loss”.
  • She claims that by going after individual players, rather than the websites selling/providing the software necessary to cheat in an online game, Epic is “using a 14-year-old child as a scapegoat”.
  • She claims that her son did not, as Epic allege, help create the cheat software, but simply downloaded it as a user, and that Epic “has no capability of proving any form of modification”.
  • Finally, the mother says that by releasing her son’s name publicly in conjunction with the move that Epic has violated Delaware laws related to the release of information on minors.

The 14-year-old lives in Delaware and can be sued for damages based on how much the considered loss in money Epic states in the lawsuit. The parent would have to pay the sum. Adolescents can also sign contracts but have different degrees. Epic has yet to respond on whether they will proceed on using the 14-year-old.

Sources

Kotaku

14-year-old sued with mother’s letter