SBS language | “Normalize the game”: call to action on the themes of the game in online games for children

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Davide Gaido, Chief Technology Officer at Good On You, is a video game developer.

He doesn’t allow his five-year-old son to play video games on his cell phone.

“I let him play ‘real’ video games, on Nintendo, Playstation or PC, for example – but not on the phone,” Mr. Gaido said in an interview with SBS Italian, adding that he carefully selected one by a video game that her son can play.


Strong points:

  • Gaming practices in video games are linked to problem gambling and disordered gambling, according to research.
  • The Coalition announced that if re-elected, it would change the classification of games containing “loot boxes”.
  • A review of the current classification system was undertaken in 2019, but the findings have not yet been released.

Mr. Gaido says he is concerned about ads, in-app purchases and, moreover, “game-like features”.

According to a study published on the National Library of Medicine and conducted by David Zendle of the Department of Computing at the University of York, York in the UK, “gambling practices in video games are linked to both problem gambling and gambling disorders”.

Although game-like features can be found in video games on all platforms, they are more common in mobile phone video games, Gaido said.

As a parent, loot boxes and other gameplay features in video games worry me a lot,” Gaido said.

This is a problem well known to the Australian authorities.

The eSafety Commissioner’s website warns to “be aware of games with game elements” as these “can make playing more familiar and normal for young people”.

Games with elements similar to gambling are described as follows on the eSafety Commissioner’s website:

  • Games that simulate gambling activity such as poker, slots, blackjack or roulette do not offer your child the opportunity to bet, win or lose real money, but do include actions similar to the actual game and often look and sound the same.
  • Some games include “loot boxes” (“bundles”, “crates” and “boxes”) containing items such as in-game currency, equipment, tools, weapons or “skins”.

“Players can earn or buy access to a loot box without knowing the value of what’s inside, like a fluke,” the website explains.

  • “‘Skins’ – used in some games to alter the appearance of a player’s weapon, gear or avatar – can vary in value depending on their rarity and popularity.

“While they cannot be exchanged for real money in-game, they can be used for gambling and converted to cash on third-party websites,” the website warns.

In-app purchases

Mr. Gaido says that many apps can be downloaded for free, but the player is then prompted to make in-app purchases to continue playing or to acquire tools that will likely lead to more chances of winning.

“The direction the industry is unfortunately going in, especially with mobile games but also with so-called free video games, is to get people to install the video game app and then monetize it by trying to sell special tools, powers or new lives,” Mr. Gaido explained.

These are all mechanisms created to make the user spend as much money as possible — which is even more disturbing for a child who doesn’t even have the means to understand what is right or wrong to buy.

Getty Images/MesquitaFMS

The use of “dark patterns”

These types of apps are developed with the help of psychologists, Gaido explained.

“It’s all part of a bigger concept — the famous dark patternswhich are also used by social media companies,” he said.

Dark patterns are deceptive design tricks that trick people into performing an action on a website or in an app that they didn’t intend to do or wouldn’t have done, if their behavior user data had not been intentionally manipulated, explained Professor Fabio Zambetta, Associate Dean, Artificial Intelligence at RMIT University.

“These are systems developed with psychologists to somehow manipulate the user into behaving the way the developer wants them to, which is basically to get more money,” he said. -he explains.

These big companies thought, “How can I get my users to spend as much money as possible?” Let’s find a way. What has proven effective is creating a random system of rewards – and it works.

The main goal is to drive conversions and other business goals, Professor Zambetta said.

“What makes a dark pattern negative is that it achieves the goal at the expense of customer experience,” Professor Zambetta added.

“Loot Boxes”

Loot boxes are a mechanism by which you pay for and obtain a whole series of presumed or real benefits from the video game.

“Loot boxes are semi-random; they’re essentially games of chance in disguise,” Professor Zambetta said.

“The concept is actually very similar to gambling, because there’s this probabilistic element. It’s kind of like playing poker; you take a card and you don’t know what it’s going to be,” he explained. .

The eSafety Commissioner’s website warns: “There is concern that this feature [loot boxes] can give the impression that it is normal to pay for something whose value depends on chance and can potentially lead to gambling”.

According to Mr. Gaido, “video games disguised as gambling should be legislated”.

“The problem is that it’s not regulated because it’s not considered a game,” he added.

The Coalition “would change the classification code for video games with loot boxes”

On April 27, the Coalition announced that if re-elected, it would change the classification code for video games with loot boxes.

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said a re-elected coalition government would update Australia’s ratings code which, as well as allowing R ratings for video games in 2013, has not been updated since the VHS era.

The minister said the changes would include a minimum rating for games that simulate gambling, including the use of loot boxes.

The changes would also affect content that sexualizes children or depicts suicide or violence against women, he said in April.

asks the government to publish the results of the review of the classification system

However, the Labor Party criticized the timing of the Coalition’s pre-election announcement, saying the Coalition “waited until the day before an election” to make the announcement, The Guardian Australia reported.

Labor Shadow Communications Minister Michelle Rowland said the announcement showed the Government was not serious about consumer protection, as the results of the review of Australia’s outdated classification system were not had not yet been published.

“The review of the classification system…has not been published or responded to by the Morrison government, some two years later,” Ms Rowland told Guardian Australia.

SBS Italian has sought comment from Labor but has yet to receive a response.

Game console

Pexels/Jaroslav Nymburský

Ron Curry, CEO of the Interactive Games and Entertainment Association (IGEA), said a review of the current rating system was undertaken in 2019.

“IGEA has been working closely with the coalition government and our stakeholders in the review to meet video game requirements,” Curry told SBS Italian in a statement.

“As of today, we still haven’t seen the results of the scan so we can’t say one way or another if the system should reboot.

“However, we can say that the current system is no longer fit for purpose or nimble enough for a rapidly changing market and changing community expectations.

“The industry remains ready for any future public consultation on the establishment of a modern and responsive classification regime.”

“We need a new classification system”

According to Professor Zambetta, what is needed is a new classification system.

“The content rating system we use in Australia [for video games] is the same we use for books, movies, etc. “, did he declare

“All of this is absolutely old compared to a video game – or even streaming services.”

According to Professor Zambetta, the current rating system does not capture all of the problem areas that can arise in video games.

The content classification system should be redesigned to encompass all aspects of a video game compared to a book, for example.

The role of parents

But not everyone believes that stricter guidelines would be the answer to these problems.

Stefano Grassia, who is a father of two, says he thinks parents play the most important role when it comes to kids’ online activities.

Stefano Grassia

Stefano Grassia with his own family.

Imagine Stefano Grassia’s fornita.

“I wouldn’t want it to get to the point where the government interferes too much, maybe up the rating of some games because there are in-app purchases or loot boxes,” Grassia said.

“That would be a bit overkill, I think. It would be a scenario where a parent delegates responsibility to a third party, so as a parent I don’t have to deal with that.”

According to Grassia, parents have a duty to monitor what children are playing with, and it can also be a way to bond with them.

The eSafety Commissioner’s website has published this guide to help parents “get to grips with technology”.

Here is a guide to the current Australian content rating system.

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