The NHS's mental health director, Claire Murdoch, has called on gaming companies to end the sale of loot boxes. In a statement released on Saturday, she further suggested the games industry was "setting kids up for addiction".
Murdoch's statement reads that "no company should be setting kids up for addiction by teaching them to gamble on the content of these loot boxes. No firm should sell to children loot box games with this element of chance," adding that "those sales should end".
Referencing cases of particularly high spending, Murdoch has also called for greater transparency and protection around in-game spending. That includes spending limits, as well as indicators about the percentage chance of picking up a particular item from a loot box. The statement includes the following suggestions for the industry:
- Ban sales of games with loot boxes that encourage children to gamble
- Introduce fair and realistic spending limits to prevent people from spending thousands in games
- Make clear to users what percentage chance they have of obtaining the items they want before they purchase loot boxes
- Support parents by increasing their awareness on the risks of in-game spending
Last year, the NHS launched a specialist clinic to tackle videogame addiction, but the broader scope of gambling addiction has lead to the creation of 14 new clinics to be opened nationwide.
The statement ends with some words from Dr Henrietta Bowden-Jones, psychiatrist and founder of Central and North West London’s National Problem Gambling Clinic:
“As the Director of the National Centre for Gaming Disorders, the first NHS clinic to treat gaming addiction, I am fully in favour of taking a public health approach and bringing in a regulatory body to oversee the gaming industry products currently causing great concerns to parents and professionals. Loot boxes are only one of several features that will need to be investigated and indeed researched. We need an evidence-based approach to ensure our young people and gamers in general do not continue to be subjected to new and increasingly harmful products without our intervention."