Overwatch Loot Boxes

How the outrage over loot boxes could impact you.

Last week, we summarized gaming’s notorious loot box controversy that has consumed the end of 2017. If you’re wondering what the heck a loot box is, I recommend skimming that article first so you aren’t completely confused by everything we’ll talk about here.

With that out of the way, it’s time to talk about why you should care about all of this… even if you don’t play video games.

Magic the Gathering Booster Packs

Trading cards and other “blind box” collectibles might face legal consequences.

As unified as the gaming community has been against loot boxes, there’s still heavy debate over whether or not this mechanic really constitutes gambling. The biggest stumbling block? Trading cards.

The Entertainment Software Rating Board, AKA those guys that rate video games “E,” “T,” or “M,” was asked if they would classify games with loot boxes as gambling. This would be a significant blow, as the ESRB’s policy is to mark games with gambling as “Adults Only,” thereby prohibiting minors from purchasing these games. However, the ESRB definitively claimed loot boxes do not count as gambling, since the mechanic is almost identical to how trading card booster packs work.

“We think of it as a similar principle to collectible card games,” the ESRB explained to Kotaku. “Sometimes you’ll open a pack and get a brand new holographic card you’ve had your eye on for a while. But other times you’ll end up with a pack of cards you already have.”

Pokemon Booster Packs

Here’s the thing: the analogy is fairly on point, and trading cards have been argued to be gambling in years past. Anyone who collected Pokémon cards in the 90s may remember a very similar outrage over “gambling mechanics” being marketed to children. While that may have come and gone without legal repercussions, this controversy could potentially envelop other “random” collectibles.

As we explained yesterday, the political gears are in motion to crack down on loot boxes. In the most extreme case, if “loot box games” are prohibited from being sold to minors, then the legislation could potentially apply to trading cards or even blind boxes. Or it’s possible that the odds for obtaining specific cards may have to be disclosed in some fashion with each booster pack. These are hypothetical examples, but what’s not hypothetical is that trading cards are a part of this debate. Whether there are corresponding ramifications or not remains to be seen.

Marvel Champions

Loot boxes are damaging the reputation of major brands.

As we explained yesterday, Star Wars Battlefront II was the looty straw that broke the loot box camel’s back. Disney had to actually intervene at the height of the controversy, as even a brand as fool-proof as Star Wars was getting seriously damaged by its association with gambling. The fact that the franchise was compared with Joe Camel probably didn’t help.

The thing is, Star Wars isn’t the first franchise to get associated with loot boxes. On the mobile market, lots of notable brands have corresponding “gacha” games with the same controversial mechanics. These include Dragon Ball Z, Sword Art Online, Final Fantasy, and even the Marvel universe. And with loot boxes becoming so synonymous with corporate greed, these franchises may also get damaged in the eyes of the general public. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be a fan of anything being compared to Joe Camel, even if I am an adult with at least a little financial responsibility.

Gambling Dice

You may know a gamer suckered in by loot boxes.

As I’ve written these past two articles, I’ve been a bit concerned of shining too much of a negative light on gaming. As my “About the Author” section says, I love video games. Heck, as hypocritical as it may sound, I even enjoy the occasional gacha game in my free time. I can’t deny that it’s fun trying to collect rare characters as if they were… well, like digital trading cards actually.

But as we discussed yesterday, loot box and gacha games are at least a little manipulative. They are designed to get you to spend as much as you can on them. Perhaps you and I might have an easy time navigating these things, but some people are not. And yes, it is worrying that children can easily access these games on mobile devices, especially when they contain characters from franchises they enjoy. Sure, it’s technically true that people can overspend on anything, but there comes a time when you might want to double check and make sure no one you care about is overspending on their hobbies. To me, this is one of those times.

Gambling Roulette

I’m not going to say that preventing minors from playing these games is the answer, nor do I think spending money on loot boxes or gacha games is inherently a bad thing. Just make sure to be vigilant with what any children may be playing on their mobile devices, and consider helping anyone that you might suspect is developing a gambling addiction. To learn more about problem gambling, consider doing further reading to help identify any signs in yourself or anyone you love.

We here at Gemr don’t often come down on subjects like this, but it’s only because we love you all and want everyone to be happy and passionate about their hobbies. Collect responsibly, and we’ll always be here to gaze upon your epic loot with envy. Even if your favorite franchise is getting compared to Joe Camel.

Written by TimM
Tim is a video game aficionado who is fascinated by pop culture. He built his first collection in 1999 by catching all 151 monsters in Pokemon Red, and he hasn't stopped collecting since. His work has been featured multiple times on Destructoid.com.