Need to know: DCMS Immersive & Addictive Technologies Inquiry Report
You may have heard of a recent parliamentary report that was released on 'immersive and addictive technologies'. This article will tell you all you need to know about what the report is about, who published it, and what it means for young players.
What has happened?
The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee is a group of cross-party MPs who scrutinise the work of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
Part of their role includes conducting inquiries into certain issues and recommending new policies for government to consider. This year, an inquiry was held into the growth of “immersive and addictive technologies”. Video games were included as part of this.
The inquiry collected written submissions of evidence from players, games companies, technology companies and regulators and charities. Oral evidence sessions, where individuals and companies are called up to be questioned by the Select Committee in person, also took place with several games companies and Ukie taking part in these.
The inquiry has now finished, and the Select Committee have published their recommendations. It is now up to the Government to respond to the recommendations.
What were the recommendations?
The recommendations included:
- Ban the sale of lootboxes to children
- Apply the ‘gambling’ PEGI descriptor to games with lootboxes
- Industry should increase diversity within games development
- Industry should pay a gambling-style levy to fund research
The recommendations seem stark, but the industry anticipated that this could happen. We were concerned from the outset from the name of the inquiry (‘addictive technologies’) that the report would have negative elements. Fortunately, the report also did highlight that the vast majority of players play games in a safe and fun way.
What will happen with the recommendations?
The Select Committee isn’t a government body and can only make policy recommendations – it is up to government to act on them if they want to. With the current political situation in Parliament, it is uncertain if, and how soon, the recommendations will be taken up. The UK games industry aims to be proactive in responding to them in the coming weeks and months alongside continued engagement with the Government.
What are ‘lootboxes’ and is this something to worry about?
A lootbox can be described as a digital lucky bag – players can spend real money on a ‘lootbox’ in-game and open one to reveal prizes inside. Most commonly, lootboxes contain ‘cosmetic items’ – clothes for their character or colours for weapons. Not all games contain lootboxes.
The Gambling Commission have already investigated lootboxes and did not agree that they counted as gambling.
However, it is of course important that children are not spending parents’ money without their permission. Parental controls exist on all major platforms and spending in games can be restricted. Information on how to use parental controls can be found at askaboutgames.com/advice/parental-controls.
What has the industry said?
Dr Jo Twist OBE, CEO of Ukie:
“The video games industry has always, and will continue to, put the welfare of players at the heart of what we do. We will review these recommendations with utmost seriousness and consult with the industry on how we demonstrate further our commitment to player safety - especially concerning minors and vulnerable people.
It is important that we keep engaging constructively with a range of stakeholders, including MPs, regulators and law enforcement agencies because we support an evidence-based approach to modern policy making. We have consistently been in dialogue with government and other key partners about establishing an appropriate research framework and will continue to do so.
We are pleased the Committee acknowledges that the majority of people play video games in a positive, safe and responsible way. The industry does not dispute that, for a minority, finding balance is a problem. This is why we are vocal in supporting efforts to increase digital literacy and work with schools and carers on education programmes.
We also welcome the Committee’s recognition of good practice, which already exists in the industry, including pioneering community management and technical measures which ensure players have a safe experience online.
The discussion around age ratings is actively ongoing and the system is continually reviewed. Changes have already been made including the introduction of an in-game purchase description label and as technology evolves so will the robust process by which it is reviewed and rated.”