Australia-based Centre for Responsible Technology has urged the regulatory authorities to extend the classification of computer games in order to capture their design architecture expose underage individuals to gambling-based content and gambling-related harm.
The suggestion was submitted to the Department of Communications review into the classification system, with the Centre of Responsible Technology saying that the expansion of what they called “addiction by design” in many games means that underage individuals being intentionally targetted by gambling operators to become addicted to gambling at a later stage.
For the time being, the classification of games is made under the ratings used to classify the content of film and TV. A body of evidence, included in “Gambling on Games” that is the discussion paper supporting the CRT submission, has said that video game architecture, including purchases of in-game items and ways to accumulate virtual currency – should also be taken into account in judging whether a game is appropriate for a certain age or not.
Peter Lewis, the Centre for Responsible Technology’s Director, has explained that the classification review was a chance for the regulatory authorities to reconsider the standard of protection and care that should be provided to underage individuals. Mr Lewis has explained that children were being protected from land-based gambling, but, when it comes to online gambling, they have access to the services provided by global gambling operators.
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According to the Director of the Centre for Responsible Technology, the risks are not only making gambling look normal to children but also exposing underage individuals to operations that could make them dependent on gambling. Mr Lewis explained that the addictive gambling design prevails in popular online games such as Call of Duty or Overwatch, where purchases of in-game items are encouraged.
That is exactly why the group making the submission insists for popular video games featuring gambling-related or deliberately addictive content to fall under stricter regulation and to be suspended for use by children. For the time being, the classification regulations in Australia are being reviewed by the federal Department of Communication as part of the Government’s efforts to make the regulatory rules more suitable for the constantly changing digital technologies.
According to the Centre’s submission, the existing classifications system needs to be updated so that it includes: an R18+ rating for games which offer real-world gambling branding or so-called cross-promotions; an R18+ rating for games featuring elements that are pretty much similar to the psychological elements of gambling, such as, for example, the use of loot boxes and other in-game items; guidelines regarding the way in which a game’s classification should be affected by the in-game gambling architecture.
Apart from that, the Centre for Responsible Technology has also made other suggestions, including better education regarding the potential addictiveness of the games to be provided for children, parents and teachers; stronger penalties to be imposed on game developers that do not report or falsely report gambling architecture use; as well as broader consideration for the gambling sector’s monitoring.