“It’s a trap.”
And that’s not Star Wars’ Admiral Ackbar speaking. That’s Hawaiian state representative Chris Lee (D) channeling the mon calamari’s famous line to blast Electronic Arts for what he calls “predatory behavior” in Star Wars: Battlefront II. In a video (below) released yesterday, Lee criticized Battlefront II’s much-maligned microtransactions, calling the game a “Star Wars-themed online casino, designed to lure kids into spending money.”
Lee’s concerns echo those voiced by Belgium’s Gaming Commission and will undoubtedly be music to the ears of aggrieved Battlefront fans. Those fans’ complaints that the microtransaction system was “pay to win” led to EA pulling the system (although EA’s trying to rebalance it and bring it back). Fans also made EA’s initial response to the whole fiasco the most downvoted comment in Reddit history.
Speaking of Reddit, Lee followed up his microtransactions video with a Reddit comment that is considerably more popular than EA’s. “This fight is about protecting kids, protecting families, freedom from exploitation, and the future of entertainment in this country,” he wrote yesterday evening.
Lee believes the fight against malicious loot boxes is one people can win owing to the broad support among various communities against predatory gambling. In addition to envisioning bipartisan political support, Lee also thinks religious, medical, educational, business, and a host of other important communities will stand with him in this fight.
He encouraged anyone who does to write their legislators about it. If at least a few states band together to outlaw these types of microtransactions, Lee claims, it will be enough to force game companies to stop implementing them without the need for a new federal law.
In the video he released, Lee said he’s already been in talks with other state lawmakers about making this happen. But Hawaii isn’t waiting around for anyone else before it gets going. Lee said his state will review legislation “could prohibit the sale of these games to folks who are underage in order to protect families, as well as prohibiting different kinds of mechanisms in those games” in 2018.
He was joined in the video by fellow state representative Sean Quinlan (D). Quinlan also approached the angle from a position of needing to protect children. He also noted that this sort of microtransaction had previously been more popular in mobile games than blockbuster console and PC releases.
“This is a triple-A title that’s been released by the world’s largest gaming studio,” said Quinlan, “and it has the most popular intellectual property in the world attached to it, and it’s marketed squarely at children.
“Some of you folks who are older may remember a character called Joe Camel. He’s not around any more. We didn’t allow Joe Camel to encourage our kids to smoke cigarettes, and we shouldn’t allow Star Wars to encourage our kids to gamble.”
Lee continued this line of attack in his Reddit post.
“These kinds of loot boxes and microtransactions are explicitly designed to prey upon and exploit human psychology in the same way casino games are so designed,” he wrote. “This is especially true for young adults who child psychologists and other experts explain are particularly vulnerable. These exploitive mechanisms and the deceptive marketing promoting them have no place in games being marketed to minors and perhaps no place in games at all.”
For its part, Electronic Arts has admitted it made a mistake with Battlefront II’s loot boxes and that it believes Star Wars should be all about the fans.