EU gamers should be better protected from addiction and other manipulative practices, the European Parliament says while emphasising the potential of sector. Specific measures to protect children are needed, according to the Parliament. The European video game sector was in 2021 estimated to be worth €23.3 billion.
“Computer games may prompt players to buy “loot boxes“, which are bundles of random virtual items that help players advance in the game. As people spend real money, it could have negative psychological and financial consequences through unwanted or uncontrolled purchases.”
The Parliament calls on the European Commission to analyse the way in which loot boxes are sold as well as to take the necessary steps to bring about a common European approach to ensure protection of consumers.
MEPs also warn about the practice of “gold farming“, where users acquire in-game currency and later sell it for real-world money.
“Likewise, items obtained in games as well as whole user accounts can be exchanged, sold or bet on with real currencies, contradictory to the terms and conditions applied by video game publishers.”
“These practices can be connected with money laundering, forced labour and child exploitation in developing countries, which is why Parliament calls on national authorities to put an end to them”, the Parliament says.
The report about protection of gamers – adopted with 577 votes in favour, 56 against and 15 abstentions – asks for harmonised rules to give parents a good overview of and control over what games their children play as well as how much time and money they spend playing.
MEPs want clearer information on the content, in-game purchase policies and target age group of games, possibly along the lines of the Pan European Game Information (PEGI) system already used in 38 countries.
Game developers should avoid designing games that feed addiction and should take into account children’s age, rights and vulnerabilities, the Parliament says.
MEPs say video game developers should also prioritise data protection, gender balance and the safety of players, and should not discriminate against people with disabilities.
“Cancelling game subscriptions has to be as easy as subscribing to them. Game purchase, return and refund policies have to comply with EU rules and national authorities must put an end to illegal practices that allow gamers to exchange, sell or bet on in-game sites.”
MEPs propose setting up an annual European online video game award and ask the Commission to put forward a European Video Game Strategy that would help this creative and cultural sector unlock its full potential.
“Our report highlights the positives of this pioneering industry, but also social risks we need to bear in mind, like the impact of gaming on mental health. This is something that can particularly affect younger gamers”, said rapporteur Adriana Maldonado López (S&D, ES) when introducing her report to the plenary.
“We need to harmonise EU rules, ensuring strengthened consumer protection and with a specific focus on minors.”