The Centre for Responsible Technology (CRT), which is funded by the Australia Institute, made public its calls to expand the nature of classifying video games, in order to cover design elements that may expose children to potentially addictive gambling like content.
The CRT submitted an assessment “Gambling on Games: How Video Games Expose Children to Gambling” to the Department of Communications (DoC), who are undertaking a review into the classification system. The CRT stated that many video games are utilising design elements that motivate addictive behaviours in children, increasing the risk for problem gambling behaviours later on in life.
The current classification system for games follows the lead of visual mediums such as TV and films, rating them solely on content, such as sex, drug use, and violence. The CRT contends that video games must be treated as a special case, classified for their content as well as design, as they have found that many in video games employ design elements that may not be suitable for children, such as the ability to earn and exchange virtual currencies and in-game purchases.
Peter Lewis, the director of the CRT, stated that the DoC’s review is a chance to ensure that children are protected from gambling online to the same degree that they are in the real world. Lewis argued that the risks of children playing games that utilise gambling-like elements are high—gambling behaviors could be normalised, which would increase the risk for addiction. Games like Call of Duty and Overwatch which feature in-game purchases using real as well as virtual currency—were identified by Lewis as key culprits for regulation.
The CRT recommendations to resolve this issue involve an overhaul of the DoC’s classification system, which includes guidelines that delineate clearly how certain design principles and elements. These particularly refer to those that involve rewards and incentives and try and influence how a video game is classified. Specific recommendations by the CRT include an automatic R18+ rating for games that mimic the psychological effects of gambling, such as randomised lootboxes purchased with real currency, as well as games that have brandings and promotions with real-life gambling firms.
The CRT submission also carves out a role for state-based gambling regulators to supervise the video game industry, which would help in seeking out harsh penalties on developers that attempt to circumvent the new regulations on gambling elements in games. The CRT also calls for an information campaign to help ordinary citizens identify the manipulative tactics of video games, so they can inform themselves fully of the risks of playing.