In the UK the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has been speaking to representatives from Electronic Arts and Epic Games, as it’s ‘Immersive and addictive technologies inquiry’ continues.
The enquiry – which is not just focused on games – is looking at the ongoing emergence of technology in contemporary UK society, with a particular focus on notions of technology addiction and negative impact.
“The inquiry will examine the development of immersive technologies such as virtual and augmented reality, and the potential impact these could have in the worlds of sport, entertainment and news” says the DCMS, in describing its enquiry. “The inquiry will also look at how the addictive nature of some technologies can affect users’ engagement with gaming and social media, particularly amongst younger people.”
Thus far, it is being reported that the EA and Epics reps – who’s companies make FIFA and Fortnite respectively – have striven to counter the notion of significant negative impact related to playing their online games.
According to The Guardian, in April this year Prince Harry took a public stand against Fortnite, in a move somewhat unusual for a royal.
“That game shouldn’t be allowed,” he is quoted as saying. “It’s created to addict, an addiction to keep you in front of a computer for as long as possible. It’s so irresponsible.”
Presented with that statement at the inquiry, Epic’s general counsel, Canon Pence, said the Prince’s insights “couldn’t be further from the truth about our ethics and design philosophy,” according to The Guardian. Pence later added: “It’s always been our effort and intent to create a fun, fair, flexible, engaging and generous form of interactive entertainment. A statement that suggests it’s some sort of nefarious attempt to extract short-term profit is a mischaracterisation.”
As reported by The Guardian, Pence and his colleague – Epic’s director of marketing Matthew Weissinger – declined to provide information on numbers of players that may be playing too much, and average revenue per user. It was also alleged that there was a lack of awareness around sufficiently abiding by UK regulation on data protection and age restrictions.
Meanwhile, as reported by PC Games Insider, EA seemed to want to call the ever-controversial loot boxes by another name: ‘surprise mechanics’, refuting the idea that they are a gambling device; something the UK Gambling Commission agrees with.
“That is what we look at as surprise mechanics. It is important to look at this,” Hopkins is reported to have stated.
“If you go to — I don’t know what your version of Target is — a store that sells a lot of toys and you do a search for surprise toys, you will find that this is something people enjoy. They enjoy surprises. It is something that has been part of toys for years, whether it is Kinder eggs or Hatchimals or LOL Surprise!.
“We think the way we have implemented those kinds of mechanics — and FIFA, of course, is our big one, our FIFA Ultimate Team and our packs — is quite ethical and quite fun; it is enjoyable to people. We agree with the UK Gambling Commission, the Australian gambling commission and many other gambling commissions that they are not gambling, and we also disagree that there is evidence that shows it leads to gambling. Instead, we think it is like many other products that people enjoy in a very healthy way. They like the element of surprise.”
She continued: “What I said is that I think the way we have implemented our FIFA Ultimate Team packs is ethical.”
The hearing is set to continue, with UK game trade bodies Ukie and Tiga representing, alongside Candy Crush Saga developer King, King, the British Esports Association and the games age-ratings body the Video Standards Council.