Hawley introduces bill to ban video games from preying on kids’ addiction

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PARKVILLE, Mo. — U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley announced Wednesday he’s introducing the Protecting Children from Abusive Games Act.

Hawley wants to ban the exploitation of children through “pay-to-win” and “loot box” monetization practices in the video game industry.

FOX4 traveled to Park University’s e-sports team gaming center for insight on how many free to play games work.

The team’s assistant coach opened a handful of “loot boxes” for us he wanted to buy on his account for $1 each for the game Overwatch. That $1 worth of real money can add new skins, sprays or victory poses for players.

“Was it worth it?” we asked Wade Tripp.

“Not this time,” he said after opening the first box.

But for many players, there’s always another loot box to open.

“Every time you go in there someone can buy a skin, and it’s like, ‘Oh it’s only a dollar.’ After a while, if you keep going, those dollars add up,” Coach Ashley Jones said.

They can add up to even more than some Park University e-sports athletes realize.

“$6,373.22 total I spent on that account. A lot of that was spent on micro-transactions,” one player explained.

The team has figured the version of the free game of League of Legends they play in their intercollegiate league, with all those legends unlocked by the manufacturer to even the playing field for NAC action, would cost the average player $60,000 in micro-transactions.

Hawley said loot boxes and pay-to-win progression systems are common in games aimed at kids, where they might not understand the difference between real money and in-game currency.

“If you have a whole lot of money, you can jump ahead and get what you really want — if you spend a lot of money,” Tripp said.

The team’s coach prefers to grind it out in the games she plays, earning the game’s rewards one level at a time.

“It also gives them the feeling of, ‘Hey I did really good. I was able to achieve this by my skill in the game, and this is my reward for it,'” Jones said.

She hopes the issues Hawley is pointing out don’t scare parents away from letting their children play games she said can build communication skills, teamwork and leadership.

But she said a conversation about financial responsibility is in order, especially if the game or system requires stored credit card information.

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