Aside from the immemorial squabbles over anime breast sizes, when it comes to video game ethics, there's no hotter debate than that over loot boxes, which government institutions are increasingly treating as a form of gambling. But what if the problem with loot boxes isn't that they exploit minors and create a toxic, addictive environment in games, but that there just isn't a nicer ring to the name? Luckily, the marketing whiz kids at the most hated video game company in the Universe are on the job.
This week, EA VP of legal and government affairs Kerry Hopkins was asked by a British member of Parliament to defend the company's use of loot boxes. She wished to assure the committee that she believes they're "quite ethical," despite the fact that hearing EA describe their practices as "quite ethical" is about as assuring as hearing a Disney witch describe her apples as "approval pending."
But Hopkins was also quick to point out that EA rejects the term "loot box" altogether. Instead the company refers to them as "surprise mechanics" -- a clever bit of rebranding that we really shouldn't let them get away with, lest they also start calling bug crashes "surprise Quit Games" and crunch time "surprise bonus rounds."
But the sweetest defense of all came later, when Hopkins claimed their "surprise mechanics" are in no way less ethical or more like gambling than something like Kinder Eggs' random toy surprises. And to be clear, Kinder Eggs aren't gambling in the way that loot boxes could very well be deemed to be. You always get the same value of product (terrible chocolate and half a cent's worth of plastic), as compared to clearly valued green, blue, and epically purple loot box items. There's also no way for a Kinder Egg to be used as a currency, outside of the toughest of kindergarten timeout corners.
And we're sure what's more ridiculous -- comparing your "definitely not addictive like gambling" mechanic to something that's banned in the U.S. because children can't be expected to consume them responsibly, or basing an ethical argument on a Forrest Gump quote. If you bought an entire box of chocolates and all you got were a bunch of crafting materials you could turn into a single-liqueur bonbon, you'd be right in feeling like you lost a very disappointing game of chance.
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