In this submission to the Department of Communications review into the classification system, the Centre for Responsible Technology argues that the spread of ‘addiction by design’ in many games means children risk being groomed to become the problem gamblers of the future.
Currently, the classification of games follows the ratings of film and TV in confining itself to the content in the game, for example, the presence of violence, sex, language drug use and nudity.
The Department of Communication’s 2020 review of Australian classification regulation provides an opportunity to address these missing elements. The computer game classification scheme should be updated to include:
- Details on how gambling themes (especially those with “incentives and rewards”) should affect a game’s classification.
- An R18+ rating for games that replicate the psychological elements of gambling, for example through loot boxes.
- An R18+ rating for games that feature real-world gambling branding or crosspromotions.
The classification scheme should also be expanded to better address video games sold online, including via mobile phone app stores. Given the sheer quantity of online games available, this may require self-regulation – but with real and significant financial penalties where failures of self-regulation exposes children to gambling content.
Broader regulation of video games, beyond the classification system, is also needed. At the least, video games that meet the psychological criteria of gambling should come under the scrutiny of state-based gambling regulators. There is also a need for parents, teachers and children to be educated about the potential risks involved with video games.