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Loot Boxes: A Guide for Parents and Guardians

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Whether it's on the news, direct from youngsters in your family, or even something you've overheard being discussed by other parents and guardians, you might have heard about 'loot boxes' with regard to video games in recent weeks. For an up to date parents guide check our 2021 loot boxes feature.

But what is a loot box, and why would – or wouldn't – you want to pay for one?

Simply put, some games offer extra content that could be understood at a fundamental level as digital 'lucky dip' packs that players 'open' to find out what is inside.

Some games offer these ‘loot boxes’ as a reward for playing – meaning without paying extra money – and some additionally offer the player the option of paying to access a loot box. A loot box might contain a new playable-character, or some other in-game extra, like a new paint job for a vehicle or weapon. Importantly, there is always something in a loot box that can be used in the game. They aren't like lottery scratch cards, where you might come away with nothing.

Some loot box extras add gameplay advantages, effectively meaning a player could pay to have one up on rival consumers. So whilst in most games players can unlock the paid-for items without spending a penny beyond the initial purchase price, simply by playing the game, this process can be sped up by purchasing loot boxes.

Some have argued that the random element of what a loot box will deliver to a player can make purchasing them tantamount to gambling.

Here the Gambling Commission has researched the matter and concluded that loot boxes do not fall under gambling law in the UK. Elsewhere UK games industry trade body Ukie and age-ratings group the VSC Rating Board, who run the PEGI age ratings system, agree.

If you're a parent or guardian, however, legal definitions may mean little to you.

If you don't like the idea of a game offering loot boxes or other in game purchases there are tools at your disposal to control this. All games consoles and mobile devices have parental controls that can prevent unwanted in-game purchases from being made. And don’t forget do some research before buying a game for your child to make sure it is appropriate for them.

Please get in touch with us if you have any questions about loot boxes, and in the meantime you can rest assured we'll continue to provide information that means your family can enjoy the many benefits playing appropriate games can bring.

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Will Freeman