The basketball game NBA 2K20 has made the news as the European games rating group PEGI and the US equivalent, ESRB, have been considering how to rate content depicting gambling.
Neither of the two rating organisations flagged NBA 2K20 for
gambling, simulated or otherwise. PEGI explained its reasoning saying that the gambling content descriptor doesn't apply because the mini-games involved in NBA 2K's MyTeam mode don't actually encourage and/or teach the use of games of chance that are
played/carried out as a traditional means of gambling.
The reply from PEGI acknowledges that the agency had seen the announcement trailer of NBA 2K20 and noticed the controversy it has caused. However, the board's representative noted that the
controversial imagery played a central role in the trailer, but it may not necessarily do so in the game, which has not yet been released.
PEGI notes that this isn't gambling, per se, in that nothing is really wagered in the slot machine, wheel of
fortune and pachinko mini-games, and whatever is won has value only as game content. Wheel/slot spins and ball drops are earned through gameplay and can't be bought, so nothing is really wagered.
For the ESRB, these mini-games aren't even
simulated gambling. In its rating summary for NBA 2K20 , the game's only content descriptor is mild language, as apparently the words hell and damn are in some dialogue.
PEGI says that the controversy over the game's trailer is part of an internal
discussion that PEGI is having for the moment:
The games industry is evolving constantly (and rapidly in recent years). As a rating organization, we need to ensure that these developments are reflected in our classification criteria.
We do not base our decisions on the content of a single trailer, but we will properly assess how the rating system (and the video games industry in general) should address these concerns.
Interestingly enough, the trailer posted by 2K
Games' United Kingdom YouTube account has since been taken down . It's still live on the main NBA 2K YouTube channel.
NBA 2K20 launches Friday, Sept. 6 on PlayStation 4, Windows PC, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch.
We recently surveyed more than 2,000 parents on our platform and found that more than half of parents allow their children to play video games for over 18s, without supervision or knowledge of the game
beforehand. In contrast, just 18% said they would let 10-14-year-olds watch an 18+ movie.
We also discovered that 86% of parents admitted that they don't follow age restrictions on video games, compared to 23% who said they didn't
follow age restrictions on films.
43% of parents say they have seen a negative change in their child's behaviour since playing games aimed at adults, and 22% of the 2,171 respondents said their kids now understand and use negative
or offensive language since playing these games.
86% of parents don't believe that games will impact their child's behaviour or outlook on life. However 62% admit they have tried to take the games away from their kids but gave
them back soon after because of tantrums and 48% fear that their child is addicted to video games.
Richard Conway, founder of Childcare.co.uk said:
It's difficult in this day and age to govern
what your child is exposed to, because if your 10-year-old has friends who are playing Fortnite, which is rated 12, you want them to be included in the fun. However, it's always worth looking into the game to see if it's suitable rather than leaving them
to their own devices.
What's interesting is that the majority of parents follow film age ratings, but when it comes to video games they maybe aren't as strict. It's important to remember how impressionable children are; if they
see behaviour or language in a video game or movie, they may mimic it.
The Video Standards Council is responsible for UK video games censorship. Normally the group rubber stamps European PEGI ratings but it retains the power to ban games. And in a rare example of usage of such powers, the group has joined Australian in
banning Omega Labyrinth Z.
Omega Labyrinth Z is 2017 Japanese console game by Matrix Software
Banned in Australia and the UK in 2018.
Omega Labyrinth Z is
a dungeon crawler game for the PS4 and Playstation Vita. It was submitted with a provisional PEGI 16 rating for depictions of erotic or sexual nudity. The game is set at the Anberyl Girls Academy and legend has it that a holy grail exists that can grant
any wish. It is hidden in one of the ancient caves that is located somewhere in the school grounds. A group of female students set out to explore the caves with the aim of finding the grail.
UK: Banned in March 2018 by the Video
The VSC Rating Board has ruled that the video game, Omega Labyrinth Z, will not be issued a UK Certificate of Classification.
This refusal is relevant to physical product only
(disc, cartridge, etc.) Under the terms of the Video Recordings Act (1984), the VSC Rating Board is required to consider the likelihood of any game causing harm to the user and, subsequently, to wider society by the way in which the game deals with and
portrays images of criminal, violent or horrific behaviour, illegal drugs and human sexual activity. The grounds for this decision are as follows: - The likely harm being caused to a viewer or potential viewer, e.g. children or young people.
The game is explicit in its setting within a school environment and the majority of the characters are young girls - one child is referred to as being a first year student and is seen holding a teddy bear. The game clearly promotes
the sexualisation of children via the sexual interaction between the game player and the female characters. The style of the game is such that it will attract an audience below the age of 18.
There is a serious danger that
impressionable people, i.e. children and young people viewing the game would conclude that the sexual activity represented normal sexual behaviour. There is a constant theme of sexual innuendo and activity throughout the game that suggests behaviour
likely to normalise sexual activity towards children. As a means of reward gained by successfully navigating the game, the player has the means to sexually stimulate the female characters by using either a hand held remote device or touch screen
The VSC Rating Board believes this content in a game, which would have strong appeal to non-adult players, is an issue which would be unacceptable to the majority of UK consumers and, more importantly, has the potential
to be significantly harmful in terms of the social and moral development of younger people in particular.
Update: Banned in Germany, New Zealand and Ireland
In a tweet, distributor PQube said its appeal against the UK ban had been rejected. The game has also been refused a rating in Australia
and Germany. PQube said it would also not be available in New Zealand and Ireland.
Loot boxes are a revenue creating facility where gamers are assisted in their quests by the real money purchase of loot boxes that contain a random collections of goodies that help game progress. loot boxes are found in many commercially successful
games, such as Overwatch, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Halo 5: Guardians, Battlefield 1, Paragon, Gears of War 4, and FIFA 17.
The pros and cons of this method of revenue raising has been passionately debated in games forums and teh
debate seems to have widened out to more regulatory spheres.
Last week the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), who rate games for North America declared that loot boxes, despite their inherent randomness, do not constitute a form of
gambling. The reason, simply put, is that while you don't know what you're going to get out of them, you know you're going to get something -- unlike a lottery ticket, say, where the great likelihood is that your money is just going up in smoke.
The same opinion is reflected by PEGI who rate games for Europe. PEGI operations director Dirk Bosmans told Wccftech:
In short, our approach is similar to that of ESRB. The main reason for this is that we cannot define what constitutes gambling, That is the responsibility of a national gambling commission. Our gambling
content descriptor is given to games that simulate or teach gambling as it's done in real life in casinos, racetracks, etc. If a gambling commission would state that loot boxes are a form of gambling, then we would have to adjust our criteria to that.
And for solidarity the UK games trade group Ukie agreed. Dr. Jo Twist of Ukie said
Loot boxes are already covered by and fully compliant with existing relevant UK regulations. The
games sector has a history of open and constructive dialogue with regulators, ensuring that games fully comply with UK law and has already discussed similar issues as part of last year's Gambling Commission paper on virtual currencies, esports and social
Not everyone agrees though, a British parliamentarian gave a little push to the UK government by submitting the questions:
To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media
and Sport, what steps she plans to take to help protect vulnerable adults and children from illegal gambling, in-game gambling and loot boxes within computer games.
To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and
Sport, what assessment the Government has made of the effectiveness of the Isle of Man's enhanced protections against illegal and in-game gambling and loot boxes; and what discussions she has had with Cabinet colleagues on adopting such protections in
It seems that the Isle of Mann already sees loot boxes as being liable to gambling controls.
Tracey Crouch, from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport responded in a statement, pointing out that definitions and
protections already exist regarding loot boxes and other in-game currencies, referencing a paper published by the UK Gambling Commission earlier this year. She said:
Where items obtained in a computer game can be
traded or exchanged outside the game platform they acquire a monetary value, and where facilities for gambling with such items are offered to consumers located in Britain a Gambling Commission licence is required. If no licence is held, the Commission
uses a wide range of regulatory powers to take action.
So for the moment it seems that for the moment the status quo will be maintained, but in this age of cotton wool and snowflakes, I wouldn't bet on it.