A state politician in Hawaii says the new ‘Star Wars’ game encourages kids to gamble and he wants to ban sales to anyone under 21

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EA DICE

  • Hawaii House of Representatives member Chris Lee accused EA of “predatory behavior.”
  • Lee said that EA’s new “Star Wars” game actively encourages kids to engage in gambling.
  • The controversial element in the game is a concept called “loot boxes,” which offered randomized items in exchange for real money.

The big new “Star Wars” game is facing continued scrutiny, but this time it’s not from players – it’s from a Democratic politician in Hawaii. His name is Chris Lee, and he accused the game’s makers of “predatory behavior” in an address this week.

“This game is a Star Wars-themed online casino, designed to lure kids into spending money,” he said. “It’s a trap.”

Lee said that he’s looking into legislation in the coming year that could prohibit the sale of some games to people under 21 years of age. He also said he’s been “talking with several other States as well” regarding similar legislation elsewhere.

Chris Lee, Democrat, Hawaii House of Representatives

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YouTube

Specifically, Lee is addressing the “loot box” system that was previously in the game “Star Wars Battlefront 2.”

After purchasing the game for at least $60, an in-game currency called “Crystals” could be purchased additionally which players could use to buy loot boxes. Within those loot boxes are randomized in-game items of varying quality that could make your character stronger.

The system was turned off before the game officially launched – when some people were able to play an early release of the game, they bristled at having to pay more money for certain features and took to Reddit to warn their fellow gamers. The game’s maker, Electronic Arts, issued a response that became the most downvoted Reddit post of all time.

In so many words, you could pay real money to make your character stronger than other players – a practice that is routinely criticized for its “pay to win” effect. It’s this aspect of the game that Representative Lee takes issue with, which enables players to pay real money for a randomized chance of getting something they want.

This is the loot box screen. The button prompt in the lower left that says

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This is the loot box screen. The button prompt in the lower left that says “Get More Crystals” is how you would exchange real money for virtual money, which could then be used on loot boxes.
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EA DICE

EA declined to comment on Lee’s announcement.

Update: The video game industry’s main representation in Washington D.C., the Entertainment Software Association, issued a statement on Wednesday afternoon in response.

It reads as follows:

“Loot boxes are a voluntary feature in certain video games that provide players with another way to obtain virtual items that can be used to enhance their in-game experiences. They are not gambling. Depending on the game design, some loot boxes are earned and others can be purchased. In some games, they have elements that help a player progress through the video game. In others, they are optional features and are not required to progress or succeed in the game. In both cases, the gamer makes the decision.”

Here’s the full video released by Chris Lee this week: