Protecting gamers and encouraging growth in the video games sector

Last Updated on Thursday, 19 January, 2023 at 12:24 pm by Andre Camilleri

•       Gamers must be better protected from manipulative practices and addiction

•       Children’s games must take into account their age, rights and vulnerabilities

•       Video game sector has enormous potential for growth and innovation, but it needs support

On Wednesday, Parliament called for gamers to be better protected from addiction and other manipulative practices, while emphasising the potential of this innovative sector.

Specific measures to protect children

The report – adopted with 577 votes in favour, 56 against and 15 abstentions – asks for harmonised rules to give parents a good overview of and control over what games their children play as well as how much time and money they spend playing. MEPs demand clearer information on the content, in-game purchase policies and target age group of games, possibly along the lines of the Pan European Game Information (PEGI) system already used in 38 countries.

They also want to protect minors specifically from prompts to make in-game purchases and from getting involved in so-called gold-farming, i.e. the practice of selling items obtained in a game for real money as this can be linked to financial crime and human rights abuses. Additionally, game developers should avoid designing games that feed addiction and should take into account children’s age, rights and vulnerabilities.

Enhanced consumer protection aligned with EU rules

MEPs say video game developers should also prioritise data protection, gender balance and the safety of players, and should not discriminate against people with disabilities. They stress that cancelling game subscriptions has to be as easy as subscribing to them. Game purchase, return and refund policies have to comply with EU rules and national authorities must put an end to illegal practices that allow gamers to exchange, sell or bet on in-game sites.

A new European video game award

Parliament acknowledges the value and potential of the video games sector and wants to support its further development. To this end, MEPs propose setting up an annual European online video game award and ask the Commission to put forward a European Video Game Strategy that would help this creative and cultural sector unlock its full potential.

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“Our report highlights the positives of this pioneering industry, but also social risks we need to bear in mind, like the impact of gaming on mental health. This is something that can particularly affect younger gamers”, said rapporteur Adriana Maldonado López (S&D, ES) when introducing her report to the plenary. “We need to harmonise EU rules, ensuring strengthened consumer protection and with a specific focus on minors“, she added.

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