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Hawaii lawmakers introduce state bills to ban sales of games with loot boxes to under 21 customers, label on box – UPDATED

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UPDATE: A United States Senator from New Hampshire, Maggie Hassan, has sent a letter to the ESRB asking them to reconsider their position about loot boxes in video games. Back in October, ESRB released a statement that they do not believe loot boxes and microtransactions are a form of gambling and stated that they do not have any plans to actually change any of their rating policy.

Senator Hassan sent a letter to ESRB today asking them to reconsider and analyze how loot boxes are placed and marketed for games and see if it’s ethical or not. She says, at minimum, ESRB should consider putting identifying markers on physical boxes to inform customers that games have randomized loot boxes.

Here’s the letter Senator Hassan sent to ESRB’s President today:

Patricia Vance
President
Entertainment Software Ratings Board

Dear Ms. Vance:
I write to today regarding an important gaming issue that was recently brought to my attention by a constituent.

The Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) has an important mission in both providing parents with the necessary information to make decisions about the suitability of games, and their content, for children, as well as ensuring that the industry is following responsible marketing practices.

The ESRB rating system is of great value to parents across the country, empowering parents to make informed decisions on behalf of their children. As technology advances, ESRB must work to keep pace with new gaming trends, including the in-game micro-transactions and predatory gaming tactics, particularly as they are deployed on minors.

The prevalence of in-game micro-transactions, often referred to as ‘loot boxes,’ raises several concerns surrounding the use of psychological principles and enticing mechanics that closely mirror those often found in casinos and games of chance. The potential for harm is real. Recently the World Health Organization classified “gaming disorder” as a unique condition in its recent draft revision of the 11th International Classification of Diseases. While there is robust debate over whether loot boxes should be considered gambling, the fact that they are both expensive habits and use similar psychological principles suggest loot boxes should be treated with extra scrutiny. At minimum, the rating system should denote when loot boxes are utilized in physical copies of electronic games.

To that end, I respectfully urge the ESRB to review the completeness of the board’s ratings process and policies as they relate to loot boxes, and to take into account the potential harm these types of micro-transactions may have on children. I also urge the board to examine whether the design and marketing approach to loot boxes in games geared toward children is being conducted in an ethical and transparent way that adequately protects the developing minds of young children from predatory practices.

Further, I urge the ESRB to consider working with the relevant stakeholders – including parents – to collect and publish data on how developers are using loot boxes, how widespread their use is, and how much money players spend on them.

Finally, I ask that you develop best practices for developers, such as ethical design, tools for parents to disable these mechanisms, or making them less essential to core gameplay.

During a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee hearing, Senator Hassan asked four potential FTC nominees if they would consider investigating best practices for developers and loot boxes to prevent children from being addicted to them in video games. The four nominees said they would consider investigating if their nominee to the FTC was approved. She also stated that if ESRB fails to act, the FTC should do something about loot boxes in video games.

Via RollingStone


Hawaii lawmakers have been adamant on having loot boxes removed from major video games after the debacle of Star Wars Battlefront II. When the debacle started, Hawaii lawmaker called Star Wars Battlefront II “a Star Wars-themed online casino.”

Lawmakers have introduced a pair of new bills in both the state-House and state-Senate (House Bill 2686 and Senate Bill 3024) to ban the sales of video games with loot boxes to anyone under the age of 21. Currently, many of the games with randomized loot boxes are rated Teen or Mature. This ban would impose the games to be rated similarly, but not sold to anyone under 21.

The next set of bills introduced, House Bill 2727 and Senate Bill 3025, would require all game makers to prominently label boxes for games that have randomized loot boxes and show the probability rates of receiving items in loot boxes.

These bills have not been adopted into state law yet, but if done, would set a precedent in how game makers can use loot boxes. There would have to be separate packaging of games for all titles with randomized loot boxes sold in Hawaii if the laws are implemented.

“I grew up playing games my whole life,” said state Rep. Chris Lee of Oahu, who spearheaded the bills. “I’ve watched firsthand the evolution of the industry from one that seeks to create new things to one that’s begun to exploit people, especially children, to maximize profit.”

Rep. Lee stated that he’s been communicating with legislators in other states about possibly implementing such laws in their states, but no bills have been proposed in any other state in America as of now.

The full bills are accessible at the following links: HB 2686SB 3024HB 2727, and SB 3025.

SOURCE: Hawaii Herald 

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Activision Blizzard sued by California over work place sexual harassment incidents

A lawsuit has been filed by California’s government against Activision Blizzard over ‘frat boy’ work culture.

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The state of California has filed a lawsuit against Activision Blizzard over the company’s alleged toxic workplace culture that was described as a ‘frat boy’ work place.

The state of California filed the lawsuit on July 20, 2021 against Activision Blizzard for what they state is a work place environment that is sexist and discriminates against female employees on numerous occasions, further alleging sexual harassment incidents occurred at Blizzard.

The lawsuit, reported by Bloomberg Law, states Activision Blizzard offices had a “frat boy workplace culture” that included many shocking incidents. The lawsuit alleges that male employees would “drink copious amounts of alcohol as they crawl their way through various cubicles in the office and often engage in inappropriate behavior toward female employees.”

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing further alleges that Activision Blizzard discriminated against female employees by providing lower salaries, benefits, and contracts that differed from male counter parts. The suit alleges that female employees experienced numerous sexual harassment incidents working at Blizzard offices.

Some female employees who worked on World of Warcraft at Blizzard had to work with male employees who would hit on them or flirt with them during workplace encounters, the suit alleges. Some of these males were supervisors for departments too.

Another section alleges a male employee at Blizzard giving his responsibilities to a female employee to give himself more time to play Call of Duty at work.

One of the more horrifying allegations in the lawsuit states a female employee took her own life while on a company trip with her male supervisor. The lawsuit alleges the female employee experienced extensive sexual harassment at the company.

The lawsuit further alleges that male employees shared sexual explicit content during work parties, including explicit pictures amongst each other.

Many of the incidents referenced occurred at the Blizzard Entertainment division of Activision Blizzard. Blizzard Entertainment is overseen by President J. Allen Barrack, who is referenced in the lawsuit.

The full lawsuit, filed in the state of California court jurisdiction, can be read in its entirety here.

The Department of Fair Employment and Housing claims that they attempted to work with Activision Blizzard to address the issues over the last few years, even as recently as this year. But the Department was not pleased by Activision’s responses and believed the company failed to adequately address the situations and inequality at the work place.

Activision Blizzard issued a lengthy comment to multiple outlets about the lawsuit. The company denies serious allegations of the suit, and even goes after California state ‘bureaucrats,’ claiming company’s are leaving California over the state’s government.

Activision Blizzard statement also directly calls out California’s lawsuit for bringing up the suicide of the female employee in the suit, stating its “disgraceful,” but didn’t clarify the incident itself as alleged in the lawsuit.

The statement ends stating that Activision Blizzard “are confident in our ability to demonstrate our practices as an equal opportunity employer that fosters a supportive, diverse, and inclusive workplace for our people.

Activision Blizzard’s full statement is below:

We value diversity and strive to foster a workplace that offers inclusivity for everyone. There is no place in our company or industry, or any industry, for sexual misconduct or harassment of any kind. We take every allegation seriously and investigate all claims. In cases related to misconduct, action was taken to address the issue.

The DFEH includes distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard’s past. We have been extremely cooperative with the DFEH throughout their investigation, including providing them with extensive data and ample documentation, but they refused to inform us what issues they perceived. They were required by law to adequately investigate and to have good faith discussions with us to better understand and to resolve any claims or concerns before going to litigation, but they failed to do so. Instead, they rushed to file an inaccurate complaint, as we will demonstrate in court. We are sickened by the reprehensible conduct of the DFEH to drag into the complaint the tragic suicide of an employee whose passing has no bearing whatsoever on this case and with no regard for her grieving family. While we find this behavior to be disgraceful and unprofessional, it is unfortunately an example of how they have conducted themselves throughout the course of their investigation. It is this type of irresponsible behavior from unaccountable State bureaucrats that are driving many of the State’s best businesses out of California.

The picture the DFEH paints is not the Blizzard workplace of today. Over the past several years and continuing since the initial investigation started, we’ve made significant changes to address company culture and reflect more diversity within our leadership teams. We’ve updated our Code of Conduct to emphasize a strict non-retaliation focus, amplified internal programs and channels for employees to report violations, including the “ASK List” with a confidential integrity hotline, and introduced an Employee Relations team dedicated to investigating employee concerns. We have strengthened our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and combined our Employee Networks at a global level, to provide additional support. Employees must also undergo regular anti-harassment training and have done so for many years.

We put tremendous effort in creating fair and rewarding compensation packages and policies that reflect our culture and business, and we strive to pay all employees fairly for equal or substantially similar work. We take a variety of proactive steps to ensure that pay is driven by non-discriminatory factors. For example, we reward and compensate employees based on their performance, and we conduct extensive anti-discrimination trainings including for those who are part of the compensation process.

We are confident in our ability to demonstrate our practices as an equal opportunity employer that fosters a supportive, diverse, and inclusive workplace for our people, and we are committed to continuing this effort in the years to come. It is a shame that the DFEH did not want to engage with us on what they thought they were seeing in their investigation.”

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Warzone console hack development ended after Activision sends notice

The developer of console hacks for Warzone has reportedly said that Activision has shut down the cheat development.

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players fighting at Verdansk stadium in Warzone

Following the news that Warzone console hacks were being developed, Activision has reportedly shut down the development, stopping it from ever releasing.

It was recently reported that Warzone console cheats were in development, allowing Xbox Series X|S and PlayStation 5 players to install “the next generation of cheating.” Thanks to a voluntary anti-cheat group, players were warned that the hacks were on their way.

It appears that Activision took notice of this, too, with the videos advertising the cheat being taken down. Now, it appears Activision went one step further to nip it in the bud, shutting down development entirely.

Cheaters and hackers have been running rampant in Warzone since the game’s launch, with a developer saying that cheaters are “ruining some of the best work” of his life. Activision announced in April that they are “investing more” in anti-cheat, and have now clamped down in console cheats in development.

Twitter account ‘Anti-Cheat Police Department,’ who originally exposed the console cheats, shared an update from the cheat developer.

“At the request of Activision Publishing, Inc (“Activision”), I will no longer be developing or providing access to software that could be used to exploit their games,” announced the cheat developer. “My intent was never to do anything illegal. At the end of the video that brought attention to this project, it stated, ‘coming soon.’ The software was never published.”

After claiming that the software could also have “assistive benefits,” they said, “because of its potential negative impact, I will not be developing it further.”

Activision’s last major ban wave was back in May 2021, where they reported that over 500,000 Warzone accounts had been banned for cheating. The number of Warzone cheaters is reportedly on the rise again, so it’s possible that another ban wave will be announced soon.

Image Credit: Activision

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Activision’s new ‘Activision Mobile’ studio developing new CoD mobile game

A new Activision internal studio has been created focusing on Mobile development.

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Unlock Holger 26 Cod Mobile Season 4

Activision has established a new internal mobile development studio to create a brand new Call of Duty Mobile title. The new studio is called “Activision Mobile.”

A new job listings on Activision site has revealed that the company has established a new “Activision Mobile” internal development studio that will focus on continuing the company’s push to expand their mobile presence following Call of Duty: Mobile’s success (first spotted by VGC News).

CoD Mobile Battle Royale

The description of the new internal studio states that Activision Mobile will focus on the publishing operations and live services of Call fo Duty: Mobile, but also expand to partner with development studios on creating a “new AAA Call of Duty mobile game”.

Activision Mobile is an emerging team within Activision Publishing focusing on both publishing and live-operations for Call of Duty Mobile along with our new in-house studio dedicated to the development of AAA mobile titles. Designed around the singular focus of creating the best games in our space, ours is a mobile studio like no other.

The new details in the job listing also states that Activision Mobile is now working on an AAA mobile title in the Call of Duty franchise.

Developing in collaboration with Activision studios around the world, work on a new AAA mobile game in the Call of Duty franchise has begun.

The team has job listings up for a “Producer, Mobile” that says the team’s “first project” is a AAA Call of Duty franchise game.

Activision has not announced what the new “AAA” mobile game will be or how it will connect with the currently existing Call of Duty: Mobile title.

There’s a bunch of rumors about the potential of Call of Duty: Warzone coming to Mobile devices at some point, with job listings and even Activision LinkedIn confirming mentions.

Activision has not officially announced a “Activision Mobile” studio at this time. We’ve reached out for a comment.

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