Just about the most frustrating ‘movement’ in recent gaming memory has been the push by gamers for some governmental organization to classify Loot Boxes as ‘gambling’ – which would make them illegal and thus prevent them from being in any game, because online gambling is illegal. So, in order to regulate (instead of outright ban) them, you’d need to re-write the gambling code.
Thus it was with this complicated mess of a ‘crisis’ in mind that The National Committee for Games Policy was formed. They are “…a group of industry leaders and experts has agreed to come together in a more permanent way, forming the National Committee for Games Policy (NCGP)…Unlike the IGDA, we are not an association of game developers. We are a coalition of high level industry experts and influencers…We will work on the behalf of games industry professionals of all political leanings.”
The NCGP will house the NCGP ITK (Independent Think Tank): “The work of the NCGP ITK is to represent itself as a group of consummate professionals from every part of the video game community. We seek to represent the entire industry, and as such will not release opinions on differences within the industry except as they relate to public policy…The NCGP will never take a position on policy; we will give policy makers the information the information they need to make informed decision. Our political connections will get this information to them.”
The NCGP also seeks to operate as a self-regulating organization: “establishment of the video game industry’s first, and de facto, self regulatory organization. Independent of the think tank is the NCGP SRO. As an SRO, our purpose is to protect consumers from unscrupulous video game companies by investigating and bringing legal action against those companies that have damaged the public consciousness in some way, whether mental or physical. To do this we’ve enlisted the aid of game developer’s employees as well. By establishing the first video game industry whistleblower center, we’re able to help the video game industry fight things such as overtime pay.”
…I think they mean fight *for* things such as overtime pay.
Who is the committee? The website, prior to going down for maintenance, featured community managers, game developers, and social-media influencers, though their credentials seem a bit off. For example a gentleman credited with starting his own educational gaming company, has this as the company’s site. Additionally, the main point of contact for the site Kenneth, previously worked for Indie.GA, where they’d dole out hundreds of Gaming Awards per category…which could be perceived as shady or just weird.
If it seems like I’m being overly negative about the NCGP, it’s only because I am. But it’s out of love. Gaming needs a group like this, of talented and smart individuals who will fight for what’s right, not for what’s popular – in the political sphere. Who understand the best route has always been self-regulation; the MPAA, The ESRB, non-governmental certifications and organizations that seek to keep gaming ‘in check’ – versus asking the long, lumbering, cumbersome arm of the federal government be thrust into the medium, as happened with Hollywood, Comics, Online Poker, and Pinball of all things.
The good news is the people on the committee all seem to come from a mobile background, which says to me they’d understand that Loot Boxes are an integral part of the free-to-play gaming model that’s brought thousands of games to millions of homes – specifically on mobile.
But having dabbled in politics and political writing, I can tell you that presentation matters, especially if you’re representing games, which have often been viewed by those in power as a needless distraction to our youth since they were invented, and as a result you need to be doubly sure to come correct. If the NCGP ITK or the NCGP SRO want to be taken seriously, they need to get this stuff right, and so far, they haven’t.
The press release is vague and riddled with spelling and syntax errors and confusing acronyms. The website features very little actionable information. And they’re vowing to not take a political position, which is the exact opposite of what an organization like this should do. Their position should and *must* be to defend the rights of gamers and game creators from government overreach and attack – The next ‘Night Trap’ style hearing we have, they need to be there and be prepared. Every time a politician gets it wrong, it should be the NCGP’s policy to correct them respectfully – and loudly. They need to be the ACLU of gaming.
If they seek only to collate information and present it when asked, that’s fine, but they need a better presentation and far more clout to even *be* asked. If I’m a Senator, Congressman, or in power at all, I look at a janky press release, a website with very little information, and a board of proverbial directors without a ton of experience in the gaming industry, and I wave them away without a second thought – why do I need to speak to these children?
Ultimately what we have here is likely a rush to market. The people behind this organization, hopefully having it in the works for a long period of time, decided to strike while the iron’s hot and make this announcement, despite not being adequately prepared. There is no way for the gamer to take action or get more information – to help.
What we know now, is, basically, there’s a nebulous group of people on a committee somewhere attempting to talk to congress about Loot Boxes. That committee won’t mention who all their members are, won’t take a political position, and are by invite only.
Which worked out fine for the Free Masons, but here, I hope, the NCGP realizes that a lack of transparency and clarity is what started this whole big mess in the first place.
Thankfully, it appears the group, specifically Kenneth – is active on social media and answering all comers. When asked directly about his opinion on Loot Boxes, the response was comforting: