Regulating digital games

Regulation of online gaming is a new policy issues that triggers controversies. It is an even bigger governance challenge than content moderation of social media. With higher influence of online gaming, especially among young people, the question of regulation of online gaming will raise of relevance. It will raise on the agenda of parliaments and international organisations.

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Regulating digital games is a topic that has been at the forefront recently due to the advancement in gaming technology. US Congress pushed the games industry to set up an Entertainment Software Ratings Board to determine age ratings. This led to the Pan European Game Information rating in 2003. This rating system is similar to that of films.

As online games have become more impactful, the question of content regulation is becoming more important. This issue got in the focus after the Christchurch shootings in 2019, when users of Roblox, an online gaming platform, started re-enacting the event. After this incident, Roblox employs “thousands” of human moderators and artificial intelligence to check user-submitted games and police chat among its 60m daily users, who have an average age of about 13.

This has prompted debates on how to regulate social media-like conversations. Politicians have argued that the constitution should protect in-game chat as it is considered similar to one-to-one conversation.

Game makers are doing their best to design out bad behaviour before it occurs. For example, when users of Horizon Worlds complained of being virtually groped, a minimum distance between avatars was introduced.

Similar o content moderation of social media, online gaming will trigger new policy and governance challenges.