Yesterday, the UK Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport Committee held an oral evidence session in which representatives from some of gaming’s biggest companies answered questions about the industry. Kerry Hopkins, EA’s VP of legal and government affairs, infamously took the opportunity to defend loot boxes as “surprise mechanics,” but she also addressed concerns over game addiction how closely EA counts your in-game hours.
“We don’t actually record playtime,” Hopkins says. “The FIFA game has a number of different modes, and each of the modes are built to be enjoyed differently. When we look at how players are playing, we look at ‘have they come into the game recently?’ We look at something called session days.” (The average number of “session days” for a FIFA player, incidentally, is “about 50.”)
“Just to be clear,” Hopkinds adds, “the data we are able to gather throughout our game when people are playing shows that they’ve connected to the game, and we can collect things like number of matches played, but we don’t actually collect data that shows that there’s been ongoing input. I would know, for example, that you came into the game today and played four matches.”
As for whether playtime tracking could help identify and prevent addiction among players, Hopkins says “I don’t think even if we could measure the time that we could tell by the amount of time somebody plays whether they’re playing in a healthy way or not. There are players who play quite a bit and live normal, happy lives, and gaming is what they do. There are other players who like to jump in and out of the games, pretty much like any sport, any activity.
“It’s not something that we could say ‘this person played for too much time and therefore it’s unhealthy.’ Consumers have to have choice, and they also have to have a right of privacy, and we think that’s very, very important.”
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While a right to a choice is might be important for adults, things are a bit different when it comes to children. Hopkins agrees “that children are special, and we do have a responsibility to create tools, and inform parents about those tools, to make sure that they can make the right choices for their children, and as an industry we think we do a very good job of that.”