We may earn a commission when you buy through links in our articles. Learn more.

UK MPs recommend games publishers share player data with researchers

Game makers need to be more proactive in researching gaming disorders, a Parliament committee says

The UK Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport committee has generated an extensive report on videogames and ‘problem gaming,’ and among its recommendations is the suggestion that the games industry help facilitate research into disordered gaming by sharing proprietary data on player behaviour.

Among its recommendations, the DCMS committee report accuses the games industry of dishonesty, and says that even if loot boxes don’t technically qualify as gambling under the strict definition of the law, the rewards they contain do hold value for players regardless of whether there’s a cash-out value. It makes sense, the committee says, to have rules in place governing their use in games, particularly games that are popular with minors.

The committee has approached videogames bearing in mind the WHO’s official classification of ‘gaming disorder’ as a mental health disorder earlier this year. The WHO’s definition describes gaming disorder as “impaired control over gaming” and persisting in prioritizing games over basic responsibilities, even despite negative consequences, for a period of at least one year.

The DCMS committee report expands on this definition somewhat, but it points out that it’s currently difficult to make good policy decisions when it comes to games because there’s been so little scientific study done on the phenomenon.

“[T]he games industry has not sufficiently accepted responsibility for either understanding or preventing this harm,” the report states (as noted by RPS). “Moreover, both policy-making and potential industry interventions are being hindered by a lack of robust evidence, which in part stems from companies’ unwillingness to share data about patterns of play.”

This is a pretty solid point: It’s true that we’re short on scientific studies on gaming behaviours, but the industry already has the majority of the data that researchers would need – it’s just all proprietary, and publishers are loathe to make it available to the general public for fear of losing some marketing edge they’ve divined from the reams of data they collect on their players’ habits. That information would be a massive boost to researchers looking into disordered gaming behaviour.

The report recommends that games companies should be required to share their player data, and to contribute to a levy raised in order to fund proper scientific research into the effects gaming is having on players.

The full report is available in PDF format from Parliament’s official site.