USK adding warnings about loot boxes and chat features to game ratings

German video game ratings agency USK will be implementing new assessment criteria in January 2023 that allows it to mark the inclusion of features such as loot boxes and voice chat in games.

According to a translated press release, the new rules will allow it to supplement age ratings with information spotlighting in-game spending and chat features that might pose “possible online risks” to minors.

“Specifically, the independent USK committees can now check in individual cases whether any usage functions could pose an increased risk for children and young people, for example in relation to chats in the game or unwanted expenses,” reads the release (via Google Translate).

“When considering whether these circumstances justify a higher age category, priority is given to both sensitizing information and the existing protective measures of the game provider. These include parental control systems developed by the industry, which parents can use to monitor their children’s play behavior responsibly. A ruling practice on the specific effects of usage risks on the specific age rating will become established over time.”

The ratings organization explained it has also expanded its tried-and-tested age ratings to include information on usage and content. That means, in future, parents will be able to see why a specific rating was handed out at a glance because of markers such as “comic violence,” “in-game purchases,” or “chats.”

That information will be found on the back of game packaging, on relevant online platforms, and within the USK title database itself.

USK explained the new regulations are being introduced due to the amended Youth Protection Act that came into effect in May 2021, which required the organization to meet new legal requirements as part of its assessment process.

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