Leon Xiao

Leon Y. Xiao is a PhD Fellow at the IT University of Copenhagen, with visiting appointments at Stanford Law School and York’s Computer Science Department. He researches video game law, particularly the regulation of loot boxes – a quasi-gambling monetisation mechanic in computer games. He uses empirical legal research methods and is passionate about open science. Leon’s research has been referenced (twice!) in the House of Lords and is often featured in the media. He has been invited to advise policymakers and regulators, including the UK Government. Game companies have also taken direct compliance and remedial actions following his research. 

Impact prize-winner 2023
Opening the compliance and enforcement loot box: a retrospective and some musings on media, practice, and policy impacts through academic research

Loot boxes are gambling-like products in video games that can be purchased with real-world money to obtain random rewards. Regulation has already been imposed (as either law or industry self-regulation) in some jurisdictions to address potential harms. Two policy studies were recently conducted to assess whether those regulations have been complied with by companies, which is an important indicator reflective of whether those measures have been effective. The first study in Belgium led to companies changing how they monetise games in the country and policymakers to view the regulatory approach of banning loot boxes with more due scepticism. Researchers should consider, where appropriate, actively sharing non-peer-reviewed preprint results with the media and the public to protect consumers more promptly. The second study, through actively engaging with the media and the industry self-regulators in charge of implementing and enforcing presence warning rules, caused remedial actions to be taken. Unlabelled games have since been correctly labelled, and non-compliant companies have been punished with (albeit insignificant) fines. The societal impacts of this pair of loot box policy studies demonstrate the importance of actively communicating research results to the public through media engagement and challenging companies and regulators when they fail to perform satisfactorily.