Electronic Arts (EA), one of the largest videogame developers in the world, has come under fire from lawmakers in Hawaii and Belgium for allegedly promoting online gambling directed at children with their latest title, Star Wars: Battlefront 2. Battlefront 2, like numerous other titles, uses a loot-crate system whereby players can acquire certain goods in the game by opening digital “crates” containing unknown items. In a number of games, these crates contain cosmetic items unrelated to game progression. For instance, in the World War I-based multiplayer game Battlefield 1, crates contain items allowing players to modify the appearance of weapons, uniforms, and vehicles. Battlefront 2, on the other hand, links loot crates directly to game progression, meaning that without the items contained in the crates, there is no way for players to advance the quality and abilities of the character(s) they play in the game.
In Morrissette vs. United States, 342 U.S. 246 (1952), Justice Robert Jackson, writing for a unanimous Supreme Court, affirmed the longstanding principle of common-law crimes that for an individual to be held guilty, they must have both committed the act (actus reus) and possess the intention or knowledge of wrongdoing that constitutes part of a crime, as opposed to the action or conduct of the accused (mens rea). However, in that case, the Court also recognized a class of public welfare or strict liability offenses that do not require mens rea. In other words, an individual may be convicted for having committed the proscribed act alone, regardless of knowledge or intention.