School of Historical and Philosophical Studies - Research Publications

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    Apathetic villagers and the trolls who love them: Player amorality in online multiplayer games
    Sparrow, L ; Gibbs, M ; Arnold, M (ACM, 2019-12-02)
    Players are sometimes understood to hold an 'amoral' stance in games, morally disengaging from game content and in-game player behaviours because 'it's just a game'. This amorality is often seen as problematic and in need of refuting or amendment, particularly if we wish to encourage more ethical play online. However, few studies have approached a theory of player amorality from the player's perspective in multiplayer games. This study aims to address this gap by conducting 20 in-depth interviews with a wide range of multiplayer game-players, exploring players' ethical views towards problematic or disruptive in-game behaviours. Preliminary results show that while players do exhibit a certain amorality regarding in-game actions, players express, justify and explain this amorality in a variety of considered ways that go beyond notions of 'it's just a game' and the 'sociopathic griefer', and step outside the framework of moral disengagement. This paper puts forward a preliminary framework of player amorality termed 'Apathetic Villager Theory', encapsulated by six key attitudes/themes that highlight the nuances involved in the (un)ethical standpoints of a range of players. It is hoped that this framework will be useful in approaching and responding to player amorality in a way that gives due recognition of the various voices and understandings involved in multiplayer digital gameplay.