School of Historical and Philosophical Studies - Research Publications

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    The Ethics of Multiplayer Game Design and Community Management
    A. Sparrow, L ; Gibbs, M ; Arnold, M (ACM, 2021-05)
    Game industry professionals are frequently implementing new methods of addressing ethical issues related to in-game toxicity and disruptive player behaviours associated with online multiplayer games. However, academic work on these behaviours tends to focus on the perspectives of players rather than the industry. To fully understand the ethics of multiplayer games and promote ethical design, we must examine the challenges facing those designing multiplayer games through an ethical lens. To this end, this paper presents a reflexive thematic analysis of 21 in-depth interviews with games industry professionals on their ethical views and experiences in game design and community management. We identify a number of tensions involved in making ethics-related design decisions for divided player communities alongside current game design practices that are concerned with functionality, revenue and entertainment. We then put forward a set of design considerations for integrating ethics into multiplayer game design.
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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.