School of Historical and Philosophical Studies - Research Publications
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ItemThe Ethics of Multiplayer Game Design and Community ManagementA. 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.
ItemLudic Ethics: The Ethical Negotiations of Players in Online Multiplayer GamesSparrow, LA ; Gibbs, M ; Arnold, M (SAGE Publications, 2020-01-01)This study introduces the ludic ethics approach for understanding the moral deliberations of players of online multiplayer games. Informed by a constructivist paradigm that places players’ everyday ethical negotiations at the forefront of the analysis, this study utilises a novel set of game-related moral vignettes in a series of 20 in-depth interviews with players. Reflexive thematic analysis of these interviews produced four key themes by which participants considered the ethics of in-game actions: (1) game boundaries, (2) consequences for play, (3) player sensibilities, and (4) virtuality. These results support the conceptualisation of games as complex ethical sites in which players negotiate in-game ethics by referring extensively – although not exclusively – to a framework of ‘ludomorality’ that draws from the interpreted meanings associated with the ludic digital context.
ItemApathetic villagers and the trolls who love them: Player amorality in online multiplayer gamesSparrow, 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.