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Ethical Arcade

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Guidelines for the benefit of players and the overall game community:

Community & Events

  • Code of conduct - Some questions to think about:
  1. How can participants submit anonymous information?
  2. What actions will be taken by game publisher or organizers?
  3. How will conflict be resolved?
  4. How will victims be involved or notified of resolution?

Find an example of a code of conduct here.

Player Safety in Online Multiplayer Games

Game Design & Content: CONSIDERING THE USER EXPERIENCE (UX) FIRST

Dark patterns

A dark pattern describes a design with a purposely deceptive functionality that is not in users’ best interest (therefore incompatible with a UX mindset placing players and their well-being at the center of what we do). It’s about tricking or heavily influencing players into buying something (e.g. pay to win) or into playing more when they don’t necessarily intrinsically want to (e.g. using FOMO).

Bad UX

Users (players) are frustrated and accomplish actions that can be detrimental to them (such as buying the wrong item by mistake), but this experience is not intentional. The UX mindset is about identifying and prioritizing all UX issues to fix them.

Good UX

Users (players) are having fun and the studio can flourish without tricking players into buying more or playing more. It's a win-win situation. Having a UX mindset when developing and publishing a game means keeping players at the center of the process, and prioritizing their benefits over the business benefits of the company.

Culturalization

Local expectations include but is not limited to:
• Avoiding the use of stereotypes; i.e., cultural, national, ethnic, religious, gender, and so forth.
• Being aware of locale-specific content laws and restrictions; either incorporate those locale-specific needs in the core game design or allow for multiple versions as needed.
• As needed, sourcing experts and consultants from the communities being represented in the game.

Marketing, Business Intelligence & Monetization

  • Variable rewards are unknown rewards, and they are very often used in games (throw of dice, draw of cards, variable bonuses, etc.). They are not a problem by themselves but we know that they are more engaging than other types of rewards. This is why using them for monetization purposes can cause problems as they are then closer to gambling. More specifically: gatchas or lootboxes that are tied to monetization or the business model (i.e. variable-reward loots that necessitate in-game currency to gain, and this currency can either be bought directly or indirectly with real money, or gained through gameplay) can be ethically questionable because they can be considered as encouraging payment or long play times. By contrast, variable rewards that are not tied to monetization (e.g. critical hits, variable bonuses such as in MarioKart, random loot when exploring a map, etc.) are not ethically questionable.
  • “Pay to win” mechanics should be avoided, unless the game is clearly established as requiring payment in order to overcome certain obstacles or compete fairly, before players get to play.
  • “Pay to remove friction” mechanics should be avoided, unless the game is clearly established as requiring payment in order to overcome certain obstacles or compete fairly, before players get to play.
  • “Social obligation” mechanics (e.g. forcing players to connect at a precise time to help a friend), unless it’s part of a clear gameplay pillar (e.g. multiplayer raids).
  • Punishing player disengagement should be avoided. For example, daily rewards that work on a cumulative-day basis should be avoided because it punishes players for not connecting on a specific day.
  • Consider encouraging taking breaks (e.g. the rest system in World of Warcraft).
  • The use of FOMO techniques should be avoided, especially with a non-adult audience. For example, forcing players to connect on a very specific day and time, or for a specific duration, in order to gain a desirable loot.
  • Teenagers can feel particularly encouraged to spend money or play for a long period of time to gain an item that is fashionable among their social group. If teenagers play your gain, be extra mindful of potential bullying and peer pressure as regard to having specific fashionable items.
  • See the Project Horseshoe for more information.

Protection of minors

  • The brain is immature until adulthood. One area of the brain keeps developing until about 25 years of age: the prefrontal cortex. This part of the brain, among other things, controls impulses and automatic behaviors. Thus, certain persuasive techniques that aim to keep people engaged with a platform are more difficult for children and teenagers to resist, and the younger they are, the harder it is for them.
  • Tweens and teenagers are particularly vulnerable to social pressure, because connecting with friends is very important.

Guidelines for the benefit of game industry workers:

Company values

  • The studio should avoid benefiting business partners who are known to have unethical work practices, such as abusive leadership, environmentally destructive factories, or other problems they wouldn't tolerate at their own studio or goes against their company values.

Workers protection

  • The studio should prioritize the mental health and professional growth of their marginalized employees, acknowledging that their presence and participation in our industry is valuable and comes with personal risk.
  • Studio leadership should role model responsible work habits to their employees.
  • Managers who are found to be abusive to their subordinates will resign or be removed from their position of power.

Diversity & Inclusion

  • Implicit bias and inclusion: see How to patch out implicit bias from your hiring process, by James Batchelor.
  • The company should not only recruit diverse applicants, but nurture their growth and work towards a more diverse studio leadership, including top executives.
  • The company should proactively support and invest in the education of their staff on how to be inclusive and collaborative in their day-to-day work.
  • The company should prioritize collaborative inclusion intersectionally, including not only gender and race but sexuality, disability, neurodivergence, and all other forms of diversity.
  • There should be a senior executive who is personally responsible for the company's increased diversity over time.

Environment

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