The Fair Play Alliance has released its “Disruption and Harms in Online Gaming” framework, which is the result of an unprecedented and global collaboration among video game developers. The framework’s purpose is to give developers the information and tools to help them create less toxic and more inclusive gaming spaces.
You’ve heard those phrases before. Making online spaces safer is crucial, and it’s an incredibly complicated problem the industry has been actively working on for a long time. But the Fair Play Alliance has shared what might be the most intensive (and accessible) study done yet.
The Fair Play Alliance is represented by members of over 180 gaming companies, such as Discord, Blizzard Entertainment, Epic Games, Electronic Arts, Twitch, Ubisoft, and much more.
The framework, created by hundreds of developers, specialists, academia members, and civil society members in the worldwide gaming industry, exists to:
- Provide a comprehensive overview of the harmful conduct seen across the industry, as well as insight into root causes.
- Offer resources that operationalize what is known so far, sharing industry-wide language elevating best practices for developers.
- Open questions and opportunities for addressing these issues.
- Create opportunities to further support smaller developers.
Let’s take a look at some statistics regarding online toxicity, provided by the Fair Play Alliance. The ADL Center for Technology & Society conducted the 2020 survey titled, “Free to Play? Hate, Harassment, and Positive Social Experiences in Online Games.” It found 81% of adult online gamers in the U.S. experienced harassment in online games, an increase from 74% in the survey conducted last year. 68% experienced severe harassment, which consists of “physical threats, identity-based discrimination, sustained harassment, sexual harassment, and stalking.”
Almost one in ten players were exposed to white supremacist ideology — an issue that was covered earlier this year by Good Morning America with the help of industry figures like Natasha Zinda (Zombaekillz), Kishonna Gray, Kahlief Adams (Spawn on Me), Terrence Miller, and Kayland Denson.
The study goes on to separately define toxicity, disruptive behavior, harmful conduct, civility, and respect. As is stated, “there is no debate” on whether harmful behaviors are acceptable (they aren’t). But what is more nuanced is how we as an industry tackle them, especially when “interpretation, intent, cultural and regional appropriateness, legality, moral alignment, social cohesion, trust” and many more factors are at play.
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Creating kind but principled (and healthy) gaming communities is a goal with an infinite amount of layers. It’s something many in the industry, from big companies to individual developers like Victoria Tran — previously the Communications Director at Kitfox Games and now the Community Director at Innersloth (Among Us) — and Gabe Graziani — the Community Development Manager at Ubisoft Montreal — have publicly addressed. (There are so, so many excellent talks on the subject, but I’m using these particular examples I’ve personally seen, loved, and learned from).
By sharing this extensive and extremely helpful framework, Fair Play Alliance hopes to help developers with:
- Assessing the behavior landscape: Identifying and aligning around a shared vision for the values developers want to see in a game, analyzing what is happening and predicting what may happen, and meaningfully accounting for a player base’s needs and personalities.
- Planning and building a penalty and reporting system: Developing effective systems for new and live games, and thinking about their impact internally and externally. (And, by god, we all know we desperately need these to be better.)
- Community Management: Generating meaningful and effective guidelines, with industry examples (more than the few I’ve shared).
While the industry is generally aware of all these issues, reading this framework may help you — like it has helped me — in dissecting such an endlessly complicated subject with the right language. It’s an incredibly useful document meant first and foremost for developers, but it’s also one that journalists and members of the gaming community at large can, and should, learn from.