Game developers take note!

Disruptive behaviour is rooted in various factors. While game developers cannot consider all factors, awareness of these issues and collaboration with other stakeholders can contribute to effective solutions.

Game design

Certain elements in games can foster negative behaviour. Identifying these components can provide game developers with guidance on what areas they should pay particular attention to avoid provoking unfavourable interactions between players. They also encourage knowledge of the processes that give rise to problematic patterns.

Competitive situations can foster a hostile attitude or a negative interpretation of others’ actions. Unnecessary sources of conflict such as zero-sum resources can create hostility between players, particularly for strangers who have not yet had a chance to build mutual trust or a common understanding. This can make it difficult to establish peaceful interactions.

Games can also provide incentives for exploitation and transgression, such as when game developers create situations that encourage players to optimize their gameplay, but then punish them for doing so, such as through spawn camping or smurfing. This can create tension and make it difficult for players to enjoy the game. Developers should aim to create opportunities for players to succeed and help them develop healthy and constructive habits and avoid creating mechanisms or goals that disrupt other players intentionally or through regular use.

Theme & tone

The theme and tone of a game can greatly affect the behaviour and characteristics of the community that forms around it. They also play a role in determining how anti-social behaviour is handled within the game. It’s important to consider how the game’s tone and theme can influence player behaviour and create an environment that promotes positive social interactions.

Games that focus on negative behaviours such as cheating, stealing, ambushing, or robbing can create a challenging environment for players to interact with one another, and can make it more difficult for them to develop positive social behaviours. However, games that promote social behaviour and empathy are more likely to foster healthy social interactions among players. Additionally, game characters’ personalities can also influence players’ thoughts and behaviours. Over- or under-representation of certain groups of characters in games can also have negative consequences, as it can lead to gatekeeping and send the wrong message about who belongs in gaming communities.