Proposal: Ethical Game Design Practices

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PeterCorless
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Proposal: Ethical Game Design Practices

Hello, My name is Peter Corless. I am a game designer, and I have been addicted to computer games since 2001. However, I have been a game designer for decades, going back to a career at West End Games in the 1980s, and a lifelong interest going back into my childhood in the 1960s and 1970s. Over the course of this millennium, I purposefully addicted myself and subjected myself to various computer games, both standalone and online games, in order to understand a great deal of what makes for addictive and destructive games, and what makes for healthy and fun games which do not have addictive properties. I would like to see if we can change the course of human events here by declaring some truths to be self-evident. This includes the very game design practices which result in addictive behavior are usually poor choices of game design and marketing which destroy the very communities game designers say they wish to attract. Yet before I speak too much about my own theories, I wished to engage the Olganon community with a series of questions: 1. "Are games any good?" Do you believe there are any good, positive reasons to play a game? If so, what? 2. "What distinguishes a destructive/bad game?" 3.." What are the characteristics (tangible or readily perceived) which foster good gaming?" 4. "What suggestions do you have for game designers to make their games just as fun, but less addictive and destructuve?"

Gamersmom
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Nice to meet you, Peter.

Nice to meet you, Peter. I'm glad to see that someone in the game design community is willing to discuss this subject. I can't say whether games are good or bad. For the 90% of the population who do not have addictive tendencies, they are entertainment, and they are not going away. I know that. What disturbs me is that game design companies seem to be quite aware that 10% of the population gets addicted to their games, and they are building in features to make sure those folks get hooked and stay hooked. I have never actually played any of the newer games (I actually haven't played anything except Snood and solitaire since the early 80's), so I am no expert on the specific design, but from what I have heard here, there are some features that are not healthy. From what I see, these are the three that need to go: The variable reward structure that keeps people waiting online for hours for rare items to "drop". Total time sink. Raids and quests that are specifically designed to require hours and hours online. Somewhere on this site, someone recently reported that there is a boss that requires more than 18 hours to kill. That's not healthy. Not so much a game feature, but a gaming company practice: The ability to restore an account after it has been deleted, and the practice of sending repeated e-mails to someone who has canceled their account to get them to come back. There needs to be a way for an addict to leave the game completely and finally and remove themselves from the gaming company's contact list. This is the most unethical feature I have seen. I'm sure the gamers will have more specific suggestions for you.

"Small service is true service while it lasts. Of humblest friends, bright creature! scorn not one The daisy, by the shadow that it casts, Protects the lingering dewdrop from the sun." -------William Wordsworth

Maschinca
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PeterCorless, I think games

PeterCorless, I think games are good and fun to play. It is a nice way to relax a bit and take your mind of rl issues. Just like a good movie or book can do. I have played many games over the years, mostly together with my husband and sometimes our son and sometimes our daughter too. We kept it moderate and had lots of fun together. We played games that could be played over a local network connection and had a multi player option, like first person shooters, strategy games, fantasy rp games. What makes a game destructive you ask. For me the danger was in the MMORPGS, specific WoW. The social aspect which gave me online friends who became more important over time then rl people. You quest together and learn to handle your class and you bond with these people, even though they are strangers in rl. When you reach level 70 and had lots of fun questing and chatting together things change. The only challenge left at level 70 is raiding and that requires a lot of effort: pre-quests for raid quests and keys, getting special gear/badges through heroic dungeons, getting reputation with the factions, maximizing your profession skills in game. All this makes it harder and harder to just play for a bit now and then. The game demand increasing time if you want to do all the things needed and casual playing is impossible from here. Specially if you start at a new raid instance you need to put in a lot of time to prepare in many ways and set dates and times for it. The freedom to play is actually gone. It's is very hard to just log of in the middle of a raid fight, you can't put it on pause and if you leave you disappoint 9 or 24 other players, the social pressure here becomes huge. So to me games which demand increasing playtime and with no real end are dangerous. The social part can also have a strong hold on a player and make leaving very hard. I would like to play a game similar to WoW with the easy interface it has and the same kind of fantasy world but a different game structure. A bit like the game Neverwinternights but with the interface of WoW. I would like to see the option in such a game to choose an endgame path, weather it is in pvp or pve and that it has a clear ending. Once reached your final quest you should be done and not have the possibility to keep playing endlessly for nothing. I would like to see limited options to farm for gold, items(badges/gear/profession materials, reputation). As long as you can farm endlessly each day you easily loose track of time and your rl at that moment. Also the need to farm for things should be adjusted, sometimes you need to get incredible amounts for an profession item. I would like options to do quests solo or in groups, adjust the difficulty of the quest to the number of players. I would like the chance of item drop adjusted or better increased or the need for special gear reduced. It is totally insane to have to farm an heroic/raid instance for 10 months cause your character needs that certain piece of gear to defeat another boss somewhere. The addictive reward structure should be removed. I would like an option to do difficult things but not for hours at an end or with much preparations. Also a set requirement to be able to do harder things like heroics/raids. To avoid social pressure and fighting in guilds about raids requirements might be good. If you do have them yet you can't enter the instance and this will help avoid fighting among players and create a more relaxed environment. More structure in a way. In other words, I like fantasy games a lot and even online but not if they demand increasing time and have no end. It should be fun to do and be possible to play now and then for an hour or 2 maybe. WoW after TBC was no fun anymore.

"Be the change you want to see in the world" -------Mahatma Gandhi.

Thracius
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You're trying to make some

You're trying to make some games and brand them as non-addictive ? It's no real secret that people who dislike their lives will look for ways to escape through some form of drug, alcohol, dope, video games, whatever. There's no way you or anyone else in the industry can make a game that's safe for addicts. I've seen simple games like Pong and very complex games like Eve Online get players hooked. People can become dependent on anything, because they are flawed; using the "non-addiction" brand to sell some games sounds like a good bit of business, although it is ultimately hypocritical.

If you play video games, turn them off once in a while and rejoin life. Some of us here like you, don't ask me why.

Maschinca
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I guess that creating a

I guess that creating a non-addictive game is impossible indeed. People get hooked on so many different games. I still play pc games, online and offline but they don't appeal to me like Wow did, so I hardly play them and for short periods only. I always liked Neverwinternights 1 but the interface of the game is not as easy and smooth as WoW. It has less freedom to play endlessly and it has an end so for me it was a save game unlike WoW. Recently I tried Hellgate London, not much excitement here. This game just offers nothing specific to me besides the fact I play it with my husband sometimes and we have fun sharing it. So maybe even with another set up games like WoW will always be addictive to me? Would removing the addictive reward structure make it save for me? Would not being to grind in a game prevent me from playing for hours and hours? If a game, any game, offers you an escape, a world you can appeal to, will it be dangerous then? Addictive reward structure or not? So truth be told, even with a different setup I can't know if games like Wow will be save for me to play.

"Be the change you want to see in the world" -------Mahatma Gandhi.

bgh
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Go ahead and make them

Go ahead and make them addictive, just label them as such. Be honest with consumers so parents can make informed decisions on behalf of their minor children. I don't think that's too much to ask from a ten billion dollar industry.

The happiness of a man in this life does not consist in the absence but in the mastery of his passions.
-Alfred Lord Tennyson
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Inspire
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1. "Are games any good?" Do

1. "Are games any good?" Do you believe there are any good, positive reasons to play a game? If so, what? I can only speak for myself, but I believe some games are good. SOCIAL: Video games should be used like a board game - to interact with the people around you for a couple hours and then you all can move onto something else. You could just as easily have a good time with your friends playing a video game as you could going to an amusement park or the movies. I like Mario Kart Wii, as an example, with friends. The problem comes when people start to log obscene amounts of hours on a game and consider other online players as aEUoefriendsaEU, when really all you have in common with these people is the one game you play together. It gives a false sense of intimacy. Games like Everquest are like this. PUZZLE GAMES: I believe games are good that can engage your brain in some way. Puzzle games like Tetris, which one game can be picked up quickly and completed within a couple of minutes. Also, console games like the original Tomb Raider that make you think of ways to move blocks to trigger the next area - no leveling required, just solving puzzles and moving to new areas. It is good to have to think in a game rather than mindlessly grind away. 2. "What distinguishes a destructive/bad game?" Any game that includes an online community and your play content eventually needs to include these people to advance (i.e. Raids and Arena in World of Warcraft). Any game that has no defined end. Tasks can not be completed quickly or shut off in the middle of. Any game without a pause button! Any game that gives quick rewards at first, but then takes longer and longer amounts of play time to achieve rewards (levels, items, titles, etc.). Also, variable reward ratios are known to be as addictive as gambling. Games should not include this type of reward. Any game that requires farming or grinding - it is boring and just a timewaster. 3. " What are the characteristics (tangible or readily perceived) which foster good gaming?" A game that can be picked up at any point and enjoyed equally by all players, regardless of how much time previously invested. No matter of you played Mario Kart Wii for the first time and your brother played for the 100th time, you can both jump on and play together. Also, games that require you to use your brain, not just finger coordination, are good. Games that can be played multi-player with people around you, but not with random strangers across the world. Games you can keep going back to and have a fun experience with, but can also be quickly paused or turned off without penalty. 4. "What suggestions do you have for game designers to make their games just as fun, but less addictive and destructive?" WHAT NOT TO DO: aEUC/ Online Communities are required to continue content at high levels to get to cooler content in the game aEUC/ Variable Reward Ratios in games aEUC/ Grinding or Farming as a requirement of a game aEUC/ No defined end or max achievement aEUC/ Can not be quickly picked up by anyone you know in real life and played along with you, regardless of how much time has been invested. aEUC/ Quick rewards at first, and painfully slow rewards towards the end aEUC/ A aEUoetreadmillaEU-type game aEUC/ Games that reward players for being online a lot with increased levels, armor, etc.

Until we are tested, how do we know if we will pass?

lonelyboy
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Well here is a spouse af a

Well here is a spouse af a game addict. But I play games to, I have been playing games for years (heck I even played Warcraft Humans and Orcs and Leaisure Suit Larry, so know you all now how old I am ;-) ) I have played a lot of games over the years and yes some games took me more than others. I know people can get addicted to all kind of games even solitaire. I think it is like drinking, some people draink and have fun, others become alcoholics. Why? Some say the brain playes tricks with them, others say they are running from life. (Now lets hope he does not want to make THE addictive game) I think there are some elements that make some games "more" addictive than others: 1. Continuous world 2. Social parts - People don't play the game to play but to socialize, they use it as an expensive IM client. 3. Grouping 4. No pause button 5. Long quests 6. Quest-lines - luring people in trap 2 and 3, sometimes combine with trap number 5 7. Crafting - drop in trap 2 8. Drops - In order to get that 1 really awesome item you may have to kill him ones or twice or a dozen times. Combine this with trap 3 and only drop 1 cool item so they have to roll for it 9. Character creation and customization - If you look close at WoW you see that all the races and class options can grow in the better "me" of the gamer. The solo player picks a hunter or a warlock. The social player make a healer to help people, The agressive player goes for a lot of dmamage The stubbern player goes for a guardian 10. Marketing - You have to play this game or you are a looser Like I said I played a lot of games, some had 1 or 2 maybe 3 of the above elements, WoW was the first that had them all. With WoW trap 10 was the killer. Yes I have played WoW (Don't tell Blizzard but I even had the Sandbox Alpha version ;-) ) And yes it was cool.... for the nineties. I have played a lot of hours but it did not get a grip on me, My attention for other games, newer games with a better game engine and better graphics took me away while my wife stayed. So is WoW the Prime Evil? No, they made a game with all of the above. Some fall for it, others move on. It really is like drinking a beer, some don' t drink because they drive, others stop after 2 and some keep on drinking more and more, one day after another. Is there a safe game? Nope

LsMom
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Cigarettes have to have

Cigarettes have to have warnings on them, even though anyone with any sense at all can tell they're probably not very good for anybody. Alcohol comes with warnings, even though you have to be living under a rock to know that it can cause damage. Both are heavily regulated and taxed, including strict age requirements. Gaming is easily accessed by anyone who has access to the Internet, which includes the majority of the population. Nicotine and alcohol addiction are well known and recognized by the AMA, the APA, the WHO, and the CDC and there is help available from multiple resources and paid for by medical insurance. Unfortunately, none of this is true for gaming addiction. I live in the 5th or 6th largest city (depends on who you ask) in the nation and I cannot find one face to face support group or addiction specialist anywhere. There is no public awareness campaign, no warning labels, nothing. Can you make a non-addictive game? Do you really want to? I don't know. But, we, who already have kids suffering from this addiction, must demand that things change. My kid will be 22 next month and has never had a drink or a drag because he has taken the warnings around him almost too seriously. If he had been warned about gaming, maybe our family wouldn't have to be trying to deal with my son's addiction. Please...if it's too late for my son, then don't let it be too late for my middle school students. If you read the posts on this site, you will see that almost all of them are about highly intelligent boys. We are losing so many of our future engineers and doctors and scientists to this addiction...... My son had dreams of becoming an engineer, now he cannot get hired at 7 Eleven.

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