“Community Design is Video Game Design”: Insights from the Fair Play Alliance Summit at GDC 2018

 In Articles, Online Safety

If the lineup outside the first Fair Play Alliance (FPA) panel at GDC this March was any indication, the gaming industry is poised to make some major changes this year.

Following the rousing and packed keynote speech delivered by Riot Games’ Senior Technical Designer Kimberly Voll (a founding member of the Alliance), the “Player Behavior by Game Design” panel centered around the mechanics that drive player behavior.

Featuring devs and designers from industry heavyweights Epic Games, Supercell, Kabam, Blizzard, and Two Hat Security, the first FPA panel of the day addressed the ways gaming companies can engineer their products to empower healthy communication among users.

The room was full to capacity.

Not only that, members of the FPA counted anywhere between 100-200 additional people lined up outside the door, waiting to get in.

Throughout the day, the Fair Play Alliance Summit featured more panels and talks, including “Root Causes of Player Behavior,” a Developer Q&A, “Microtalks in Player Behavior,” and the closing talk “The Advocates Journey: Changing Culture by Changing Yourself, ” presented by Georgrify’s Kate Edwards.

Two Hat Director of Community Trust & Safety Carlos Figueiredo is one of the founding members of the FPA and moderated “Player Behavior By Game Design.” He also attended the Community Management Summit on Tuesday, March 20th. Several panels — most notably “Mitigating Abuse Before it Happens” — closely mirrored the conversations in the FPA room the next day.

Carlos shared his three key insights from the day:

1. “Community design is game design.”

The concept of community design as video game design was truly the biggest insight of GDC. Player behavior — the good, bad, and the ugly — doesn’t come out of nowhere. How a game is designed and engineered has a significant effect on player behavior and community interactions.

So, how can game designers engineer a product that encourages healthy interactions?

A few examples from panels throughout the day:

  • Engineering a healthy player experience from the very first moment they enter the game
  • Ensuring that players are fairly and equally paired in matchmaking
  • Sharing rewards equally among teammates
  • Turning off friendly fire (read about Epic Games’ decision to remove friendly fire from Fornite)
  • Providing feedback to players who submit a report
  • Building intuitive and proactive systems to protect players

How one designs and engineers the game mechanics and sets the stages for player interactions are a crucial foundation in terms of player behavior. What sort of gaming communities are we trying to create, what is this game about and what are we encouraging with the systems we are creating? It’s much better to consider this from the ground up, instead of treating it like an afterthought.  – Carlos Figueiredo, Director of Community Trust & Safety for Two Hat Security

2. Disruptive behavior > toxicity.

Traditionally, the word “toxicity” has been used by the industry to describe a wide range of negative behaviors. Over the years its meaning has become diluted and unclear. Instead, the Fair Play Alliance suggest using the term “disruptive behavior” — literally, any kind of behavior that disrupts the experience of another player.

Human behavior is complex. The way we act changes based on many circumstances. We have bad days. The word “toxicity” is fairly ambiguous and can lead to misunderstandings and misconceptions. Disruptive behavior speaks to the heart of the matter: an action that disrupts the very purpose of a game. – Carlos Figueiredo, Director of Community Trust & Safety for Two Hat Security

3. Focus on fostering & reinforcing healthy interactions.

When we discuss online behavior, the conversation almost always turns to negative behavior, instead of celebrating and encouraging the positive, healthy interactions that actually make up most of our online experiences. The Fair Play Alliance is keen on making games fun, and its members are passionate about supporting positive play — as opposed to just preventing negative interactions.

So the question is no longer, “How do we prevent disruptive behavior?” Instead, it’s time we ask, “How do we encourage players to engage in healthy, spirited competition?”

Games are fun. We want to encourage that enjoyment and focus on creating awesome experiences. – Carlos Figueiredo, Director of Community Trust & Safety for Two Hat Security

Engineering, game design, terminology, and a shift in focus — the gaming industry has a lot of work ahead of it if it wants to understand and discourage disruptive behavior. But the folks in the FPA are confident that the industry is ready to talk — and listen in return.

 

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