Abstract: Video games have become a pervasive form of entertainment in current culture. As such, it is essential to examine the power structures inherent in creating and participating in video games; to fail to do so runs the risk of simply recreating current social injustices. While designers hold most of the power in single-player video games, that power is shared with the players in multiplayer games. I argue that this power comes with social responsibilities.
Designers’ social responsibilities are most evident in a game’s creation; they have a strong responsibility to avoid microaggressions in the design of their game world and gameplay. Their obligations to the game community do not end at game creation. This is particularly evident in multiplayer games, since designers have an ability to encourage or discourage particular behaviors among players. However, a game’s community is not only what occurs inside the game; it encompasses the behavior of its fans in alternate venues such as forums on the game’s website. In this way a game’s community blends into the larger gamer community; I consider the obligations that designers have both to the community of their specific games and to the gamer community as a whole.
While game designers hold much of the power, players hold power as well. Particularly in multiplayer games players have ethical responsibilities towards other players within a game; while games take place in a fictional space, the players are real and can suffer real harms. However, responsibility is not shared equally. Due to both player-created social status and inherent power structures in many games, particular players hold positions of power within the game community. I argue that these players have greater than average social obligations as a result of that power.