Game companies are constantly collecting data on their players. Gamers know they are guinea pigs in giant research projects and, generally, they are ok with that. But a recent survey sent by Riot Games to players with “inappropriate” summoner names is prompting complaints that the company has gone too far.
Players whose who names are deemed inappropriate either by a fellow player or by Riot will find their names changed to a temporary name such as tempname123 or, in the case of one player, “SomehowHence.” Recently, Riot began offering people afflicted with temporary names the opportunity to fill out a survey in exchange a free name change. (Name changes cost 1300 RP or about $10.)
Questions on the survey were taken from a mix of sources including the “Narcissistic Personality Inventory” and a Risk and Resiliency Survey that has been used to assess juvenile justice programs in Texas.
In the survey, gamers were asked to choose between the following statements:
I really like to be the center of attention.
It makes me uncomfortable to be the center of attention.
I am no better or no worse than most people.
I think I am a special person.
Everybody likes to hear my stories.
Sometimes I tell good stories.
I usually get the respect that I deserve.
I insist upon getting the respect that is due me.
I don’t mind following orders.
I like having authority over people.
I like to be the center of attention.
I prefer to blend in with the crowd.
I always know what I am doing.
Sometimes I am not sure of what I am doing.
I know that I am good because everyone keeps telling me so.
When people compliment me I sometimes get embarrassed.
I try not to be a show-off.
I aim not to show off if I got the chance.
Gamers were also asked about their behavior during the last seven days, and if they had done something—gotten angry, teased someone or encouraged people to fight—between zero and six times.
Though the survey is optional, it has made some gamers uncomfortable. In a discussion on Reddit, people wondered if parents knew that the survey was being sent to their children. Did it comply with ethical guidelines for such research? And what is Riot intending to do with the information?
Some suggested that the survey was a subtle attempt to modify gamer behavior. League of Legions 67-million-member community is notoriously toxic, and bad behavior can correlate with inappropriate name choices. By making gamers take the survey, play 50 games, and take it again, perhaps Riot is hoping to make players more conscious of their behavior, some Reddit members speculated.
Riot game designers and social scientists have been trying to figure out how to introduce structure and governance into an online world where it has not previously existed. The company has been public about some of its earlier efforts. It is needs to clarify the goals of this survey and how the data will be used.