In historical multiplayer gaming, there is something unique that so few other genres experience: in-game role-playing. Players in War of Rights taking up arms for the Confederacy may lean into their role, damning the Yankee opposition. Generally, it’s all in good fun and simply an attempt to elevate each match beyond the core gameplay experience. However, there are bound to be those players that take it a step too far and use the video game setting as an excuse to spew vitriol about other races and people.
As the developer of a historical multiplayer game, you may question what your role is in moderating role-playing within the digital world. Is it your job to step in when players take it too far? And what, exactly, should one consider “too far?” You don’t want to be accused of censorship, especially in a time when some feel there’s an ongoing war against free speech. But you also don’t want players to think you don’t have their best interest.
To help understand where you may want to think about stepping in, let’s consider when Rockstar removed “transphobic content” from Grand Theft Auto V. In April 2022, a Reddit user noticed specific content had been removed from the game’s PS5 and Xbox Series X|S versions. Per Rockstar, it had listened to the LGBTQ+ community and removed content deemed “transphobic.” While not everyone was pleased with the decision, some felt the game’s representation of trans people could perpetuate stereotypes and fuel hate for members of the LGBTQ+ community.
And that’s really what you have to gauge when you’re moderating how players role-play in your online space – is what’s happening or being said in the game potentially harmful or hateful? If it could fuel hate toward a specific gender or ethnicity, it may be time to jump in and remove problematic players. Your role is to do what’s best for your players while delivering an engaging and entertaining historical multiplayer experience.
If your players are obviously in character, and the dialogue isn’t intentionally disparaging or damaging to a specific group of people, it’s likely safe to let them continue role-playing. The key is not to censor history but also not allow it to become a hall pass for racism and bigotry.
Of course, how you opt to moderate your multiplayer game is up to you. While you definitely want to consider curbing hate speech, as any developer should, you may fall into the school of “if it’s historically authentic, it shouldn’t be censored.” But do note that mentality can come with consequences, and players may start to leave your game for titles that are a little less lax.