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31 July 2023

AI and games – 2 of 6 Insights

A practical guide to AI ethics and accountability in video games

Desideria-Alexia Pohl looks at how to help ensure ethical use of AI in games.


Artificial intelligence has long been an integral part of modern video game development, enhancing gameplay experiences by introducing immersive and innovative features. However, the use of AI algorithms in video games also raises important ethical considerations as AI becomes increasingly sophisticated. This article explores the legal aspects of AI ethics and accountability in video games and provides a best practice checklist for developers and publishers.

Bias and fairness in AI algorithms

AI algorithms used in video games have the potential to perpetuate bias and unfairness, both intentionally and unintentionally, for example by generating characters which show racist, sexist or violent behaviour. To avoid harmful stereotypes or encouraging negative (player) behaviour, think about:

  • Discrimination and equality: ensure that AI algorithms do not discriminate against individuals based on protected characteristics such as race, gender, or religion. Implement measures to address potential biases in AI decision-making processes, especially in multiplayer video games where fairness and equality are crucial.
  • Data bias and training: examine the data used to train AI algorithms and mitigate biases that may arise from skewed or incomplete data sets. Implement robust data collection and validation processes to ensure fairness in AI-generated content, character abilities, and gameplay mechanics.

Transparency and explainability

The lack of transparency and explainability in AI algorithms can raise legal concerns related to consumer rights, privacy, and accountability more widely. Infringements could lead to fines by regulators, not to mention reputational damage. As a developer or publisher, you should address the following considerations:

  • User consent and data privacy: obtain informed user consent for collecting and utilising personal data in AI algorithms. Comply with applicable data protection laws and clearly communicate data collection and usage practices (what type of data is processed and why, what is it used for and how long is it stored?) to users. Provide options for players to opt out of data collection if the collection and processing is based on their consent.
  • Algorithmic transparency: strive for transparency in AI algorithms by providing users with understandable explanations of how AI-driven features function within the video game. This helps build trust and ensures users can make informed decisions about their engagement with AI systems.

Responsibility and accountability

You must take responsibility for the actions and consequences of AI algorithms deployed in video games. Key legal aspects to consider include:

  • User safety: prioritise user safety when implementing AI-driven features. As AI algorithms lead to increasingly realistic video gaming experiences, the risk for potential addiction is higher than ever. Ensure that AI algorithms do not cause harm or pose risks to players' physical or mental wellbeing. Implement safety measures, age-appropriate content filtering, and effective moderation systems that encourage healthy video gaming habits, such as pop-up windows or notifications for the players to take breaks.
  • Consumer protection: comply with consumer protection laws by providing accurate and transparent information about AI-driven features, in-game purchases, and potential risks associated with AI-generated content. Consumer protection organisations regularly file legal actions for violation of consumer protection rights. Be mindful of topics like dark or deceptive patterns.
  • Liability and legal consequences: understand potential legal consequences related to AI-driven features. Mitigate liability risks by conducting regular audits, monitoring AI systems, and promptly addressing any issues or harm caused by AI algorithms.

Regulations and the role of governments

To ensure ethical AI practices in video games, governments and regulatory bodies are increasingly focusing on implementing laws and guidelines. The EU's draft AI Act, will be one of the world’s first comprehensive AI laws once adopted. You should be aware of the following regulatory aspects:

  • Compliance with existing regulations: understand and comply with existing laws and regulations governing data protection, consumer rights, and fairness in AI algorithms. Familiarise yourself with regional and national legislation that may apply to AI-driven video game development.
  • Stay informed about emerging regulations: stay updated on the evolving regulatory landscape related to AI ethics and accountability. Engage in industry discussions and contribute to the development of responsible AI standards.
  • Proactive ethical measures: implement ethical guidelines and responsible AI frameworks within your development process, even in the absence of specific regulations. This helps ensure compliance with emerging standards and demonstrates a commitment to ethical practices.

Where does this lead us?

AI ethics and accountability in video games are essential considerations for you when you are seeking to contribute to the creation of responsible and inclusive gaming experiences. By addressing issues of bias, fairness, transparency, and responsibility, you can mitigate potential legal risks and build trust with players. Furthermore, compliance with regulations and proactive ethical measures help grow a positive and sustainable gaming ecosystem.

A checklist to help you foster ethical AI practices in your video games:

  • Assess bias and fairness: regularly evaluate AI algorithms for potential biases and unfairness, taking steps to mitigate them.
  • Obtain user consent and protect data privacy: ensure valid user consent for data collection and storage, adhering to relevant data protection laws.
  • Strive for transparency: provide understandable explanations of AI-driven features and mechanics to promote transparency and user understanding.
  • Prioritise user safety: implement safety measures and effective moderation systems to protect users from harm.
  • Comply with consumer protection laws: adhere to consumer protection regulations by providing accurate information and transparent communication about AI-driven features and potential risks.
  • Monitor AI systems and address issues: conduct regular audits, monitor AI systems for potential harm, and promptly address any issues or risks that may arise.
  • Stay informed and engage in industry discussions: keep up to date with emerging regulations and participate in industry discussions to contribute to responsible AI practices.

You can read more about issues relating to the use of AI in games here.

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