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The Tenth Annual Game Design Think Tank
Project Horseshoe 2015
horseshoe Group Report:
Obscene Player Names in Online Games
Participants: A.K.A. "Meta Rogue"
Nikki Graham, DeVry University  
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Problem Statement

“The Problem of Dickbutt-69”

Assumption: In online games, players expect and enjoy the ability to create a customized name.

Situation: When players are given the freedom to edit their publicly displayed nametags, some inevitably choose an obscene option. We consider this to be a problem in the event that other players within the game community (or would-be players) are not receptive to these names.

Example: Consider an online game where you fly a spaceship:

Solution Statement

Goal: This report explores the options available to game developers to discourage the selection of obscene names – and/or to minimize any negative effect on the player community.

Assumption: If a player community in an adult-oriented online game is accepting of “obscene names,” any negative effects are already minimized. This also serves as a marker to would-be players, helping them to make a determination on whether they would feel a sense of belonging within the community.

Typical Solutions

The Non-Solution: players are not allowed to edit their names at all.

  • Names are automatically generated and assigned with no player input.
  • Players can select a randomly generated name.
  • The Disney Solution: players select from pre-approved list of [Adjective, Adjective] Name.
    • Con: player freedom is limited.

The Classic Solution: obscene terms and phrases are automatically rejected in the system.

  • Names which include pre-rejected phrases are denied; players are forced to make a new selection.
  • Additional Options:
    • Obscene names can be reported by players to be addressed by in-game GMs (as below).
      • Con: requires significant menu infrastructure, but can be piggybacked on harassment reporting system.
    • Names are policed by in-game GMs; if flagged as obscene, a character rename is forced.
      • Con: has an ongoing personnel resource cost.

Proposed Solution Matrix

Delay Naming: players are not able to edit their name during the character creation process.

  • Once a designated level is reached, a player can participate in a rename ceremony:
    • The player’s new, custom-edited name will be announced in a town or safe location.
    • Other players in the community are rewarded for attending these ceremonies with currency or resources.


  • Introduces social pressure to the naming selection process.
  • There is no (time) pressure to select in order to get started playing the game; players can consider their decision.
  • Delayed naming means players have investment in their character and may be more likely to take naming seriously.
  • The ability to rename is earned (by virtue of playing) and is literally a reward for the player.

Roleplaying Name: before players are able to edit their name, they must select a roleplaying name.

  • The Non-Solution / Disney Solution approach is utilized; players are able to select from pre-approved list of adjectives and/or select their name using a random name generator.


  • Allows for delayed naming: players are still able to use a non-generic name before earning the rename ceremony.
  • Improved immersion: introduces a menu option for players who do not ever want to see player-edited names

Community Vote: an up-vote / down-vote system allows the community a collective commentary on player names.


  • Community-set threshold: the player community sets the bar for what is considered obscene and appropriate.
  • Minimize negative effects: introduces a menu option for players who want to hide any name that they down-vote, or hide all names that hit a specified threshold of community down-votes.

Menu Settings:

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1. Introduction
2. Workgroup Reports Overview
3. Generative Systems, Meaningful Cores
4. 7 Amazing Things You Can Do With Words: Qualities of a Massively Popular, Successful Text Experience
5. Of Minds and Mobs: Game Design for Shared Avatars and Other Weird Collectives
6. Designing Games for the Growing 35+ Market
7. Creating Emotionally Safe Workplaces in Game Development
8. The Impending Singularity and How to Use It
9. Exploring Metagames and Metagame Systems
10. Contrary Game Design: Subverting Player Expectations
11. Ranking and Rating Systems
12. Augmented Reality Theater As An Entertainment Destination
13. Best Practices for Design to Communicate with Other Disciplines
14. Obscene Player Names in Online Games
15. Schedule & Sponsors