Best Practice Principles
The ISGA’s Best Practice Principles provide guidance to the social games industry on consumer protection, accountability and transparency, and are one of the ISGA’s core activities. The Principles sit alongside ongoing multi-stakeholder dialogues around the world, which collectively aim to shape a consistent and complementary framework for the social games industry. The ISGA is committed to the continual evaluation and evolution of the Principles, as new understanding of social games and their impact emerges, and as social games themselves change.
Since mid-2016 the ISGA has started a beta programme for ISGA members and non-members to be certified against the ISGA Best Practice Principles. You can find further information about ISGA Best Practice Certification here.
The Principles sit alongside ongoing multi-stakeholder dialogues around the world, which collectively aim to shape a consistent and complementary framework for the social games industry. The ISGA is committed to the continual evaluation and evolution of the Principles, as new understanding of social games and their impact emerges, and as social games themselves change.
Best Practice Principles v.3
This third and current version of the Principle further extends our principles, first published in October 2013 and premised upon core values of consumer protection, accountability and transparency.
The updates have been made to reflect an increase in knowledge about social games thanks to the ISGA’s own research (please visit i-sga.org/research) and regulatory developments from around the world.
Taken together, our updates encompass:
- Adherence to applicable laws and regulations
- Social Games, transparency, mechanics and functionality
- Purchases and Payments
- Virtual items
The full text is below and can be downloaded here.
Principles for Providers of Social Games
Adherence to Applicable Laws and Regulations
- Social games operators and developers will abide by all applicable laws and regulations. Examples include laws and regulations covering consumer protection, competition, advertising, and privacy.
Social Games Transparency, Mechanics & Functionality
- In general, games operators should consider the average consumer who is reasonably well informed and reasonably observant and circumspect.
- For example, where a game is targeted at or designed for a particular group of consumers, such as children, it is desirable that the games operator assesses the game from the perspective of the average member of that group.
- Terms of service should be accessible to the player before they play the game.
- For example, casino style social games should specify that the games are intended for use by those 18 or older and/or provide advice to parents and teens on making smart choices online.
Social games should not lead players into believing they will be more successful at real-world activities. For example:
- Car driving simulators should not deliberately lead people to believe they are acquiring real-world driving skills.
- Action games should not deliberately lead people to believe they have developed real-world physical abilities.
- Casino style games should not deliberately lead players to believe they will be successful at real money gambling games.
Social games operators should make suitable support available to players in case of queries or complaints (e.g. e-mail, forum, phone number).
Purchases and Payments
- When players are offered the opportunity to make a payment within a game, it should be transparent.
- The cost of any games or items within games (in-game purchases) should be transparent to players.
- Where payment mechanisms are under the control of games operators, default settings should allow purchases to be made only with the player’s explicit consent. Players can choose to modify these settings.
- Where platforms dictate payment mechanisms, games operators will comply with the relevant platform’s payment policies and any applicable consumer laws.
- Games that are targeted at or designed for children should not contain direct exhortations to children to buy items in a game or to persuade an adult to buy items for them.
- Players are able to easily access a game’s privacy policies.
- Players are able to request deletion of their public profile from the game provider and the company should cease using their personal data upon request in accordance with applicable laws.
- Game operators should provide players with the option to choose whether they share their game activity publicly when playing on a social network.
- Advertisements should comply with all advertising laws and regulation.
- Games should not be advertised as ‘free’ where purchases are mandatory or unavoidable.
- Game operators should use advertising targeting tools where available, in order to target advertisements to the intended audience.
- When assessing marketing directed at children, games operators should take due account of the way messages are presented and of the context of those messages.
- Advertisements for casino style games should not be deliberately or explicitly directed at those aged below 18 years.
- A “virtual item” is any in-game item, currency, credit or virtual good that can be accumulated as a direct result of the outcome of the game or pre-purchased for use exclusively on the game platform.
- Virtual items cannot at any time, be exchanged for real money or items of tangible real world value.
- Social games operators do not facilitate or permit the trading of virtual items via platforms or third party websites.
- The above principles shall not apply to a reward program which is associated with: 1) participating in a game; or 2) purchasing virtual items -in both these cases provided that the reward is not linked in any way to the outcome of the game.