Challenges of Designing Consent: Consent Mechanics in Video Games as Models for Interactive User Agency

Nguyen, Josef; Ruberg, Bo

This paper argues for a conceptual framework that treats user consent in interactive technologies as a design challenge necessitating careful, culturally-informed consideration. We draw on recent work in HCI as well as queer and feminist theory that understands consent as rooted in negotiating agency in order to frame our exploration of unique difficulties and potential solutions to meaningful opportunities for user consent in the design of computational technologies. Through a critical analysis of three video games that offer different models of consent-each of which communicates different values through its design-we introduce the concept of consent mechanics. Consent mechanics describe designed interactions that allow players to consent to or opt out of in-game experiences, often those related to sexuality or intimacy. Here, we approach video games as windows onto design considerations surrounding interactive technologies more broadly, suggesting crucial questions and tactics for how to design user agency ethically into computational systems.