Learnings From The Case of Maple Refugees: A Story of Loot Boxes, Probability Disclosures, and Gamer Consumer Activism

Solip Park, Maarten Denoo, Eva Grosemans, Elena Petrovskaya, Yaewon Jin, Leon Y. Xiao

Research output: Conference Article in Proceeding or Book/Report chapterArticle in proceedingsResearchpeer-review

Abstract

The article synthesises what we learned from reviewing the player activism of the “Maple refugee” incident and applies the insights to the European video game industry and commercial context. The Maple Refugee incident was perhaps one of the most disruptive video game incidents that occurred in South Korea in recent years. It saw tens of thousands of Korean players from the game Maple Story (Nexon, 2003) mobilised in unprecedented online and offline protests in Spring 2021. Together with players from other free-to-play (F2P) games, Maple Story players rallied against the industry norms of monetising with loot boxes and the industry self-regulatory approach to probability disclosures to address potential harms. This culminated in the social phenomenon of the proxy activism method of ’truck protests,’ rallies of crowdfunded rented trucks displaying protest messages instead of people mass-gathering in public during the COVID-19 pandemic. Based on the English timeline of the incident collated by Park et al. (2023), we dive deeper into the case with a multidisciplinary group of experts from game studies, law, and human-computer interaction and highlight various issues present in this case: the regulation of loot boxes and probability disclosures, the social pillars of player activism, player trust and theorycrafting, and game production. The paper contributes to the deepening of the industry’s understanding of F2P game business while diversifying the Western-centric discourse of the game research landscape by calling for further cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary inquiries into current video game issues.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 26th International Academic Mindtrek Conference (Mindtrek '23)
Number of pages278
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery
Publication dateOct 2023
Pages267
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2023

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