The recent update that rolled out on Google Play made a number of game developers uneasy. The update made it a requirement that developers display their physical address on the pages of their apps.
Failure to display the address means that Google may restrict the developer's ability to update and even publish new apps. If the developer further refuses to comply with Google's new rule then any previous apps may be removed from the Play store indefinitely.
This new policy is in accordance with, according to Google, "consumer protection laws and current best-practices, ensuring a more transparent and positive experience for users."
The worry among some developers is that having their address displayed on Google Play's product pages increases the chances of them receiving harassment outside of the confines of online interaction.
However, there were other developers who played down this perceived increase in the chance of a developer being harassed.
We decided to dive into the debate by finding out what, if any, concerns our Indie Mavens had regarding Google Play's policy update. We also wanted to find out if they felt harassment was a problem for them as small developers or not.
So, we asked them the following two-part question:
Does Google Play's latest policy update, which requires developers to show their physical address, bring you any concerns of harassment or similar?
Further, do you feel that, as solo or small developers, harassment is a bigger problem for you than it might be for larger companies?
I definitely think there are some causes for concern here. A lot of people don't have the luxury of an anonymous "office" address and are working from home so this could open them up to unwanted attention.
I think abuse is a natural consequence of having any kind of public persona: although larger organisations can put some barriers in place anyone who is known in any capacity is still a potential target.
The change for showing a physical address doesn't actually seem to matter. The problem is that if you own a business, you're already really easy to look up.
Hell, I think if you make anything creatively, you're easy to track down.
At worst, this just takes out a single step. Harassment is definitely a bigger threat if you're not a huge company. A huge company can (and will) merely ignore you.
I guess iTunes added something like this for Korea. Yet even there you can turn off showing the physical address. Anyway that is as bad as it may sound.
That's why I still don't have a Google account. When I will be up to getting one it'll be a company address.
This is not a huge concern for us. We are already registered with our government, which publishes our office address and the home addresses of business owners.
For small companies, risk of harassment is reduced, but the severity of the damage is greater.Dan Menard
There is definitely a potential for harassment, but I don't think Google is changing the equation very much by displaying the address on Google Play. If you take part in anything that is a matter of public record (like owning a business), your address is no longer secret.
In general, I think the more high profile you are the more negative attention you will inevitably receive. As a small company, we haven't had a problem with harassment yet, but as we grow it will probably come up. I'm not sure how large companies deal with the problem, but I'm certain that strategies exist.
One thing to keep in mind is that large companies will have the resources to deal with the problem, while small companies or individuals who are the target of harassment won't. The risk of harassment happening is reduced for small companies, but the severity of the damage is greater.
Jon's focus is on content, working from the initial outline, through the development of the authoring tools, to the writing and scripting of final content.
Previously, Jon was a lead designer at Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, and before that a secondary school teacher, so he loves to talk. He's a published author of short stories and over a decade's worth of award-winning interactive fiction.
Plenty of small developers work from home, and the wider games community has demonstrated itself to contain some real nutters. So, yeah, it's pretty unfortunate. However, it's not new - anyone running a mailing list has already had to give out their addresses.
So, on balance, I think I agree with Paul's comment above; having a public persona is necessarily somewhat risky: it's sad, but true. And the cost of that is worse for smaller developers because they have less of a safety net.
In my view, it's not a concern for me in Egypt because nobody in Egypt buys my games or cares about game developers.
I just have to be careful about what I am going to release.Ahmed Samea
And I don't think anyone will come from any other country to harass me if they didn't like the game, or just to harass me, but I think it's something I would definitely worry about if I lived in another country.
There may be a concern for me, however, if I made a game about something that was against my society, like talking about religion, or sex, or drugs, or sexual identity.
I would be more afraid to release it on the market because some people over here are very hostile, and they don't accept any person different from themselves. So they may harass me or may hurt me in that, and so I would be worrying about my physical safety.
I just have to be careful about what I am going to release.