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If a user gets a new high score in a game, should they be asked before having their score submitted to the leaderboard? Originally I was just going to submit their score to the leaderboard without prompting them, but a friend told me that it is preferred that the user be asked.


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I edited my answer as there is a way to avoid nagging users about data uploads that you could explore. – Coyote Sep 12 '12 at 14:36
up vote 6 down vote accepted

You should ask the user before publishing the high scores for 2 reasons:

  • Some users don't want their scores uploaded (by principle, or to avoid being spied on) even if it doesn't make any sense for most people.
  • Some countries have very strong data protection laws and you can get into trouble if you submit user data without user's permission, Even more so if you don't allow users to access their own data or to erase these data.

You can avoid asking the user's permission in some cases. For example if the user logged-in to a system, explicitly granting the permission to upload and use data. If you are using this system to submit data you have implicitly the right to do so. Some examples would be Apple's Game Center, Microsoft's Xbox Live, openfeint, crystal...

Otherwise you should always ask the user at least when he launches the game of when trying to upload the data for the first time.

edit: this answer by Marcks Thomas reminded me of another way of doing this. I worked with companies which automatically upload various anonymous usage data (not sure about high scores though) even if the user has not explicitly given his permission in game. This behavior is documented in the user agreement. But the user can opt-out, in the options there is a checkbox to disable that data upload. So at no point there are questions popping up about data uploads.

I think this is the least intrusive way of doing high scores. But it requires providing a user agreement and notifying the user about it at launch.

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer and this answer is no way legal advice.

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Always unless they choose to opt out. You should never publish something that can possibly be individually identifying without asking. For people like your friend simply put in a check box that says "Don't ask again" or something along those lines.

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ClassicThunder, thank you for the reply. What if the information collected cannot be traced back to a person, because the game never collects a user's name or email address. its just a profile that is used similarly to the original Zelda game. – Jose Martinez Sep 7 '12 at 1:58
"its just a profile" So most likely player's friends, coworkers, or family can trace the published information back to the player. Assume the player doesn't want people to know how he is spending his time unless he gives you permission to do so. – ClassicThunder Sep 7 '12 at 15:05

As far as legal issues go, the usual remarks apply. Laws are not universal, your mileage may vary etcetera, etcetera. If you are required to obtain the user's permission to publish his score, it doesn't follow you need to ask. Permission can be implied by simply playing the game, as long as the player is informed of this, for instance through your terms of service. Once again, one paragraph of legal advice is bound to cut corners all over the place.

Most answers so far have been focussing on these legal issues, but from a gaming perspective, there are very few reasons to pose the question whether scores should be submitted. Obviously, the less you bug the player, the better. Interrupting gameplay to register the user's preference adds no enjoyment to your game, regardless of which option the player would click. Assuming the score should or should not be submitted is intrinsicly better than prompting, but you risk getting it wrong.

By automatically submitting the high score, getting it wrong is not such a bad thing though. Players simply uninterested in competing on the leaderboard, will not be harmed by their own achievement being on there. After all, it might just as well have been someone elses. Other players may however still benefit from the score being on there, as it allows them to compete with it. The leaderboard will be more competitive and fairer; it is not limited to a non-representative selection.

Moreover, showing the leaderboard with the player's name on it, might awaken his interest to compete, even if he would not have posted his score, had he been given the option. Perhaps he realises his score was far better than expected, giving a sense of reward, or quite the opposite, letting the player know there is a lot of room for improvement. Perhaps he sees he has beaten a friend, or that he has been beaten by one, inspring him to play again. All experiences he would have otherwise missed out on. Worst case scenario: the player looks at the list and doesn't care at all.

A leaderboard can definitely make your game more interesting. If it does, you should probably just go ahead and get the player to participate. If it doesn't, you probably shouldn't even have one.

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if it is a simple username and score, there's no harm in that. If the username can trace back to something like their email or other personal info then i would ask. If you have an options menu you can have a choice in there, and when they create a profile on the game you can ask once which way they want it.

The less you pester them with it the better

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its just a profile name and score. there is no username or email address that can be traced back to. the profile name is similar to the profile name used in the original Zelda. – Jose Martinez Sep 7 '12 at 1:56
then id say it'd completely fine to do it without permission – TMP Sep 7 '12 at 4:50

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