Job description

While multiplayer games are popular and often beneficial (e.g., helping players stay connected with friends and family, and supporting social wellbeing outcomes), they also frequently involve negative and harmful behaviours of players, including abusive communications (e.g., harassment, verbal abuse, and flaming), often summarized as “toxic” behaviours. Despite general agreement about the dangers and problems of toxic behaviour, it has not been solved and instead has become more problematic and widespread.

In this PhD project, you contribute to combating toxic behaviours and harassment in multiplayer games and online environments through development of tools, systems, algorithms, and AI approaches. This involves a variety of possible directions, potentially allowing for taking into consideration your preference and background. 
In this position, you will:

  • conduct a literature survey to understand the current state of research about social interactions and toxicity in games;
  • help better understand where, why, and how toxicity occurs;
  • examine the needs and potential contributions of game communities, gaming personalities, and game developers for combating toxicity;
  • design and implement tools and algorithms to combat toxicity and its effects, e.g., to predict toxicity with AI methods, visualize effects to perpetrators, and support targets of toxicity;
  • experimentally validate the effects of the interventions;
  • disseminate findings from research in academic publications and other venues.

In addition to research, you are involved in teaching activities within the department of Information and Computing Sciences. Teaching activities include supporting senior teaching staff, conducting tutorials, and supervising student projects and theses.


You have a strong interest in online environments and multiplayer games and in combating toxicity and harassment. Next to that we would like you to bring the following:

  • a Master’s degree in Human-Computer Interaction or a related field (e.g., computer science, Games and Media Technology, information science, artificial intelligence, interaction design, (applied) psychology);
  • a strong background in the design and implementation of interactive systems;
  • excellent English communication skills (written and spoken);
  • previous experience with game development tools (e.g., Unity), machine learning frameworks (e.g., scikit-learn), and conducting user studies and experiments is a plus.


What we offer:

  • a position for 5 years;
  • a full-time gross salary that starts at €2,541 and increases to €3,247 per month (scale P of the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities (CAO));
  • 8% holiday bonus and 8.3% end-of-year bonus;
  • a pension scheme, partially paid parental leave, and flexible employment conditions external link based on the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities.

In addition to the employment conditions laid down in the CAO for Dutch Universities, Utrecht University has a number of its own arrangements. For example, there are agreements on professional development, leave arrangements and sports. We also give you the opportunity to expand your terms of employment via the Employment Conditions Selection Model. This is how we like to encourage you to continue to grow.

For more information, please visit working at the Faculty of Science 

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About the organisation

You will join the Multimedia 

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 group at the Department of Information and Computing Sciences 

external link. You will be working closely with other members in this research group, other research groups within and outside of the faculty, and collaborators from outside of Utrecht University. As the research topic also is related to the Utrecht Center for Game Research external link, the AI & Media Lab external link, the focus area of Governing the Digital Society external link, and the research theme Dynamics of Youth external link, this allows for many, interdisciplinary collaborations.

At the Faculty of Science 

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, there are 6 departments to make a fundamental connection with: Biology, Chemistry, Information and Computing Sciences, Mathematics, Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Physics. Each of these is made up of distinct institutes that work together to focus on answering some of humanity’s most pressing problems. More fundamental still are the individual research groups – the building blocks of our ambitious scientific projects. Find out more about us 

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Utrecht University 

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 is a friendly and ambitious university at the heart of an ancient city. We love to welcome new scientists to our city – a thriving cultural hub that is consistently rated as one of the world’s happiest cities. We are renowned for our innovative interdisciplinary research and our emphasis on inspirational research and excellent education. We are equally well-known for our informal atmosphere and the can-do mentality of our people. This lively and inspiring academic environment attracts professors, researchers and PhD candidates from all over the globe, making both the University and the Faculty of Science a vibrant international and wonderfully diverse community.

Additional information

If you have any questions that you’d like us to answer, please contact: Julian Frommel 

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, via email 

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Do you have a question about the application procedure? Then please send an email to 

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Everyone deserves to feel at home at our university. We welcome employees with a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives. If you have the expertise and the experience to excel in this role, then simply respond via the “Apply now” button!
Please enclose:

  • your letter of motivation;
  • your curriculum vitae (including your MSc course list and a list of your publications, if applicable);
  • the contact details of at least two references
  • a portfolio of research, design, or development projects is beneficial (e.g., as link to online portfolio)

If this specific opportunity isn’t for you, but you know someone else who may be interested, please forward this vacancy to them.

Some connections are fundamental – Be one of them

The application deadline is 11 July 2022.



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