Applied Ethics Game Design: Some Practical Guidelines

Abstract This chapter presents a case study of the design and development of two original ethics games entitled Veritas University and Knights of Astrus. Through this case study and a review of relevant literature, the authors explore the content
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  Ethics and Game Design: Teaching Values through Play Karen Schrier Columbia University, USA David Gibson University of Vermont, USA Hershey • New York InformatIon scIence reference  Director of Editorial Content: Kristin Klinger Director of Book Publications: Julia MosemannAcquisitions Editor: Lindsay JohnstonDevelopment Editor: Christine BuftonTypesetter: Jamie SnavelyQuality control: Jamie SnavelyCover Design: Lisa Tosheff Printed at: Yurchak Printing Inc.Published in the United States of America byInformation Science Reference (an imprint of IGI Global)701 E. Chocolate AvenueHershey PA 17033Tel: 717-533-8845Fax: 717-533-8661E-mail: cust@igi-global.comWeb site: © 2010 by IGI Global. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored or distributed inany form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, without written permission from the publisher. Product or company names used in this set are for identication purposes only. Inclusion of the names of the products or  companies does not indicate a claim of ownership by IGI Global of the trademark or registered trademark.Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication DataEthics and game design : teaching values through play / Karen Schrier andDavid Gibson, editors.p. cm.Includes bibliographical references and index. Summary: "This book addressing an emerging eld of study, ethics and gamesand answers how we can better design and use games to foster ethical thinking and discourse in classrooms"--Provided by publisher.ISBN 978-1-61520-845-6 (hardcover) -- ISBN 978-1-61520-846-3 (ebook) 1. Video games--Social aspects. 2. Video games--Moral and ethical aspects. 3. Video games--Design. 4. Video games--Psychological aspects. 5. Video games--Philosophy.I. Schrier, Karen. II. Gibson, David, 1950 Aug. 27-GV1469.34.S52E86 2010794.8--dc222009040565British Cataloguing in Publication DataA Cataloguing in Publication record for this book is available from the British Library.All work contributed to this book is new, previously-unpublished material. The views expressed in this book are those of theauthors, but not necessarily of the publisher.  236 Copyright © 2010, IGI Global. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of IGI Global is prohibited. Chapter 15 Applied Ethics Game Design: Some Practical Guidelines Rudy McDaniel University of Central Florida, USA Stephen M. Fiore University of Central Florida, USA INtRoduCtIoN Designing games for education presents a number of challenges arising from the need to seamlesslyincorporate learning content into an engaging in-teractive experience. Designing games for teachingabout ethics is perhaps a more complex processgiven the inherent ambiguity that arises when thereare not necessarily “right” or “wrong” answers andresponses can be largely contextual and based on personal value systems as well as situational factors.Such is the challenge associated with the questionof learning in applied ethics, a field attemptingto more directly address social problems from amoral standpoint via the philosophical method(e.g., Bayertz, 2003). These challenges motivateour chapter, and we use them as a stepping off  point for the following set of questions devised tohelp bound the complexity inherent in developinggames for applied ethics: ABStRACt This chapter presents a case study of the design and development of two srcinal ethics games entitled Veritas University and Knights of Astrus. Through this case study and a review of relevant literature,the authors explore the content creation of, and theoretical rationale for, the design and development of ethics games. Both games use the Adobe Flash® platform and are geared toward an undergraduate student audience as casual games to be completed in a few hours of gameplay. To ground the develop-ment of these games, the authors review contemporary research on identity, cognition, and self in relationto video game environments; they also argue for the need for further research and development in thisarea. From this literature base and their applied design experiences, the authors offer six guidelines as practical suggestions for aspiring ethics game developers. DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-845-6.ch015  237  Applied Ethics Game Design What types of design approaches are most • useful for teaching or exploring ethicalcontent?How does one begin the task of design- • ing an applied ethics game with limitedresources?Is it better to start with a strong story, a ca- •  pable technology base, or fun and interest-ing gameplay mechanics?Do the core gameplay ideas come from ex- • isting ethical scenarios that can be trans-lated into a more interactive form?Should ethics games use pre-developed • scripts, or include some mechanism for  players to author their own ethical scenari-os based on issues from their own lives?How can we conceptualize the notion of  •  player identity so that actions and behav-iors in the virtual domain are also useful inthe real world?In this chapter we recount the lessons learnedfrom our own experiences in building two differ-ent types of ethics game projects to explore thesequestions. We hope these experiences will offer useful information and some practical guidelinesfor other ethics game authors in various stages of conceptualization and development. Before ex- ploring our case studies, we present an argumentfor games as useful vehicles for teaching ethics. BACKGRouNd: A BRIEFARGuMENt FoR APPlIEdEthICS GAMES The idea that computer games can be viable toolsfor learning has been discussed for several decades,starting with the often-cited work of Malone (1981)and his research with game variants and intrinsi-cally motivating game features. Since then, gameshave progressed rapidly into forms that would belargely unrecognizable by some of the pioneeringvideo games researchers in the 1980s. Moderngames—from role-playing games to first-personshooters - now offer a much more visceral andimmediate experience for the player, especially inlight of the new affordances allowed by the first- person perspective. For example, Dickey (2005)writes, “the shift from an outside orthographic perspective to a first-person agent embedded inthe game space marks a shift in moving the player from outside of the game into becoming part of the gaming environment” (p. 71). From this, it is plausible that games with ethical dimensions aremore likely to be impactful through the use of these new immersive technologies. We observeethical aspects of gaming when players are askedto consider the principles of morality or experi-ment with different value systems as they play.These aspects materialize through players’ deci-sion making in modern games such as the Grand Theft Auto (Rockstar Games, 1997-2009),  Fallout   (Black Isle Studios and Bethesda Softworks,1997-2009), and  Fable (Lionhead Studios, 2005-2008) series. Many of these games are explicitlydesigned with multiple pathways (and not alwaysa simple “good path/evil path” binary dichotomy)to success so as to encourage players’ nonlinear explorations, feelings of authorship, and desiresfor replayability. unexpre terrir Despite the commercial success of the gameslisted above, applied ethics games remain largelyunexplored as tools for teaching for learning.This is unfortunate because they potentiallyoffer rich, personalized scenarios for exploringhumanity in new and interesting ways. As Bogost(2007) notes, video games make claims not aboutwhat it is like to be a machine, but rather aboutwhat it is like to be human in different types of unusual situations and embodied circumstances(e.g., as a Greek god, as a plane crash survivor,or as an anthropomorphized hedgehog). Despiteits technological underpinnings, then, the act of  playing video games is fundamentally a human  238  Applied Ethics Game Design activity, and one with various social dimensionsthat encourage different types of interactions (e.g.,human vs. computer, human vs. human, humancooperating with computer, human cooperatingwith other humans). Given this inherent property,it only makes sense that the computational toolsused so seamlessly in business and entertainmentmight also be useful in a variety of ways to ex-amine more humanistic issues such as the natureof being human or the exploration of personalvalue systems.Although not always expressly designed asgames, we are beginning to see examples of thesehumanistic and reflective tools through initia-tives such as the Virtual Philosopher  , a tool for Socratic exploration and inquiry used in onlinecourses (Hornsby & Maki, 2008; see also the Virtual Philosopher  web site at Here,interaction is employed at a rudimentary level, but one which still offers a pedagogically soundmeans to enhance the understanding of ethicaldecision making. Despite the potential of gamesfor use in this domain, only in the past few yearsdo we see video games beginning to be seriouslyconsidered in traditional humanistic areas such asthe study and consideration of ethics.Given the potential of first-person perspec-tive to enable learning via exploration of thesealternative pathways, a particularly interestingquestion is whether in-game playing can influ-ence out-of-game behaviors. Can virtual experi-ences be constructed that encourage ontologicalcontemplation both inside and outside of virtualworlds? Or, to get to the heart of the matter: ismaking video games to teach applied ethics afeasible and worthwhile pursuit? Ineracie Risk The rich interactivity of games and their poten-tial for encouraging players to take risks providecompelling arguments for using games as toolsfor teaching about applied ethics. Many scholarsacknowledge that interactivity is an essential property of games that makes them unique as procedural representations of the world. Theserepresentations are co-authored by players invarious ontological configurations (Murray, 1997;Ryan, 2002; Bogost, 2007). As participatory and procedural representations of an authored worldwith boundaries—and some degree of freedomwith which to explore or test those boundaries— games allow players to participate in, rather than just witness, the unfolding of actions with ethicalsignificance. These games function in the “me-thetic,” rather than “mimetic,” sense (Huizinga,1955, p. 15). Simply put, gamers want to do, not just watch.Video game players also often have emotionalconnections to their games and the gameplay expe-rience. As participants, they have vested interestsin and connections to the virtual characters theyinhabit and the environmental objects they interactwith. Arguably, these subjective factors can makeethical principles more relevant and memorablethan simply reading about these concepts in anethics textbook or working through case studieson a worksheet. Furthermore, games offer safegrounds for exploration under the learning prin-ciple of the “psychosocial moratorium” (Gee,2007, p.59), a term borrowed from Eric Erikson(1968) to describe an environment in which theconsequences of risk-taking are minimized. AsRouse (2005) notes in his analysis of the oft-discussed game Grand Theft Auto III  (Rockstar Games, 2001), the game is successful becauseit allows players to explore taboo activities ina safe environment. While many people wouldnever do these things in the real world, he notes,the game-world encourages players to take risks.Rouse asks, “in the safe context of a game-worldwhere the worst consequence is having to start your game over, who wouldn’t want to try it out?” (p.476). Opportunities for risk-taking, trial-and-error exploration, and emotional engagement are all
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