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Game Addiction

December 14, 2011

Discussion has recently arisen concerning the skinner box-isation of the commercial games industry and the ethical implications notions of games addition.
Specifically, academic and game developer Bennett Foddy has offered why addiction in games isn’t necessarily bad thing.
Likewise, Game Arena’s 5 Inch Floppy interviews thinkers including Aarseth and Bogost on the ethics of producing addictive games, considering the truth and myths behind this idea.

While addiction is a serious concern and its ethics within gaming should be discussed, such a conversation should be equally attentive to the issues of its own reportage. Highly emotive and constructed images of game addicted children are regularly employed to fuel fear of gaming (see below).

Lets look forward to a time when the Reefer Madness propaganda and emotional exploitation of this subject has been widely realised for the media manipulation that it is.

Child becomes Vader through games

I haven’t played this one.


Game Ethics – Homo Ludens as a Computer Game Designer and Consumer

September 2, 2011

Paper by Dr. Gordana Dodig-Crnkovic and Thomas Larsso

Play and games are among the basic means of expression in intelligent communication, influenced by the relevant cultural environment. Games have found a natural expression in the contemporary computer era in which communications are increasingly mediated by computing technology. The widespread use of e-games results in conceptual and policy vacuums that must be examined and understood. Humans involved in designing, administering, selling, playing etc. computer games encounter new situations in which good and bad, right and wrong, are not defined by the experience of previous generations. This article gives an account of the historical necessity of games, the development of e-games, their pros- and cons, threats and promises, focusing on the ethical awareness and attitudes of game developers

Perceptions of Corruption within “Professional Football”

June 1, 2011

Anyone with a passing knowledge of World Cup Football will be unsurprised by its latest scandals. ‘The World Game’ has a notoriously checkered past of bribery, corruption and match fixing. Such activity has become a regular fixture of the sport and appears to be intrinsic to the games hierarchy. But perhaps we spectators are observing at the game incorrectly, taking too literal a view on the layered interplay that the greater game offers. World Cup Football or Soccer, I suggest, operates at three levels of play.


The first level is the physical activity as played in stadiums, ovals, backstreets and parks worldwide. Its play is ordered by the seventeen codified laws upheld by the games governing body: FIFA. These codes cover everything from the game play, the shape of the ball, the amount of players, the duration of match and size of the field. Any one familiar with the game has at least a working knowledge of these rules.

Yet, through the creative interpretation of these rules comes a second, more strategic layer of play. It is well recognised that the games is not simply about what you can achieve lawfully, but equally about what you can get away with. Owing to FIFA’s official ‘Law Five’, which deems that only one referee has authority over the match, you can get away with quite a lot. For example, while handball, diving, kicking, tripping or charging an opponent are strictly forbidden, such acts regularly occur out-of-view of the referee and go unpunished. A referees’ decision is irreversible and will extend beyond the games duration. As a result, a player may be incorrectly issued with penalty cards that can affect future matches, even if video replay conclusively proves a decisions to be incorrect.

Despite ongoing calls from fans and officials to introduce video replay to correct such errors, FIFA has boldly opted to “keep the errors in” ruling out both instant AND post match video replay options.

Let the decision be in the hands of a man, not a machine. Sepp Blatter

Given the role of video replay in todays Rugby Union, Cricket, Basketball, Baseball, Tennis, and Ice Hockey, Formula One and Horse racing internationally, its exception in World Cup Soccer where it appears most sorely needed make its absence a curious anomaly, particularly in light of the sublime sums bet on and invested in the sport, and that the last two world cups have involved highly controversial incidents in which video replay would have dramatically affected the outcomes.

Scandals such as the 2009 revelation that over 200 games were rigged across Europe and the 2006 corruption involving collusion from some of the biggest figures and clubs in the games history, underscore the games desperate need for greater transparency.

“The credibility of the game is at stake” – Portugal coach, Carlos Queiroz

But these questionable decisions, both in-match and about the game, reveal a third and final level of play, also known as the corruption and bribery that increasingly appears integral to the games structure.

Certainly, the scandals keep the game well publicised and even lend it a criminal mystique. They turn no fans away. Despite the riots, high cost and low scores, and persistent corruption scandals, few sports ignite the passion of fans as much as soccer. The songs, the cheers the gasps of horror, the uselessly yelled accusations at ‘useless’ players and ‘blind’ referees.

It all reminds me of something I’ve seen elsewhere.

I’m reminded of myself as a young teen speechlessly watching a scene in which Rowdy Roddy Piper flagrantly distracted a referee while King Kong Bundy produced a metal object from his shorts and struck Hulk Hogan in the head. Hogan keeled over backwards, almost comically, bouncing hard on the canvas. Bundy strutted the mat with arrogant pride. Down, but not out, heroic Hogan fought to his feet, only to have Piper slam a plastic chair across his back while Bundy further distracted the referee with yet more nonsense. Hogan writhed in agony as the ref (blind it seems) continued to berate Bundy, while completely oblivious to the appalling injustice occurring behind him.

When soon after, I clicked that Professional Wrestling was not so much professional sport as theatre sport, I was neither shocked or upset. As with the Santa and Easter Bunny scandals that preceded them, at some level I had known all along. Indeed my naive complicity had helped prop the whole thing up.

Perhaps then, there is a case for World Cup Football aligning itself more comfortably with the likes of Professional Wrestling given its high degree of spectacle, its combination of athleticism and theatrical performance, and its mimicry of competitive sport. Perhaps the calls to cleanse the corruption are missing the point, and indeed the play of the game altogether.

Mr T Intervenes in the hopes of restoring common sense.url-15

The Implications of Robot Ethics

May 20, 2011

In South Korea developments continue towards a code of ethics for treatment of robots. Given that robots might have the same cyber-consciousness as video game characters, could we also eventually see a a code of ethics of how to treat game characters? Such an ethics could bring about the impossible situation of having violence in video games banned overnight. Perhaps instead, robots would have deliberately enhanced emotional consciousness, while game foes will have their consciousness stunted and therefore in some respect ethically killable. Certainly the development of robots ethics send ripples across a range of other ethical fields including the world of games. Read about the Code of Ethics to Prevent Android Abuse here.

Looking Back over the Ethics of Video Games

May 19, 2011

In 2006, Bit-tech’s game journo Ryan Garside put together this history of ethics of video games looking at some old game controversies, rating restrictions and even explored how games have bled into real life. An interesting introduction to the field.

“The fact that our troops may be using games to prepare for combat is not something that will cause concern amongst the majority. But what if a very different type of army starts to use the medium of video games as a way to ‘train’ their soldiers? Last year, radical racist producers Resistance Records developed a video game in which the object was to kill ethnic minorities. The game promotes all kinds of racism and is aimed at children, allowing them to play as the Ku-Klux-Klan whilst wondering round cities looking for people to string up. To complete the game the player must destroy Israeli leader Ariel Sharon.

Ethnic Cleansing is only the first in a series of games the producers plan to release. Where is the line drawn between inciting people to carry out acts of virtual mindless violence in Grand Theft Auto and inciting them to carry out acts of virtual mindless violence against minorities? Perhaps the only saving grace GTA has going for it is that it is at least indiscriminatly hostile!”

Read the full article from Bit-Tech here.

To Kill or Not to Kill Osama

May 9, 2011

Less than a week after Osama bin Laden was assassinated by a team of elite US Navy SEALS, Video gamers around the world have been given the chance to live out the deadly raid and even to pull the trigger themselves.

Using the wealth of contradictory information that has been officially released about the raid, Kuma Games has unscrupulously re-created the raid to kill Osama bin Laden right down to intricate details about the Pakistani compound he was assassinated in. This forms the plot of the latest episode of its larger Kuma War game, a series of Iraqi War games that recreates actual battles from the last decade of Middle Eastern conflicts. In addition to the Osama kill Mission Kuma War also allows the players to take part in other engagements such as the search and capture of Saddam Hussein and  the Death of al-Zarqawi.

Its interesting to compare Kuma War to the abandoned release of Six Days In Fallujah, a first person  battle shooter also based on an actual conflict from the invasion of Iraq. Unlike Osama kill Mission, the premise of Six Days In Fallujah was the subject of considerable controversy; with questions raised as to its appropriateness, especially given the fact that the true event the game is based upon was so recent. So much so that in 2009 the game company set to release it dropped the project at the 11th hour.

The criticism came from peace activists and war veterans alike. Reg Keys, father of slain Lance Corporal Thomas Keys, stated that “Considering the enormous loss of life in the Iraq War, glorifying it in a video game demonstrates very poor judgement and bad taste… These horrific events should be confined to the annals of history, not trivialized and rendered for thrill-seekers to play out… It’s entirely possible that Muslim families will buy the game, and for them it may prove particularly harrowing. Even worse, it could end up in the hands of a fanatical young Muslim and incite him to consider some form of retaliation or retribution.”

Tim Collins, a former lieutenant colonel of the 1st Battalion Royal Irish Regiment, shared a similar disposition. Collins stated, “It’s much too soon to start making video games about a war that’s still going on, and an extremely flippant response to one of the most important events in modern history. It’s particularly insensitive given what happened in Fallujah, and I will certainly oppose the release of this game. Despite its poor taste, its trivialization of the horrors of war and its proximity to actual violent events, there have been no protests over the bin Laden death game from either peace activists or war veterans as of yet. Stay tuned.

You can read more about the game here and here

Time for Ethical Game Design

April 23, 2011

“This is the time I’m least certain about the future of games that I’ve ever been in my entire life,” said Linden Labs CEO Rod Humble, at a sobering and soul searching talk he delivered earlier this week. Gamasutras Christian Nutt attended and you can find his write up of the discussion here.

“Taken that games are already in galleries, Humble said, “There’s a larger question — does art actually change people? Does it actually have an impact? Because if we’re going to be this massive art form then we’ve got to start thinking about what we’re doing.”

It’s not that games aren’t capable of being art — it’s that “the main problem is that we’re afraid of our critics,” he said, referring to detractors who speak out against the game industry. That’s because “There are many critics out there who we believe mean us harm,” and say things like “‘Yes, you can change people, and it’s for the worse.'”

500 hours of play is the target goal when you design an MMO, he pointed out. And in an experience like that, “We’re sitting in there, repeating the same mechanics again and again, with the game face” — the blank expression many have when playing games. “It frightens me the same way it frightens many of our critics.”

That said, “I think it’s extremely important to look at it and say how can we take responsibility as game creators. What games should we ethically build? If you are going to be influencing those [players] you have an enormous weight on your shoulders.”

Read the full article here