Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Ethics in Games: Cfp

From Karsten Weber and the e-journal IRIE (International Review of Information Ethics), a call for papers on ethics on electronic games:

The Ethics of E-Games
Call for Papers for Vol. 4 (02/2005)

- Deadline for abstracts: July 30, 2005
- Notification of acceptance to authors: September 15, 2005
- Deadline for full chapters: October 30, 2005
- Publication: December, 2005


Computer-based or e-games, in both standalone and networked incarnations
(including “Massive Multiplayer Online Games” or MMOGs), represent one
of the most popular – and an economically profitable – uses of ICTs and
CMC in the contemporary world. Such games not only simulate a range of
human social interactions, from building (perhaps utopian) societies to
historical and fantasy warfare of every age: the games further occasion
and catalyze a range of human interactions that rightly inspire research
from a variety of disciplines and specialties. Especially violent games
(e.g., Quake, Doom, Grand Theft Auto III, and others) have generated
some critical discussion, ranging from “moral panics” in popular media
to social science investigations into possible effects and consequences
of participating in such games. But e-games represent a relatively
neglected subject in Information Ethics. At the same time, however, if
broader discussion of e-games is to include responsible and informed
ethical reflection, much more critical reflection from the various
perspectives of Information Ethics upon the multiple dimensions of
e-games and game-playing is needed. Hence this special issue of IRIE
calls for such critical ethical reflection.

Possible Topics and Questions

1. The Rules – and thus Ethics – of Play

While much has been written about potential psychological and social
consequences of e-games, very little academic research has focused on
the ethics of e-games. The ethical questions and issues here, however,
are many – for example:
A. What ethics – if any – may be expected of gamers (e.g., honesty,
fairness, respect, integrity - see: Code of Ethics
B. On the contrary, is it ethically justified to suspend such ethical
expectations within specific games (e.g., Grand Theft Auto III) –
precisely because these are “just a game,” i.e., a kind of psychological
and/or social exercise that, like Carneval and other traditional events
that temporarily invert prevailing social norms, may have cathartic
and/or other beneficent effects?
C. Are there ethical norms to be expected of game designers – e.g.,
avoiding designs that intentionally or inadvertently reinforce
questionable (if not dangerous and unethical) stereotypes regarding
gender, ethnic and national identities, etc.? Or is anything justified
as long as it sells in the marketplace?
D. How do different cultures shape and shade these ethical questions and
responses? For example, are concerns with illicit sexuality in games
primarily only an issue for U.S. (puritanical) parents, while European
parents are more concerned about violence, while parents in Asian
countries are concerned about …? Do different cultures understand the
role of games differently – and thus, the ethical questions and ways of
responding to these questions in different ways?
E. Additional questions / issues?

2. Virtue Ethics and Ethics of Care

E-games, especially in their online versions, bring together
participants from around the globe. A specific approach to the ethics of
e-Games invokes virtue ethics – e.g., in Aristotelian and/or Confucian
traditions – to ask the question, what human excellences and potentials
are fostered by our playing such games (e.g., Coleman 2001)?
Contemporary feminist ethics, including an ethics of care (e.g., as
developed by Nel Noddings) would also raise critical questions regarding
what we learn and develop – specifically, what capacities for caring, if
any – as we play such games.
What would such ethical analyses suggest to us regarding contemporary
games? Are these analyses legitimate to use – and/or do they beg several
questions regarding the nature of games, gamers, and game-playing?

[Coleman, Kari. 2001. Android Arete: Toward a Virtue Ethic for
Computational Agents, Ethics and Information Technology, 3 (4): 247-265.]

3. Social Dimensions

The larger social impacts of computing and information technologies are
one set of consequences that are ethically relevant to design and use of
ICTs – and thus are of importance in Information Ethics.
Many negative consequences of game-playing are thematic of both popular
and scholarly literature, e.g., concerns with encouraging violence,
potential addiction, and other anti-social impacts. At the same time,
however, at least some games may be argued to have ethical and social
value as they enhance social and other sorts of skills, serve as an
attractor in e-learning environments, etc.
What can reliable research in fact tell us regarding these impacts –
both positive and negative? And: given the best available research on
these impacts – what ethical conclusions (if any) may be drawn regarding
the production and consumption of e-games?

4. Gender

It is not hard to find examples in especially the more popular e-games
of gender and cultural stereotypes – stereotypes that are ethically
reprehensible insofar as they ideologically justify a range of
inequalities and the violation of basic human rights. If certain games
only work to reinforce prevailing “masculinist” stereotypes regarding
how to be male; and if certain games teach us to see “the Other”
(whether as a female and/or as a member of a cultural/ethnic identity
different from our own) as naturally inferior, the legitimate target of
violence, etc. – then a strong ethical case against such games could be
made. On the other hand, gamers may be perfectly aware that “this is
just a game” – i.e., they may well approach such stereotypes with a
distance and irony that helps diffuse rather than reinforce them.
Moreover, not all games work by presuming such gender and/or cultural
stereotypes. And finally, a growing community of women gamers directly
challenge these stereotypes about games. Are there games and ways of
playing games that help us explore our identities as gendered beings in
positive and fruitful ways, rather than simply playing off and thus
reinforcing stereotypes that may be questionable, if not oppressive? Are
there games and ways of playing games that in fact help us overcome
ethnocentrism and come to see “the Other” in ways that teach us to
respect the irreducible differences that define diverse gender and
cultural identities – perhaps even teach us to communicate more
effectively across these differences?

5. Cultural issues

Starting at least with cinema and tv, modern western cultures encounter
something like an "imaginative revolution" (W. Goebel): not simply
mediated views of the world, but also fantasies and imaginative
extrapolations that 'transgress' given reality can be constructed and
communicated. This changes the lifeworld of people and potentially
revolutionizes culture as the non-thematic background of understanding
and communication. With e-games the imaginative revolutions seems to
have made another leap forward - if not a quantum-leap: imagination now
becomes tangible since it becomes interactive.
These developments pose new ethical questions. To begin with: what do
e-games and the experience given by them mean to the cultural background
of understanding the world, ones own life and each other? Moreover,
especially the immersion offered by e-games seems to enhance the
experiential quality of what they mediate. What does this mean for our
understanding of reality and for the cultural labelling of specific
realities as such?
For example: The game *Medal of Honour: Frontline* offers some
experiences concerning history and war that movies like *Saving Private
Ryan* never could deliver in such a direct and thought-provoking way. On
the other hand most of the *routine* of the game obeys the *normal*
rules of first-person shooters and thus deflects the *horrific truth of
war*. What does this mean for teaching young people history in school
and university? What does it mean for the historical consciousness of a
generation that grew up with e-games of that kind?
As another example: the games *Silent Hill 2* and *Max Payne 2* give
some insight into the psychotic mind (since the protagonists in both
games are psychotic). What does this mean for the cultural *labeling* of
sound vs. psychotic? What are the consequences to prevailing conceptions
of order or - with Foucault - regime of health? Can and should that
process of the imaginative revolution by games thus be ethically
oriented into a certain direction - or do we face a process that may
legitimately alter the cultural setting of certain issues, narratives
(in Lyotard's sense) and legitimations? And if so - who or what may be
able to state and justify the legitimacy of these alterations?

6. None of the Above

We do not imagine that this initial list of suggestions exhausts all
possible topics and approaches to ethical reflection on e-Games. On the
contrary, we encourage interested authors to propose additional
frameworks, questions, ethical and analytical approaches, etc., that
will add to our insight regarding ethics and e-Games.

The Rules of the Game

Potential authors have to provide an extended abstract (max. 1.500
words) until 30. July 2005. The abstract should be written in the mother
tongue of the author. An English translation of this abstract has to be
included, if the chosen language is not English or German. The IRIE will
publish accepted articles (3.000 words or 20.000 letters including
blanks) in German, English, Spanish, French or Portuguese. For further
details see the submission guidelines.

The abstracts will be selected by the guest editors, Dr. Charles Ess and
Dr. Elizabeth Buchanan. Authors will be notified by 15. September 2005.

Deadline for the final article (according to IRIE format guide) is 30.
October 2005. All submissions will be subject to peer review. Therefore
the acceptance of an extended abstract by the members of the editorial
board does not imply the publication of the final text unless the
article passed the peer review.

For more information about the journal see: www.i-r-i-e.net

A list of documents, which potential authors might find useful, can be
requested by e-mail. Members of the ICIE will get a copy of the list via
the ICIE mailing list.


Please send queries and proposals to guest editors,

Dr. Charles Ess:
Dr. Elizabeth Buchanan:


Call for Papers - Vol. 4 (02/2005): The Ethics of E-Games - Language:
English pdf-fulltext (30 KB,


Dr. Michael T. McLaughlin said...

This seems like an interesting topic. I would have problems with violent games. Are there any peace games? I am reading this wishing that I had the time to play som of them. Is leisure the basis of culture? Good luck with your work.

Torill said...

I don't know how you would define peace games - I guess America's Army feel they are playing a peace game, although some others might disagree...

But there are games which don't focus on violence, for instance puzzle games and social games. And discussing ethics in these might be over thigns like cheating, sexual behaviour, gallantry, generousity and social group rules and norms, to mention some topics.