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Game Design Ethics

Discussion in 'Game Design' started by AndrewGrayGames, Aug 17, 2015.

  1. Teila

    Teila

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    That is sort of my point. Since somebody is bound to recognize propaganda in a game, I don't see why they would attempt to center a game around propaganda. It seems very risky. It is sort of like preaching the choir anyway. War games for example...are they a way to push "war" as entertainment? I met several young men, one was the bag boy at our local grocery store, who told me he enlisted after playing "insert game". And I met two distraught parents waiting in line at the movie theater who told me there son wanted to come home because it wasn't like "insert game". (Southerners like telling their life story to strangers...)

    Or do people just enjoy war games and a few impressionable kids just didn't think it through carefully.

    As for something so subtle that it isn't noticed, my guess is that almost everything we see or hear these days has an agenda. My guess we are bombarded by propaganda every day in a less obvious form.
     
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  2. SpaceMammoth

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    Gigi - you should host a proper debate as the podcast. "this house believes that ethics are irrelevant in computer games, discuss"
     
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  3. RockoDyne

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    A problem is that there are two different kinds of propaganda. The first is where it's entirely known to the creator that what they are doing is distorted, while the other is where their view itself is what is distorted without them even knowing. It's the second that is worse, since it's much more likely to be able to project their view as normal, which has a much more subtle effect on people that is much less likely to be seen through by most people (within the culture at least). Just look at racism and eugenics a century ago before the nazi's went and spoiled it for everyone.
     
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  4. TonyLi

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    You see bias like this in polls every day, where wording and the order of choices will result in opposite results in two "identical" polls. It's scary because polls influence decisions that affect the lives of millions of people.

    Games, on the other hand, are art. (If you want to debate that, toss @Gigiwoo the blue pill and take it to a different thread.) In art, one person's propaganda is simply another person's artistic statement. Take for example, as I always seem to do on this forum, Fallout: "War. War never changes." That's a bold theme, and one whose "propaganda" leaves no room to consider peace as an option. In art, can you draw a line (if so, where) between artistic statement and manipulation?
     
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  5. tedthebug

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    Classic example, Yes Prime Minister poll about bringing back National Service
     
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  6. ostrich160

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    From the way I work, I dont have a set of rules, I just decide when Im thinking of a mechanic whether it is ethical or not.
    I guess my rules, probably incomplete, are

    1. Dont give players who spend more on a game an objective advantage (e.g. buying characters which are balanced with free ones is fine, but buying characters that are objectively better is not)

    2. The game I make must be an original concept with original mechanics, and not simply copied off a popular game

    I guess thats it. As I said, a lot I dont even think about.

    I was thinking about this the other day, which is where PC comes in. I'm not gonna get too political here, but you are right, its just not handled very well by many. It often seems like peoples definition of acceptance is in fact the complete opposite.

    Take 2 examples (neither of these reflect my political opinion, fyi). One game has a very anti gay theme. It is singling out a particular group and if very offensive.
    Another game has a very game theme. Technically, it is singling out a group, but it isnt seen that way, and is not offensive at all.

    A recent example of this, or fairly recent, is something within UK politics. One of our politicians, Nigel Farage, essentially called out the audience in the middle of a BBC debate for being biased to the left wing. The presenter denied the claim, saying that an independent polling organisation decided the audience.
    A week or so later, after an investigation was launched, the BBC admitted to the audience being left wing, so nigel was allowed to broadcast a political advertisement kind of thing on the BBC among many of the other parties.
     
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2015
  7. TonyLi

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    So... getting back to game design, here are two classic Gamasutra articles on the topic:
    Do independent developers have an obligation to promote diversity in their art? What if you're a middle class caucasian male and that's the extent of your experience? What do you do then?
     
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  8. Teila

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    Oh Tony, you have opened a can of worms now. Whenever "gamers have an obligation" and/or "helpless woman" are used together in one post, I end up feeling the need to defend all of womankind before long. I find I have to tread very carefully here, unfortunately, which tells me that maybe there is not enough diversity here to have that conversation. :)

    Excellent articles though and I am going to read them carefully today. I may respond on my blog instead of here though.:) Not that I don't enjoy debate, but it works better if there are a variety of points of view.
     
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  9. hippocoder

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    I'm not a fan of muddying gender roles with ethics. I don't see the sense of it. A story with a male hero is exactly that. An RPG where you get to choose the hero (ie male or female) is exactly that.

    I don't even think that's ethics. I think its just player preference. Otherwise we might as well have films where the hero is realtime adjusted to be male/female/both/a pet cat - ie pointless.

    OR! you can just watch a different film or show. For example I'm a major, major fan of OUAT.
     
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  10. TonyLi

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    Oops, good point. I tried to steer away from politics and crashed into a different reef. I sense a lock icon on this thread soon.
     
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  11. Teila

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    I actually agree. While I would love to see games used for more than just entertainment, or as a way to tackle some of the difficult social issues in our time, I think the market will always control what sort of games are made. That said, there may be a niche market for games that educate people in a subtle way on environmental issues, social issues, diversity, etc. I wouldn't mind diving into that some day.

    So..not an obligation but some issues are pretty timely at the moment and might actually make a good game. For example, we had a huge oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico a few years ago. Here in Florida, this was a big concern. Much of the information was not forthcoming and nobody really knew how it would impact us. A game that featured how a small beach town deals with the environmental impact might be interesting. Or one about cleaning up a mess, trying to save the wildlife, etc. We do have all these survival games now. What if the survival were local, such as an isolated town in Alaska? What if rather than chasing zombies, the characters were concerned about food sources, water contamination, grizzly bears....?

    Of course, this means somehow making the game fun to play while discovering a market for the game. I would buy it in a heartbeat, and so would my kids. :) But is there a big enough market or does that matter?
     
  12. AndrewGrayGames

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    I think the trick with such a work is to be even-handed in presenting the issue, and not so much trying to move someone to your chosen viewpoint (in other words, make a propaganda game.)

    I like to use Star Trek when talking about this sort of thing - the effective Star Trek episodes are the ones that present two sides of a debate, and let you the viewer think about the issue. Conversely, the crappier Star Trek episodes are ones that present a real-world problem, beat you over the head with what they consider the "right" answer, and the smugly smirk while walking onward.

    If you're going to make a game about social issues like gender equality, or environmental issues, you will have to take great pains to not outright villainize anyone, which is tough - these issues have opponents that are aggressive and outspoken, who may or may not be out to villainize anyone who disagrees with their ideas on the subject. However, that's exactly what sets a creator who is serving their audience, apart from a propagandist.

    You may have to acknowledge ideas you don't like, and that a good portion of your audience may not like. For the gender equality issue, sexual dimorphism is one such thing that has been verified for quite some time, yet some feminist propaganda either ignores this or claims it's a lie. For racial equality, one would have to confront the twin unpopular ideas, that the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade in the 17th century was responsible for more or less destroying the cultures of peoples from Africa, and that modern cultural trends in the descendants of those so enthralled are very much a direct result of centuries of systemic social and physical abuses. However, there have been many people descended from that legacy who have risen up to be good, great, and heroic, proving that it is not a valid way to judge anyone who is so descended...yet there are many who do things that would be otherwise looked down upon, but use said lineage to "justify" it, or to squelch discussion of what is acceptable for them and their brethren.

    This is why I'm wary of even semi-directly tackling social ideas in games - it's too easy to "come off" as propaganda, even if you're using a real controversy to propel the conflict that your work runs off of. Going back to racism, I much prefer Skyrim's racism being a key part of the Skyrim Civil War/Stormcloak Rebellion - depending on what side (if any) you quest with, you can either see that they're completely racist bigots, particularly against Dunmer, Argonians, and Khajit, but if you side with them, you see that, above and beyond fear and paranoia, one of the motivators for such behavior is how the Thalmor leave spies everywhere - such uncertainty, as well as most Nords' ignorance and unwillingness to learn about other cultures, leads to a climate of hate and repression most visible in the Stormcloak's own capitol. Yet, it's a great parallel to the American Civil War, and in its own way, a great way to talk about the conditions under which racism flourishes.

    But, I've found the weeds, myself. Getting back to ethics, I think an ethically responsible way to talk about social issues is to find a way to put it at a remove from the real world, but without making it irrelevant to real problems. In that way, you're not creating propaganda for a viewpoint, and not alienating a group, or causing them emotional harm. You're discussing the problem, not apportioning blame.
     
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  13. Steve-Tack

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    I made the mistake once of assuming in a discussion board that movies are about "entertainment" and got corrected (I think rightly so). I think the term "compelling experience" might be more apt. While I'm personally all about entertainment and "fun" in movies/games/books, the reality is that that is not always the intent.

    I haven't played Valiant Hearts, but it seems to be a quite grim and depressing game, as maybe it should be:
    http://www.pcworld.com/article/2367140/valiant-hearts-review-a-war-game-to-end-all-war-games.html
     
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  14. Steve-Tack

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    I don't think that's an ethical issue at all, but I agree that framing ideas in a sci-fi or fantasy setting can be a way avoid alienating people and ideally can encourage that "thoughtful discourse" thing. Saying "your specific religion or economic philosophy sucks" or whatever is not a good way to encourage one to reevaluate their cherished views. Even when abstracting those ideas, though, you can easily risk sounding preachy. And it's sometimes pretty obvious when a sci-fi story pounds you on the head about saving the environment, for instance (the perfectly framed wind farms visible through the portal in Tomorrowland comes to mind).

    That's not the only valid approach though. People talk about whether games are or can be art, which they certainly can be. But I do think as aspect of art is self-expression, and it's perfectly ethical and valid to express yourself in more specific terms. It's just that it may be less effective at changing hearts and minds (which isn't necessarily one's goal with art!).
     
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  15. hippocoder

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    This stuff doesn't necessarily have to have a whole game devoted to it though. Often if a statement or observation can be made, it can be made in the form of a small quest, or interaction with an NPC. The idea you need to base a whole game on good ethics is not for me.

    With regard to Star Trek's neutrality, GTA 5 does the same thing in an unexpected manner:

    The whole strip club / hooker thing was a magnifying glass on a tiny part, conveniently ignoring the fact the game equally picks on everyone. For example, the tv shows in GTA5. There's characters like Impotent Rage that poke endless fun at white males, and an undercurrent of racism throughout the entire game. In short, it picks on everyone. If a game is by default offensive to everyone, I'm not sure it becomes offensive any more.
     
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  16. RockoDyne

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    Some day? They're already here. Gone Home, Papers Please, Actual Sunlight, that one Eskimo game. A lot of these sorts get done in RPG Maker though, so no one really pays much attention to them.

    I think someone already posted it, but check out Warren Spector's gamasutra blogs.
    Yes and no. The case I always see and find horribly shallow is slavery. At best they basically go "slavery is bad, M'kay," and it ends up being a childish portrayal of something that becomes fundamentally ingrained into a culture. It shows a complete lack of understanding of how and why slavery becomes acceptable and enforced in a culture (including to the slaves).

    You could look at transhumanism in Deus Ex: HR, which basically comes across as how a soccer mom would view transhumanism. It's worried about how TH would effect the life of a person, like the medicine the person is then on for the rest of their life, but the effect this would have on society is never explored.
     
  17. Teila

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    I agree with this..and I also like the way Skyrim handles racism in a fictional world. It is also part of our game between our various cultures, written into the lore in some places. We also included different perspectives. So one culture may see something one way in their historical documents, while another may see the exact same even differently. I have had perspective players contact me thinking we made a mistake. :) Once they get the reason for the disparity they love the idea. It is subtle, so not everyone sees it but it seems to work.

    I think it could also work in the real world if the setting is in the future or the past. The Crusades is a perfect example. It is not a very pleasant time in the world's history but I think it perfectly illustrates the effects of religious wars on the populous, especially if you include the real impact, not just the fighting and killing, but the way it impacted the people back home on both sides, the monarchs trying to fund this long war, and the soldiers, many of whom died of disease and starvation, not killed in battle.

    I love the idea of making a game that shows both sides of the issue. Once upon a time, I used to teach a University class to in-service teachers. We had the students go out and collect information on issues (it was an environmental issues class) from both sides. Then they prepared their projects to not only look at their side of the issue, but to also teach the kids the other side, in an objective way. Several were very successful with their students. I think this sort of thing could be applied to video games as well.

    I agree that if you villainize either side you fail to make your point. More important to encourage the discourse than become one sided.
     
  18. Teila

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    Very good point. It will definitely mean more that way. Sometimes it is better to whisper than to shout. :)

    I think the controversy with GTA could have been avoided had this not been a surprise to people. If the game used this "neutrality" as a feature, the controversy would have been muted. A lot of the problem is irresponsible parents who want someone else to watch their kids.
     
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  19. hippocoder

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    I don't think GTA 5 was in any way unexpected given that there were 4 equally rude predecessors :D But yes - it's just parental negligence and click bait.
     
  20. Teila

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    It unexpected to the parents whose kids were suddenly old enough to want it. :)
     
  21. imaginaryhuman

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    Is it ethical to simulate human beings that aren't really inside the screen, and to make up stories about stuff happening to them that isn't real?
     
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  22. Teila

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    Not any less ethical than to simulate human beings using words on a page and make up stories about stuff happening to them that isn't real. :)

    Funny how our methods of "simulating" have change over the years, from paper, to pixels. Kind of a cool thing, really.
     
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  23. ostrich160

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    I think definitely not, no. I mean that goes back to politics, which we obviously want to stay off, but that sends a message that you disagree with group B. If you do disagree with them and want to make a game about it, more power to you, but it shouldnt be an obligation to fight group B.
     
  24. Teila

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    I am not sure diversity is politics. Diversity in games would be just mimicking the real world by using people of all types, something that is done a lot in games. The exception might be in certain historical settings. So...no obligation but if you want to attract people of all types to your game, it doesn't hurt to include them...as in real life, they are part of your potential base. Hate to be the dictionary lady but we need to keep politics out of a discussion of ethics in games. :D

    politics

    noun plural but singular or plural in construction pol·i·tics \ˈpä-lə-ˌtiks\
    : activities that relate to influencing the actions and policies of a government or getting and keeping power in a government

    : the work or job of people (such as elected officials) who are part of a government

    : the opinions that someone has about what should be done by governments : a person's political thoughts and opinions

    Edit: Actually, I love being the dictionary lady. :)
     
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  25. Billy4184

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    I heard somewhere "every book is a self-help book". Maybe games are the same? I think every game is really about getting through something, gaining control of something difficult, becoming something, even if it is very abstract.

    I've never been a consistent gamer, I don't play them every day or even every week. But when I'm feeling down, they have helped me in the past by giving me something to project my problems onto. I think that's what games are really all about. The problem for me is that sometimes I have continued to play the game as a substitute for doing something real with my new-found sense of wellbeing.

    So that's what I'm trying to give the player, a way to succeed and feel success through a set period of difficulty. In terms of ethics, I'm drawn toward playing and making story-based, single player games that aren't too long, because they have a message and they have a point of completion, at which point the player is free to leave as a winner.

    ps I think that games, as an activity in themselves, are sort of a waste of time. They only have value inasmuch as they allow the player to relate in a more positive way toward something real in their lives. They are like jogging or going to the gym, useful because of how they impact the other things we do but sort of silly in their own right.

    EDIT: not trying to troll here, just trying to take a cold hard look at what games mean to me. Activity without imagination is useless, and if games are not imagination, then I don't know what is. But imagination is just that, imagination.
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2015
  26. hippocoder

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    Some books are raving nonsense without a shred of value. Some games aren't even capable of being played properly, and are riddled with bugs, or just plain nonsense.

    Well that would be your problem, local to yourself. Now you've identified it's a problem for you, I'm sure you can fix it.

    I don't see what is silly about being healthy? I must be missing something.
     
  27. Billy4184

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    Maybe they're raving nonsense to you, but not to someone else in different circumstances? I stand by the idea of books and games being self-help mechanisms for most people (usually without them being consciously aware of it), but you might not agree and that's allright. And if a game is badly made or badly designed that's a different issue.

    You totally misunderstood the last part. I'm saying that exercise is not silly precisely because of the contingent benefits like being healthy. But the act of running on the same spot or picking up something heavy just to lift it up and down over and over again, as an end in itself, is actually rather silly (even though I do both). So that is what I mean when I say that games have value IMO inasmuch as they have a positive psychological effect on the rest of our lives.

    Hence why I like to play and make games that are like a psychological catapult that imparts energy onto the player for a short time and then releases them.

    YMMV.
     
  28. ostrich160

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    Diversity is certainly very political. Yes, the real world has a lot of diversity, but individual areas and time periods may or may not. And politics comes in with those areas, and the diversity, or rather the risk/reward of the diversity in them.

    And thats where it comes to games. Diversity in games can often be damaging to a game, if it is diversity for the sake of diversity. A realistic napolenic war game shouldnt feature an African general, because its not realistic. In my opinion, those that add those kind of characters because it introduces diversity in the game are wrong to do so, but thats just me. A game about the world, sure, needs diversity, or a game about the modern world. But saying diversity can never do a bad thing for a game is very wrong, at least in my opinion.

    But yeh, diversity is very political. Diversity can have a massive, and does have a massive, effect on how a country is run, for example.
     
  29. Teila

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    Well, I disagree. :) If diversity comes into politics it simply is because different groups of people have different needs and different goals. Politicians use this to create voting blocks. So it becomes controversial. I live in a country full of diversity, from my relatives in a small Swiss Wisconsin town to my town in Florida, full of people of all sorts of wonderful cultures. I love visiting the Greek town on the west coast and going to Italian festivals or watching Native Americans at at a local Pow Wow.

    None of this is political. The politics are completely separate from the people and the natural diversity of my country. Yes, politicians use diversity, just as they use religion and business and crumbling infrastructures to divide people but that only happens if you allow it.

    As for a game, if you are going to worry about offending a segment of society then there are lots of stuff you should not put in your game.

    Violence...offends a significant part of society, as does sex.

    Sex...a trigger of offense from the public it seems, especially if mixed with violence

    Religion...there are people who won't play a game with religion, even a fantasy religion. So leave those out as well. No fantasy gods or goddesses, no clerics, etc.

    History..there are some nasty times in history, Vietnam war..very controversial, the Crusades, the Inquisitions, great fodder for games, but you might insult some folks, so leave it out.

    Rescuing princesses...need I explain this one?

    Ghosts, Demons, Dungeons and Dragons....lots of people see these as dangerous, evil, Devil on your shoulder, stuff. So leave them out.

    Bad language...forget about making your shoot em up game with some realistic language. It offends some folks.

    Diversity? Some folks have problems with diversity for political reasons or are just bigots. Leave this out.

    Should I go on?

    Offending in a game can make a point. A game that represents the REAL world will have diversity naturally, because that is the real world. No one said anything about diversity for the sake of diversity..although that not any more offensive than any in that list above, and probably less so since most people see diversity every day but not violence or ghosts.

    And..if you read my post, you will see that I singled out historical times as a place where you might want to have less diversity. Would be nice if you would read before you disagree. lol

    Even in many historical settings, such as the Napoleon wars, Africans did exist and they existed in Europe and some had important roles, although not many at the time. I think it is pretty obvious that an African general would most likely not exist, but who knows. If the story is compelling and it makes sense, then why not?

    https://www.pinterest.com/albert_butler/africans-serving-in-the-napoleonic-wars/
     
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  30. AndrewGrayGames

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    On a different ethical topic, I like today's EC - it addresses the use of Skinner Boxes disguised as progression, versus well-thought alternatives, and hashes out some possibilities.
     
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  31. Teila

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    Thanks for the link, Asvarduil. I just wish I could tolerate his voice. lol
     
  32. ostrich160

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    Before I continue my debate, I just wanted to clear up my confusion with my personal ethics on lying to a player about AI. I personally believe that AI can be used, in the right games, to replace real players when real players arent available. So IOS games are a good example, where player retention is really important. You cant find a real player within 15 seconds, you get them against AI and say its a real player. For me, personally, thats fine. But no, if your argument was lying that it is a multiplayer game full stop, yeh no that is immoral for me.

    But your only looking at diversity in what they bring to a country. All diversity is, is a range of different cultures, any cultures, within a community. Therefore, the issue with members of ISIS being in my country (I live in the UK, I think I mentioned that) is part of diversity. They are a different culture, and they dont like us. So yes I agree, I love indian food and chinese food and wouldnt want to have no diversity in a country, but it brings negatives with positives. Another example, is a couple of years back a man was arrested (or at least sent to court) for singing the national anthem on a train, which offended members of another culture for some reason. Now diversity includes those cultures, and the sub cultures who dont like diversity within the country they emigrated to. So no, I'd personally say its very political, maybe less so for you yanks though.


    As I said though, if you want to put this kind of thing in a game, more power to you. Its not that you should be worried about offending other cultures. Its more the fact that you cant take the high ground with that and say that there is no disadvantage of doing so, its not completely beneficial, especially to, as I said, realistic games.

    A bit ironic
     
  33. Teila

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    Ostrich,

    We have a rash of men in dark movie theaters pulling out a gun and killing innocent people. They are more often than not, white and often their victims are random. These folks are "terrorists" because they incite terror in people. Now we have theaters checking backs and restricting backpacks in the movie theaters. Very sad.

    However, it does make all white men bad nor does it reflect the entire white male culture.

    ISIS is not a culture. It is a terrorist group. Plenty of middle eastern people and those of middle eastern descent are as appalled by the actions as we are, most likely the majority are. They might even be MORE appalled than we are, if that is possible.

    You cannot define a culture by a few bad apples. If you could, I would be judging you as a white male who might pull out a gun at my children at the movie theater! I am pretty sure you wouldn't do that. :)

    Game design is often so black and white. It would be nice to see a little more gray. Maybe the black and white thinking of video games, movies and other media is part of what is causing many of our children think that way. Life is, for the most part, gray. It is why we are having a discussion about ethics.
     
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  34. Teila

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    I don't see any remarks by you or replies by me that were confused about your view on lying to players. I think maybe you read a reply to someone else as a reply to you...or maybe I confused the names. :) I agree with you...fine to have AI replace players as long as you don't lie that it is a multiplayer. :
     
  35. ostrich160

    ostrich160

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    I never said it does.
    Heres the issue, when you bring this up people often jump to conclusions. I'd bet a pretty penny that you think I'm a racist about now, because I said diversity isnt perfect.

    Now, about you saying ISIS isnt a culture. I'll play you at your own game, by bringing out the definitions-

    'the ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society.'

    I would say that isis have some pretty clear ideas, customs and social behaviour. They are also a group of people. A society, thats debatable, as what a society is-

    'the aggregate of people living together in a more or less ordered community.'.

    But certainly a group of people. Now you say Im defining a group of people by ISIS standards. Notice I never compared Muslims to ISIS, not once. Because I never said a few bad apples define a culture. I said that ISIS is a culture, which as we have established it is, and they dont integrate well with us. It all comes back to my original point, which wasnt really about ISIS at all, that was just a strong example.
    Diversity isnt a good or a bad thing by fact. It brings good, and it brings bad.
     
  36. AndrewGrayGames

    AndrewGrayGames

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    I think one of the great and interesting parts of video games is that it's possible to travel "the other path" that you didn't take before.

    Last night, I was playing some Elder Scrolls Online, and I was taking in the new "Justice" system (I call it the "Injustice" system, because you pretty much can't improve Provisioning, or learn new crafting motifs, without breaking and entering or stealing from NPCs. In short, ESO is now a medieval version of Grand Theft Auto, though if you kill someone, the guards will pwn you.)

    It was interesting on the one hand, because this "Justice" system set up a bunch of new gameplay challenges. On the other hand, on my brand new character (an Orsimer Nightblade named, "I'm Bat Orc;" he's the hero Daggerfall deserves, not the hero it needs...) I was sorely missing a key option: the option to side with the Guards, and gank NPC-killers or arrest thieves.

    On the one hand, systems take a great deal of time, talent, and care to develop. But, more often than not I see games championing one "path" over another. In ESO, it's more than possible to debate that the player character is little more than a glorified bandit, based on the game's current setup. Just because a Daedric Prince stole your soul, doesn't mean you should go around stealing other people's soles. In GTA, you're a stereotypical criminal. In most JRPGs, you're a more or less a mass murderer. Ditto for Skyrim; in fact, in Skyrim, most often you can't talk anyone down, at all.

    Is that ethical? These are fake worlds, as most of us understand; we know these actions are not encouraged in reality. You can argue that these are a good anger-sink, and I'd agree. But, are we serving the player by not taking the time to create the circumstances and consequences of more peaceful resolutions to conflicts, including but not limited to future conflicts?
     
  37. Teila

    Teila

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    I don't know the answer to that Asv, but our game might be an experiment on just that. Consequences will sometimes be brutal and peaceful resolutions more sought after because of that...maybe. We will see.

    I think most folks play games to escape consequences. :) Kill without getting in trouble, harass other players with no real world consequence, be anonymous, do whatever you want in your make believe world and the most that can happen is that you lose a level, although it seems dying is becoming less important in games these days.

    So..will people play a game that has consequences for their actions? We will see. I will let you know the outcome.
     
  38. Billy4184

    Billy4184

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    I'm not sure I agree with this, I think it can be a trap that developers fall into to to think that players experience their games so deeply. I've spent a bit of time looking into the psychological effect of violent games and I'm not convinced that players (in general, there are obviously exceptions as you described before) actually equate the game to real life. One thing I have seen in studies such the one described in this article is that frustration and inability to master any game can lead to anger and aggression. This supports my current theory that games are a canvas onto which people project their specific problems and deal with them emotionally.

    However as games become more realistic and more difficult to abstract I imagine there would be more of a correlation between game behaviour and real behaviour.

    ps why I say 'trap' is that I think one of the main problems that developers have is that they find it hard to understand that the player experiences the game very, very differently to them, and hence don't do such a great job of designing a popular player experience and fail commercially.
     
  39. Teila

    Teila

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    I certainly do not think players experience most games deeply, although some do fit the bill.

    I do think that we play games to escape and your average person feels they have little control over their life. Avoiding consequences is something we do every day....when we speed along on the highway, only slowing down when we see a cop? :) Not all of this avoidance is conscious and most of it probably is not.

    Games allow you to avoid them altogether, for actions what would have serious consequences in real life.

    I think you misunderstood my post. :) But that is okay.
     
  40. Billy4184

    Billy4184

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    If you mean to say that players play games to feel an abstract sense of control and freedom from consequence, then yes I agree with you and I misunderstood. What I don't believe is that players play games to experience that freedom from consequence in relation to a specific situation, such as killing someone.
     
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  41. Teila

    Teila

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    I agree with you. I don't think they do either. Most people do not want to really experience killing someone. :) Or at least I hope that is true.
     
  42. Billy4184

    Billy4184

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    The question then is, if that sense of freedom from consequence is abstract rather than context-specific, how much do we need to worry about the ethics of violent vs diplomatic video games? :)

    One thing for sure, is that a game that gives the player a lot of freedom and control is much more compelling than one which tries to mimick in some way the real life that players are trying to escape from, all else being equal.
     
  43. RockoDyne

    RockoDyne

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    The irony is that most good games do create consequences for your actions, or at the very least have a response to your actions. More than anything, people play games to play. Most actions are going to be taken in the pursuit of more play. Just killing off a random NPC without reason or consequence is just boring. It's when you need to do it and end up on the run from the cops when it becomes interesting.
     
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  44. Steve-Tack

    Steve-Tack

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    That depends on the player or even the mood of a particular player. Some players enjoy extremely linear experiences with almost no freedom or control (to the point where you could barely call them "games" at all). Some players want to fly an airliner from LA to New York in realtime with highly realistic physics and consequences. I'm not sure those are "games" either though. Maybe a certain level of abstraction is what makes an electronic experience a "game"? Hmmm.

    In terms of the ethics of what happens within a game's fiction, that is an interesting issue. Up to this point in the technology curve, killing NPC's or even the "toons" of players online feels like mowing down cardboard cutouts or those paper targets at a shooting range. ("I think of them as paper people", as Drax would say). As graphics and animation gets more realistic, will that sort of thing become troubling? I guess we'll see.

    Even certain abstractions can be troubling to some people. When I mentioned to someone that you can actually eat people in Fallout 3, that person was quite horrified. To me, it was so cartoonish and over the top (and pretty abstracted) that it didn't bother me, but I guess I can see where he was coming from.
     
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  45. Gigiwoo

    Gigiwoo

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    Neat conversation.
    Gigi
     
  46. tedthebug

    tedthebug

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    Have you tried slowing the speed down? Anti chipmunk filter
     
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  47. Billy4184

    Billy4184

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    Maybe I should have clarified that what I meant by control was the sense of control not the actual control. Control over the outcome of the game (success/failure), not actual gameplay control.

    I think that the funny thing perhaps is that the more you introduce realism and consequences for unethical behaviour in games, the more of a real effect it has psychologically because you have brought in the question of ethics whereas before it was kind of assumed that you were there to shoot the bad guys and that was that.

    I think @RockoDyne made a great point, that unethical behaviour only becomes interesting if it does have consequences, or otherwise it wouldn't mean anything to us in terms of pleasure. Anti-social or violent behaviour in games (such as, in GTA, shooting someone and getting the cops to come after you) is interesting precisely because you draw the focus and attention of the game world toward yourself.

    I think that the key thing here is that a game always has a message and is never impartial, even if we as developers are not aware of it. So we have to be aware not so much of what we put in games, but why, according to the player, we do it. Movies, books and games all use a range of psychological elements to persuade the audience of the morality of what the protagonist is about to do (e.g., commit violence toward the villain). Some of these are obvious, but one I find interesting is how the villains often show, through erratic, exaggerated behaviour and twisted expressions, their own divided consciences and draw attention to themselves very explicitly. One might argue that someone in this situation is perhaps more likely to be convinced of the error of their ways compared to someone who is coldly comfortable with what they do, but for some reason it works to arouse the antagonism of the audience.

    But anyway, yeah I think we have to be more careful of the context of ethically ambiguous game elements rather than the content itself.
     
  48. Tomnnn

    Tomnnn

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    What a coincidence, that's the same reason I am on these forums :D

    I dunno about this one. As an avid anime watcher I can tell you that sometimes you want your day ruined with something depressing and painful to watch.

    That depends on your strategy.

    AAA
    Spend a lot of money and hope to make a lot of money. It's all about money. Hope the game is franchise-able so you can copy and paste so 80% of the sequel is done already. Don't care about the game being good or not, just market it like crazy and take advantage of the present all time low of gaming journalism. PAY. THEM. OFF.

    Indie
    Make a game that you yourself would enjoy and want to play. The game should be at least a little researched so you can pick comfortable control schemes and pleasant themes for the story if your game is focused on one. You're doing what you love and if you have a good idea you'll probably make a profit. Your game philosophy is the golden rule, so you genuinely care about your audience and will produce the best experience you can.

    Freemium
    Deserving of it's own category, the freemium model is to have a game that is free and kind of fun. You need to tier the game rewards and resources so players understand how to manage their free resources, understand how they affect the game and understand that they can be replenished with time or be purchased. This is crucial before you introduce your shop so players understand what's for sale, which will begin to tempt them. No one can question whether or not you care about your customers, because it's up to frivolous spending on a free game to decide whether the game lives or dies. But it's likely that you're hoping that people with addictive personalities come by and you can get a stream of revenue from fewer yet bigger spenders.
     
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  49. Teila

    Teila

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    Is bringing ethics into the game really a bad thing? We read stories and watch movies all the time that have a moral...and that moral is cloaked in the story that is told. Games do that as well, as you noted above. Whether we like or not, we are sending a message of some kind which is then filtered through the experiences of the player. Each player may get a different message, which really is sort of the cool thing about a game...a movie, or even an art piece.

    We talk a lot of shooting the bad guys or running from the cops in this thread about ethics in games. But messages don't always have to be about violence and lawfulness. They can also be about relationships, friendship, sacrifice, choice, leadership, stewardship, and a myriad of other topics. If a player has to make a choice of sacrificing his character to save someone he loves, would that not be an ethical dilemma also? What about the responsibility of a leader and whether to put his people in danger? Or..what if a character is faced with making a choice on how to treat an enemy in trouble.

    Whatever choice the player makes, it won't be wrong, but it could have consequences, and maybe it should. That to me would make a game interesting. I love playing games but I don't like playing a violent person in video games. I don't like to kill other players and I am not fond of killing monsters. This has nothing to do with abhorrence of violence, but instead is my own personal play style. But...what if I played a farmer or a regular person in a game and was forced to make a choice..kill something or lose my own life..or that of someone I cared about. Wow..what would I do?

    I used to run a World of Darkness tabletop campaign. My players created regular folks as characters, no one special, nothing magical, and certainly not the type of folks who went around killing monsters. The most successful evenings were when I forced to make decisions, some ethical, some not...and challenged their concept of their character. I have also been on the receiving end of that as a player in a game and it was extremely emotionally powerful for me. It had nothing to do with killing, but I will remember that always.

    I have been told I think differently...lol...so I wanted to make sure that we don't always create discussions around the ethics of violence. There is so much more out there we can use to make compelling games.
     
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  50. Billy4184

    Billy4184

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    Didn't say it was bad, just that it has more of a psychological impact either way (positive or negative). On the whole I'd say thats a good thing to do in your game unless you just want to make a therapeutic button-masher.

    One thing that I really dislike in modern entertainment is that it is seen as cool and edgy to cast an act that is obviously morally questionable, if not downright wrong, in total ambiguity, as if the player/audience is 'free' to take it how they wish. I don't know if it some sort of 'postmodern' trend but those who do it don't seem to realise that they actually do have a message to convey, which is that it is best to not think in moral terms, to distance oneself from the moral question. I would rather that a character in a movie or a game did something that they knew was wrong, but did it anyway and suffered through the consequences, than to see this sort of thing.

    Yeah I agree that there are moral questions in games that are more important than physical violence, just as there are worse things you can do to someone in real life. The question is though, what does it mean for the player? That's something we can't always control.
     
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