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Why computer games can be ethical, how players use their ethical values in gameplay, and the implications for game design. Despite the emergence of computer games as a dominant cultural industry (and the accompanying emergence of computer games as the subject of scholarly research), we know little or nothing about the ethics of computer games. Considerations of the morality Why computer games can be ethical, how players use their ethical values in gameplay, and the implications for game design. Despite the emergence of computer games as a dominant cultural industry (and the accompanying emergence of computer games as the subject of scholarly research), we know little or nothing about the ethics of computer games. Considerations of the morality of computer games seldom go beyond intermittent portrayals of them in the mass media as training devices for teenage serial killers. In this first scholarly exploration of the subject, Miguel Sicart addresses broader issues about the ethics of games, the ethics of playing the games, and the ethical responsibilities of game designers. He argues that computer games are ethical objects, that computer game players are ethical agents, and that the ethics of computer games should be seen as a complex network of responsibilities and moral duties. Players should not be considered passive amoral creatures; they reflect, relate, and create with ethical minds. The games they play are ethical systems, with rules that create gameworlds with values at play. Drawing on concepts from philosophy and game studies, Sicart proposes a framework for analyzing the ethics of computer games as both designed objects and player experiences. After presenting his core theoretical arguments and offering a general theory for understanding computer game ethics, Sicart offers case studies examining single-player games (using Bioshock as an example), multiplayer games (illustrated by Defcon), and online gameworlds (illustrated by World of Warcraft) from an ethical perspective. He explores issues raised by unethical content in computer games and its possible effect on players and offers a synthesis of design theory and ethics that could be used as both analytical tool and inspiration in the creation of ethical gameplay.


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Why computer games can be ethical, how players use their ethical values in gameplay, and the implications for game design. Despite the emergence of computer games as a dominant cultural industry (and the accompanying emergence of computer games as the subject of scholarly research), we know little or nothing about the ethics of computer games. Considerations of the morality Why computer games can be ethical, how players use their ethical values in gameplay, and the implications for game design. Despite the emergence of computer games as a dominant cultural industry (and the accompanying emergence of computer games as the subject of scholarly research), we know little or nothing about the ethics of computer games. Considerations of the morality of computer games seldom go beyond intermittent portrayals of them in the mass media as training devices for teenage serial killers. In this first scholarly exploration of the subject, Miguel Sicart addresses broader issues about the ethics of games, the ethics of playing the games, and the ethical responsibilities of game designers. He argues that computer games are ethical objects, that computer game players are ethical agents, and that the ethics of computer games should be seen as a complex network of responsibilities and moral duties. Players should not be considered passive amoral creatures; they reflect, relate, and create with ethical minds. The games they play are ethical systems, with rules that create gameworlds with values at play. Drawing on concepts from philosophy and game studies, Sicart proposes a framework for analyzing the ethics of computer games as both designed objects and player experiences. After presenting his core theoretical arguments and offering a general theory for understanding computer game ethics, Sicart offers case studies examining single-player games (using Bioshock as an example), multiplayer games (illustrated by Defcon), and online gameworlds (illustrated by World of Warcraft) from an ethical perspective. He explores issues raised by unethical content in computer games and its possible effect on players and offers a synthesis of design theory and ethics that could be used as both analytical tool and inspiration in the creation of ethical gameplay.

30 review for The Ethics of Computer Games

  1. 4 out of 5

    Dimitris Hall

    Excellent blend of philosophy (chiefly ethics) and a game design analysis. The main idea presented by Miguel Sicart is that gamers take their morality in the games they play, that players are moral subjects with certain cultural and individual backgrounds when they come in contact with a game and cannot be analysed individually. That is to say that as an object turned into an experience by a moral subject cannot exist on its own and thus should not be analysed as an experience players enjoy pass Excellent blend of philosophy (chiefly ethics) and a game design analysis. The main idea presented by Miguel Sicart is that gamers take their morality in the games they play, that players are moral subjects with certain cultural and individual backgrounds when they come in contact with a game and cannot be analysed individually. That is to say that as an object turned into an experience by a moral subject cannot exist on its own and thus should not be analysed as an experience players enjoy passively. The best comparison he gives is that games provide a moral skin for players to wear over their normal subjectivities. This skin is the basis for all interaction with the game world, whatever the player's role might be within it. For Sicart, ethical games are games that allow a certain freedom of choice to the player but do not impose their own morality on them as Knights of the Old Republic or Fable would do, both examples of games he deems unethical exactly because the subject that creates the ethical meanings out of the game is not the player-subject herself. I have never read a more up-to-date and complete reading on games and ethics together and I can say that I generally agree with the author, even with his bolder suggestions. I'm still not sure, though, what exactly makes Custer's Revenge an example of poor design according to him, if it can, in the end, make the player-subject reflect on his actions nonetheless. But I'm prepared to cut him some slack. I mean, an in-depth analysis of BioShock and DEFCON, mentions of obscure little gems like Cursor*10 and Daigasso! Band Brothers? Miguel Sicart is a philosopher gamer. We need to read more from other people with similar critical abilities and back-catalogue of game experiences. Until then, this book will remain the definitive literature on the subject.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Mjhancock

    A thorough statement of what an ethical video game needs to consist of, emphasizing experience over consideration of the object, and the responsibility of the player. The first half of the book is theory--pretty deep theory, ranging from Foucault to Badiou to phenomenology--and the second half is more concerned with application. I'd recommend skipping to chapter 5, to get a sense of how Sicart applies his theory. I disagree with him on some points--I think narrative is more important than he mak A thorough statement of what an ethical video game needs to consist of, emphasizing experience over consideration of the object, and the responsibility of the player. The first half of the book is theory--pretty deep theory, ranging from Foucault to Badiou to phenomenology--and the second half is more concerned with application. I'd recommend skipping to chapter 5, to get a sense of how Sicart applies his theory. I disagree with him on some points--I think narrative is more important than he makes it, I think the ethical approach overshadows some of the emotional and cultural aspects of game design, and in general, he gets a little repetitive in places. But overall, it's a good example of taking outside theory and tailoring it to the unique elements that games embody. ***EDIT: May 2012 *** I'd forgotten I'd read this book, and read it again. Came to pretty much the same conclusions. I mean, word for word, the same conclusions. So at least I'm consistent.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jenni Powell

    It was very dense so took me a while to get through but the author warns about that in the beginning, so all good there. Fascinating stuff and I’m wondering if he has updated thoughts now when we have games like The Last of Us.

  4. 5 out of 5

    K Shonibare-Lewis

  5. 5 out of 5

    Henrik Lintunen

  6. 4 out of 5

    Kristine Jorgensen

  7. 5 out of 5

    Tommy Otzen

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kristin

  9. 5 out of 5

    Sofia

  10. 5 out of 5

    Tom Kline

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kristian Bjørkelo

  12. 4 out of 5

    Joseph

  13. 4 out of 5

    Nathan D. Riggs

  14. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Reid

  15. 5 out of 5

    William Jamison

  16. 5 out of 5

    J.L. Flores

  17. 5 out of 5

    Julio Sueiras

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kenzie Gordon

  19. 4 out of 5

    Mateo

  20. 5 out of 5

    K.W. Colyard

  21. 5 out of 5

    Stephaniecadieux

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sue Scheibler

  23. 5 out of 5

    Rowie

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ayşegül Sürücü

  25. 5 out of 5

    Emilie Sciarli

  26. 4 out of 5

    Eugen Pfister

  27. 5 out of 5

    wintrybee

  28. 5 out of 5

    Beatrice Lapa

  29. 4 out of 5

    Alberto

  30. 4 out of 5

    Theodor Diponegoro

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