The Choices Within: My Friend Game Design Ethics

20 Mar

In recent weeks I’ve had discussions with some of my colleagues about ethics in game design. We each jumped onto and ran through a couple of scenarios. These specific instances aren’t tied to game development at all. They present particular scenarios and options to resolve them. At first I was expecting them result in particular ways in which gave me a massive novel of ‘how I did’ and the implications behind the choices I made. But it didn’t. Throughout it gave me feedback on the decisions I made and told me whether some of my choices conflicted with earlier ones,  whether I was consistent in my choices. Essentially, it tests for what you believe is right or wrong, or just what you believe in.

Dean Takahashi said:

Each person’s definition of what is ethical changes.

Everyone grows up in different environments, with different people, different conditions, different life experiences, different teachers, different perspectives, different religious views which all culminates, ultimately to different beliefs. So to me, ethics isn’t about being right or wrong, it’s about what we believe is right or wrong. It’s where we draw the line. To me: Ethics only matter when a living form is impacted. Whether it’s you as the individual, or someone else, or the resulting action impacts a living form. Humans or animals or both.

The IGDA (International Game Developers Association) has a Code of Ethics. If you haven’t read it yet, please do, it’s really straight forward and covers the basis of a lot of topics. I’m not part of the IGDA but their 3 sections, more so section 1 and 2, are immediately applicable and processes that I already currently follow and have followed  because they tie very closely to my beliefs.

So in saying all of this, in my game development journey/experience so far I have never been asked to do or create anything that has pushed me to that line. That threshold of what I think is right or wrong. Nor have I asked anyone to do something for me that pushes them to their line. I’m up to the point in my career where I’ve fumbled around in the dark enough to grasp the basics of game development and the tools to required to make ‘games’.

I’ve found my footing.

Now is where the games I create are truly starting to shine as a cohesive whole. Rather than ‘here’s some mechanics I tried to make‘, it’s ‘here is an actual game‘ or ‘here is an actual game that provokes a particular experience‘. Most of which don’t (not my intent) or shouldn’t conflict with anyone else’s thresholds. For example – A game called ‘TeTron‘. A hovercraft in a futuristic Tron’ish looking space where you collect tetris blocks and deliver them to a black hole. Nothing controversial right? But if in any case you as a reader have ended up playing TeTron and found anything misrepresented I’d be more than happy to talk about it. It’s a dull example but it leads me to my next point.

Feeding The Forgotten

“With inspiration drawn from my recent travels to PAX Aus in Melbourne (2016) and other travels within and around my hometown of Brisbane, I wanted to put the player in the shoes of a person who treats everyone as if they were equal. With the world what it is today, we all have the power within us to help those who are in need, or less fortunate. And in the process hopefully inspire others to do so too. With fictional characters who have real world issues, I wanted to portray these characters for who they are, as people.”

Feeding the Forgotten is one of the only game’s so far that has required me to properly consider ethics in game design. This was a game where I was constantly jumping back and forth over my own threshold of what I thought was appropriate. Especially because this is a product for consumers. My opinions that are presented in this game will ultimately be viewed and digested by these consumers. But not only that, the representation of everything within the game too. The representation of elements in the game are purely the only bridge of communication between what I was trying to get across. And the representation of which needed to be a good medium of my intention but also a fair and accurate representation.

In the IGDA code of ethics – Section 1 point number 7.
Strive to create content appropriate for our stated audience, and never misrepresent or hide content from committees assigned to review content for communication to the public, and specifically we will work strenuously to cooperate with and support local/regional ratings boards.

Never misrepresent content.

That’s exactly what I wanted to do (not misrepresent content). I’m representing artificial human construction’s that mimic real interpretations of the concept of people who don’t have a house to call their own. As well as constructing stories based on real life issues that contribute to putting these people in the positions they’re in. To me, this is a very delicate subject, because this is the representation of some peoples lives. People actually have to go through this. So in saying that: if these people and stories were misrepresented, not only would the original intent of this game be completely out the window, it could offend any of the audience who have any or more knowledge than I do on the subject matter. And as a game developer not only do I feel that it is my duty to represent content as accurately as possible.

I Want To.

In order to do so I needed to research. And research was done, but the rest of this isn’t going to be about the research. One of the main thing’s that I wanted to get across was that these people aren’t in the situations they’re in because of drugs. Because there are many more reasons. But unfortunately I can only get across the 7 that I have within the game because of a little thing called ‘scope’ and deadlines. I just wanted to address some of the possible reasons as to why this occurs. And bring to attention that they are still people.

Magoo was one of the people I ended up running into regularly. Funnily enough, it was at the bridge.

New Intelligence

As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog New Intelligence have asked us to make an app for them. Part of the process has been that they’ve provided us with the content and training required in order to understand what they do and what their content is. They ran us through the training course that they provide to their client base. The training course that they actually charge money to go participate in. They provided this training course to us free of charge.

Part of the agreement is that we are free to show our work but not give away the content for free. So in some further blogs that might explain bits and details of parts of the app we’re making, it will never ever be content heavy. Even though this isn’t in a contract (but I’d be happy for it to be) as a developer I wish to honor this agreement. It ties directly into ethical design, in the aspect that a company has devoted their time and their money into researching and creating a commercial product. Much like game development (in a later stage where I might be charging money for games or working on games what will have a commercial purpose), I’d like to respect step 3 of the IGDA Code of ethics and avoid giving away their course content for free.

Respect intellectual property rights.

Until next time –


1 Comment

Posted by on March 20, 2017 in Uncategorized


One response to “The Choices Within: My Friend Game Design Ethics

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