As one of the multiple ethical considerations raised by our participants, a notion of ‘play as privilege’ was posed by one researcher during our interviews, highlighting a specific ethical concern around the assumptions made about the use of video games and gamification techniques in particular contexts. This suggests the need for a consideration of ethics around video games that ishighly contextualised and dependent on the particular experiences of those involved in gameplay.
This scenario is concerned with the ‘soft’ regulation of gameplay in the home and other personal contexts. Video games can be problematic where young children are concerned. Some games may not be appropriate for young players, either due to their content or the connectivity they afford to other unknown players via the internet.
Many of those who took part in our interviews enthusiastically described the ways in which video games could be employed for educational purposes, but it was clear that these are often talked about as opportunities that are not yet being fully realised.
During the project, participants talked of the need to understand games as complex and multiple, rather than acting as if there is anything like a ‘generic’ video game.
One participant even suggested that it was the responsibility of researchers and other professionals to re-write the canon by turning the focus of their gaze towards games that were less commercial or less readily written about.
The view of gaming as a complex medium assumes that under the broad umbrella of gaming there is a multitude of different themes, mechanics and content, in the same way as ‘film’ is a medium.
Game development and social sciences research on games seem to run on parallel tracks, and rarely inform each other. Our understanding of games has a reduced impact, due to the existence of a disconnect between the people who study games and those who create and sell them. While a perfect alignment of priorities between industry and academia may not always be possible, or even desirable, both worlds can benefit from sharing expertise and resources with each other.
In this scenario, we describe a situation in which a more complex, nuanced and positive idea of ethics informs the design and development of video games. Rather than being narrowly framed as a collection of requirements that may constrain innovation and creativity, ethics becomes a positive mindset that puts the entire R&D process in a different light.