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Morality in Game Design


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#1 Mr K   Members   -  Reputation: 122

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Posted 15 April 2000 - 02:08 AM

There has been lots of discussions about violence in computer games lately, how they "effect" people and so on. I'm interested in what people consider to be moraly wrong to make a game about. What are the limits? What subject do you simply not make a game about? A couple of years ago there was some discussions about a certain type of "underground" games. Games that put the player in control of death camps in Germany durng WWII. Is this kind of games moraly wrong or are they ok? I, myself, consider this kind of game to be totally out of line and so moraly incorrect it just can be! However, we have something that is called freedom of speech, so I would like to hear from you what you consider right and wrong! -- Mr K Edited by - Mr K on 4/15/00 8:10:50 AM

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#2 *Angelfish*   Members   -  Reputation: 122

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Posted 15 April 2000 - 02:58 AM

Well, in my example with the Transformers, the good always wins from the bad. Some games twist this idealism. Is this bad? I think it is!

Ofcourse, it does not encourage evil thoughts, but it CAN HURT lots of people!

Games get more realistic each day, and there will be a day that game developers have the power and technology at their hands to make a game that is indistinguishable from real life.



"I Can''t change the world, but you''ll hear my voice!"

#3 MindWipe   Members   -  Reputation: 940

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Posted 15 April 2000 - 03:27 AM

I would never make a game that would teach kids/people bad "things" I''m currently working on a drug dealer game =)
But it will have a funny look and you won''t learn anything that would change someone. i.e. you won''t be able to shoot people. Or somethint like that.

#4 AtypicalAlex   Members   -  Reputation: 122

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Posted 16 April 2000 - 10:23 AM

This is a very interesting question, I think. If you were to ask me if a game in which you were in charge of a Nazi Death Camp, of course I would say it was utterly atrocious and evil. But if you showed me a gory, bloody game in which you KILLED Nazis, chances are I''d OK it (it''s been done many times).

Because I don''t tend to make or play particularly violent games (like First Person Shooters) I go by this philosophy:

"The violence and ''bad'' things expressed in a game should only be enough to get your point across."

For instance, in the game I am making right now, Enigma. It starts out with a woman being murdered. This is incredibly important as it drives most of the game, but I don''t spend five minutes showing the blood spurt out. I put in what is neccessary for the game and story, then move on. I feel that this is how all games should be.

just my $.02

Alex
Atypical Interactive
www.atypical-interactive.com

#5 Mr K   Members   -  Reputation: 122

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Posted 17 April 2000 - 01:55 AM

I have to agree with Alex above, games that fights evil are most probably ok. If the player played a Nazi in Wolfenstein and went around and killed English or American soilders it would probably be subject for a huge discussion (and ID wouldn''t be were they are today).

Several years ago there was a game called Hell, ok, I never played it, but there was lots of demons and ocultism, and I think even the devil himself made an apperance. In Sweden during that same time there was one Church how wanted to ban this game as they claimed it touch how to worship the devil. Well, since I never played it I can''t be sure, but I do not think this game actually touch you how to do it.

Anyway, I beleive as long as the player fights on the good side game developer can get away with most kind of stuff. It''s when the player joins the other side you have to be careful. However, it is good to be evil from time to time!

And Alex, like the screenshot of your game, very nice!! Looking forward to see a working copy!

-Mr K

#6 *Angelfish*   Members   -  Reputation: 122

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Posted 17 April 2000 - 02:14 AM

Yeah, but then again: Your morals are not my morals!
Think of it, I am very con-the NATO Bombings on Yugoslavia. Should I make a game where you shoot down NATO''s F16''s and assasinate NATO leaders, many people find it morally wrong. That is their good right, but also a lot of people would agree with it!

The best thing the game designers can do then is make people THINK. Just the same as Geoff does with his articles, which BTW are of great quality. If I were to make a game which handles issues such as death penalty or gun ownership, and if I could change some peoples minds on it, and then even if the game doesn''t sell well, I would be much happier than if the game would top the selling charts and I didn''t pass on the ideals I put in the game.
I am an Idealist, and one way of changing peoples minds is media, whether it be games, music, TV-programmes or books.

Remember that the common thought "Good Fights Evil" is not always applicable! For example in a civilian war such as in africa between the Hutu''s and the Tutsi''s or the civil war in Northern Ireland. Both sides will say that they are the Good ones, and despise the others for being Evil. We can conclude that Good or Evil is just a matter of the point of view you''re at. That makes it all the harder to judge whether or not the game is morally wrong or not.

"I Can''t change the world, but you''ll hear my voice!"

#7 Mr K   Members   -  Reputation: 122

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Posted 17 April 2000 - 04:44 AM

I know that your morals is not the same as my morals, that''s why I started this thread.

Anyway, but your right (*Angelfish*) if I were to make America bombs the hell out of China, or should I say the communists (This is just and example so don''t get up set). I think this game would sell better in America then in China, as the two countries has diffrent point of views.
(Well, I''m not so sure any original copies would be sold in China anyway, but.. ).

I also think that not the whole world would enjoy a game were you''re suppose to assasinate the Iraqi leader. But then again morals differ around the world.

-Mr K

#8 AtypicalAlex   Members   -  Reputation: 122

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Posted 17 April 2000 - 05:32 AM

But, I mean, if you make a game about bombing China ... is it because you believe it will make a good game or gets a message to the gamer ... or simply to cash in on commi-haters? I don''t think a game should be violent or controversial merely for the SAKE of being violent and controversial. People don''t play violent games just to see the blood ... they''re actually fun! And that''s what games are about, right?

For the most part, I think, gamemakers should stay away from things having to do with current events that could get people very upset. But I will never think that games should be sensored or stifled just because they COULD BE controversial.

Just another one of my humble opinions.

Alex
Atypical Interactive
www.atypical-interactive.com

#9 dog135   Members   -  Reputation: 122

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Posted 19 April 2000 - 06:01 AM

There''s always someone who''ll be offended by your game.

Shooting Nazis? There are still Nazis out there. They might be a bit offended.

Shooting demons? What about the Satanists?

Blowing up cute little pink bunnies? Well, most people would like this. Especially if it''s bloody. But I''m sure someone would complain!

E:cb woof!

#10 Kylotan   Moderators   -  Reputation: 3163

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Posted 19 April 2000 - 08:13 AM

quote:
Original post by *Angelfish*

Yeah, but then again: Your morals are not my morals!


Very true.

quote:

Think of it, I am very con-the NATO Bombings on Yugoslavia. Should I make a game where you shoot down NATO''s F16''s and assasinate NATO leaders, many people find it morally wrong. That is their good right, but also a lot of people would agree with it!


I would try and avoid anything which is borderline such as that, personally. I would try and keep my games erring on the side of ''generally accepted'' wisdom. There will never be 100% agreement, but I am not trying to make some political statement with my game. You may decide otherwise.

Hypothetical situations are interesting, though. I saw a wargame recently where the US and Russia join forces to repel a Chinese invasion of Kazahkstan (apologies for misspelling, if there is one). But you can play both sides, which lessens any perceived bias.

quote:
If I were to make a game which handles issues such as death penalty or gun ownership, and if I could change some peoples minds on it, and then even if the game doesn''t sell well, I would be much happier than if the game would top the selling charts and I didn''t pass on the ideals I put in the game.
I am an Idealist, and one way of changing peoples minds is media, whether it be games, music, TV-programmes or books.


I must say that it seems a little insidious for you to say that. If you believe that you can change people''s minds with your game, then you must obviously accept that you can influence their actions and therefore the whole ''can games cause violence'' thing is obviously true. Personally, I''d agree that games -can- influence people, but that is exactly why I''d stay away from that sort of thing. I''d rather purely entertain people with my games. If I want to lecture or teach them, I will talk to them. I don''t want to subvert them in some underhand manner.

quote:
Remember that the common thought "Good Fights Evil" is not always applicable! For example in a civilian war such as in africa between the Hutu''s and the Tutsi''s or the civil war in Northern Ireland. Both sides will say that they are the Good ones, and despise the others for being Evil. We can conclude that Good or Evil is just a matter of the point of view you''re at. That makes it all the harder to judge whether or not the game is morally wrong or not.


And I would argue this also means you shouldn''t try to ''convert'' people with your games/movies/books etc. After all, -you- may be the one who is ''wrong'' about what is ''good''.

#11 Loqi   Members   -  Reputation: 122

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Posted 19 April 2000 - 08:56 AM

This issue depends on your point of view, what you''re trying to accomplish. If you''re trying to sell, I''d say yeah, of course, don''t make anything TOO offensive to large chunks of the populace, or you''re going to be wading in the result (and I think you can guess what that is). But if you''re just looking to make a fun game (read: original), I would say do whatever. I''ve never seen any evidence, published or firsthand, that suggests that a game has influenced anyone to the point of seriously immoral activity unless they were already pretty damn unstable. And there will ALWAYS be people like that out there, puddles of gasoline waiting for something (song, movie, tv show, rumor, possibly even video game) to spark their twisted imagination. If we set out to accomodate the mental instability of every fruitcake on the planet, we''ll end up with nothing more interesting than a padded room version of pong. In reality I am a very moral person, and I do care about issues. Entertainment is an entirely separate subject. In a game, I could care less who dies, who mutilates who, what laws/moralities/human decencies are broken. If a Nazi death camp makes for an original/fun game, make it (and yes, I hate Nazis as much as the next guy, I live relatively near a whole frickin hive of them). If it offends people, tough crackers (unless sales are you goal). The whole "your morals aren''t my morals" is precisely what freedom of speech is about. What I personally create and distribute is my choice, just as is it your choice to be or not to be offended by it. If you don''t like the idea of playing a Nazi death camp game, don''t play it. Censorship is exactly the kind of thing Hitler used to gain enough power to bring about death camps in the first place, not by somehow coercing people into playing "evil games."

#12 Osmo Suvisaari   Members   -  Reputation: 115

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Posted 19 April 2000 - 09:48 AM

They keep telling me that this is for the best - you are too fragile and stupid to understand - and we will deny you this and that...

I do not accept that someone(s) should have an authority to ban ideas, storylines, games or visual material from me. I get angry thinking about that somebody watches movies and decides that I (an adult, born 1977) should never see this. With the logic of the corruption of mind shouldn''t these censors themselves be locked up?

Today when games are not made of merely text or pixels one inch wide, there looms the danger that the same biggots will come and trample the game industry.

About the concentration camp example:
The idea is a bit ridiculous also when you look it from the Nazi point of view. It is not a good example because there is no challenge or glory. Much better game would come of any event in WWII were there was something hard to achieve. And killing of non-armed is not hard.

I think that good war games should be quite neutral about the events and maybe also allow gameplay on both sides.

It is boring to always use the Nazis as an example of evil, do mention sometimes the Russians too...
WWII witnessed many terrible things not all committed by Axis countries. The late-war bombing of the civilians in Germany were accepted as a revenge during that period, but looking back now they seem to be too late, too big and cruelly made. And please sometimes mention also the atrocites done by WWII US ally the Soviet Union. (I am from Finland)

Instead of the prohibition of violence in games I would like to personally choose the games I buy. I do think that it is better to have items that I think morally incorrect in the shop - than that they would be away and away would be also some items that I do accept but someone else does not...

-Osmo

("Beware of the one who would deny you information ... in his heart he dreams of being your master" AC/Sid Meyer)


#13 Osmo Suvisaari   Members   -  Reputation: 115

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Posted 19 April 2000 - 10:04 AM

... and about this "responsibility":

I think that the wide-spread idea of resposibility because of the causality is stupid.

It is sensible in extreme cases, but it is just not correct to blame raped girl for attracting rapists being pretty or to blame McDonalds if someone is stupid enough to burn himself with their coffee with no warning printed on the surface of the liquid. Same applies to games - it does not matter if the games causes violence, because they are not _responsible_ but the violent inviduals themselves are. Even if the effect of a game would be terrifically violence causing - the game would not be responsible. Maybe it would be correct to control it, but there is no guilt.

-Osmo Suvisaari

#14 Kylotan   Moderators   -  Reputation: 3163

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Posted 19 April 2000 - 03:47 PM

quote:
Original post by Osmo Suvisaari

... and about this "responsibility":

I think that the wide-spread idea of resposibility because of the causality is stupid.


You seem to be saying that if you cause something to happen, you are not responsible. With no offence intended, I am assuming that you are not understanding the words the same way I do, as pretty much ''responsible for'' and ''cause'' are almost the same thing. The difference is that it is possible to take responsibility for something you didn''t cause, perhaps by allowing something to happen. But when you cause it, you are responsible unless you did it under duress or unwillingly. Making a computer game where you get to shoot jews or black people or homosexuals cos you think it is fun doesn''t generally count as being done unwillingly, therefore you are ''responsible'' for it. Maybe not wholly responsible, but at least in part.

quote:
It is sensible in extreme cases, but it is just not correct to blame raped girl for attracting rapists being pretty or to blame McDonalds if someone is stupid enough to burn himself with their coffee with no warning printed on the surface of the liquid. Same applies to games - it does not matter if the games causes violence, because they are not _responsible_ but the violent inviduals themselves are.


I''m not quite understanding the analogy, but that''s ok. If I hire a hitman to kill someone, am I not at all responsible merely because I didn''t pull the trigger? I think not. I would share part of the responsibility. Anything which plays a significant part in the ''chain'' of events is at least partly responsible.

You are assuming an individual is already either violent or not before they set eyes on a game. This is not necessarily true. Nearly all personality traits are learned, at least to some extent. So, how did that individual get violent in the first place? Maybe it was the game. Probably not. But maybe. And therefore the game could have caused the violence.

People learn from their surroundings, their environment, and other people. Pretending it isn''t so won''t change this fact. Technically, an adult is responsible for their actions, but psychologically, 99% of what anybody does is what they''ve learned from the people around them.

quote:
Even if the effect of a game would be terrifically violence causing - the game would not be responsible. Maybe it would be correct to control it, but there is no guilt.


I really don''t understand this. I personally don''t believe a game could be -terrifically- violence causing, but if it was, I think there would be some guilt! If you knowingly teach or inspire someone to doing something, and they do it, you are partially responsible for that. Of course, the -intent- of the maker will play a part, but pretty much anyone who makes a widely-selling game these days knows the supposed potential effects, and therefore naivety can''t really be claimed.

Don''t fall into the trap of thinking that when someone hits the age of 16/18/21/some arbitrary birthday that they suddenly acquire 100% free will. This has never been the case and never will. Adults succumb to peer pressure, they are easily led and influenced, they are stupid. Just witness the size of the advertising industry for proof. By definition, half the population is of below average intelligence. We all exert influence over those around us. When you start making choices about what kind of influence you are going to make, you have to accept responsibility if you are going to push people over the edge. I don''t necessarily agree with censorship for adults - what I agree with is some sort of self-imposed restraint.

#15 *Angelfish*   Members   -  Reputation: 122

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Posted 19 April 2000 - 10:19 PM

If gamedevelopers are not "responsible by law" then they might well feel responsible for themselves, because the fact is, that if someone <18 shoots 5 kids after playing your 18+ game, it is easy to say that their parents weren''t there for them and that the store shouldn''t have sold the game to them. Fact is, that those 5 kids would still be alive if you hadn''t made the game that violent. And is that what you are going to say to their parents? And will you go to work the next day and say at the coffee : "Ah, well so someone shot 5 people after playing our game, but he shouldn''t be buying it anyway because he is too young, thus we aren''t responsible and we shouldn''t bother too much about it and just continue with our work." And what are you going to say to the press? How will such an incident affect future games coming from you?



#16 MikeD   Members   -  Reputation: 158

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Posted 20 April 2000 - 12:05 AM

I think there is a switcharound in mentality regarding responsability as soon as any of the power of disgression is taken away from the developer/publisher.
What I mean is that the second you have a governing body deciding the age legitimacy of a game they''re taking away the question of morality from the developer/publisher/seller. They become a catch all net that makes sure that, whatever game you produce or sell, you can feel no responsability towards it''s content because if it''s sold to someone underage (or even if it''s released when it shouldn''t be) someone else made the decision, your hands are clean.

I don''t like the idea that people shirk their moralities and ethics because they presume someone else is there doing it for them and doing it correctly (often a fallacy). You should produce games that you''re happy about whether or not their is a ''parent'' figure telling you whether it''s right or wrong. We''re all still adults (at least those of us producing/publishing games are) and we all still make these moral choices.
On a personal note though, I doubt very much that any game could contribute to the psychological state of an individual enough to turn them from a rational human being into one who picks up his Dad''s Uzi and mow''s down his classmates. I don''t think a game can even come close to tipping someone over the edge. It might, just possibly might, give them an idea of how to wreak carnage if they had already made the decision they wanted to hurt people but playing multiplayer FPS has never given me any desire other than to frag the Hell out of my workmates at that FPS. It''s never even crossed my mind that doing anything more would, in any way, be fun.
Maybe I''m just not screwed up enough yet :0)

Mike

#17 MadKeithV   Moderators   -  Reputation: 971

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Posted 20 April 2000 - 12:55 AM

Interesting topic - I thought I''d pick up on the McDonalds "Hot Coffee" lawsuit.
It''s a typically american thing to sue the hell out of everyone else, but McDonalds LOST this particular case. I guess the reasoning is that the coffee was indeed hot, and there was no external indication of this being the case because the styrofoam containers hide the temperature. In this case, McDonalds SHOULD have put a warning on the container, warning it contained a HOT liquid.

It''s similar to Wolfenstein, back in the day... ( I think ).
It had a VOLUNTARY PG-13 rating , a huge warning plastered all over it saying - THIS STUFF IS GRAPHICALLY VIOLENT.
If after that warning, you''re still playing, it''s not the developers fault. They warned you.

Just like now, with the container marked "HOT" in McDonalds, if someone throws a full mug of coffee at someone else, McDonalds can no longer be sued ( hey, it SAID it was hot ), because the person throwing it obviously KNEW it was hot.

Do you understand what I''m trying to say? If you inform the users of your product about its possible consequences, then you have done your work right.


#pragma DWIM // Do What I Mean!
~ Mad Keith ~
**I use Software Mode**


#18 Kylotan   Moderators   -  Reputation: 3163

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Posted 20 April 2000 - 04:21 AM

Angelfish and MikeD - I think you are seeing what I am trying to say, which is nice As for this...

quote:
Original post by MadKeithV

Do you understand what I''m trying to say? If you inform the users of your product about its possible consequences, then you have done your work right.



I still don''t think this is going far enough. A warning/disclaimer/etc is not taking responsibility - in fact, it''s just explicitly shirking it. It may work for fulfilling your legal obligations, but legal doesn''t necessarily equal moral (although it''s often a good guide.) Consider:

a) A parent cannot possibly monitor everything a child buys or does. It is a common excuse to blame the parents, and sometimes at least partially founded, but there are numerous other aspects. Parents are just part of the environment a child grows up in. Not to mention this: parents are human too - they make mistakes of judgement. Does someone deserve to die just because a child''s parent made a mistake?
b) A shopkeeper cannot know that when he sells a game to a 21 year old, that the 21 year old isn''t just gonna hand it to a 12 year old in the street. Age limits help, but don''t prevent. Not to mention that there are plenty of well-balanced 12 year-olds and plenty of psychotic 30 year-olds. Ages are arbitrary measures - they give an indication of maturity, but are not perfect.
c) Not everyone will believe any warning you give them. After all, who''s to say that the person giving the warning knows their stuff? Maybe they think your ''warning'' is just an exaggeration to cover your legal liability. This is, of course, justified, cos 99% of the time, it -is- just a legal disclaimer.
d) You can''t assume that everybody is intelligent and well-balanced enough to make decisions on what is suitable for themselves, or indeed for their children. 99% of people are. But 1% or so are not. And that''s where the danger lies.

There are no easy answers. Censoring the material adults can legally acquire only has a minimal benefit, and infringes the rights of the well-rounded majority of individuals who could cope perfectly well with the material. And since violent (and other ''immoral'' acts) would generally result from -numerous- influences, maybe some of the other ''negative'' influences in society could be treated. Example: if you take your son deer-hunting, and get him to shoot a deer dead, are you lessening his respect for other life? Or, if you endorse keeping a weapon handy for self-defence, does that extend to defence of ones property, or even of one''s pride? Sometimes there is a thin line between ''right'' and ''wrong'', and it may be beneficial to stay as far from that line as possible, in case it is misunderstood.

#19 stimarco   Members   -  Reputation: 1071

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Posted 20 April 2000 - 05:00 AM

A developer has the right to offer any game they wish. But they also have a responsibility to place warnings and notices on their game if it can be misconstrued in any way.

Age certification isn''t perfect -- it doesn''t take mental age or mental maturity into account, for instance -- but is as good as we''re going to get for the moment. If a certificate states explicitly that a product is unsuitable for 8-year-olds, then *whoever allows the 8-year-old to access it* is the guilty party. That could be the retailer, the parent or an idiot, but as long as that notice is there in plain sight, it is NOT a developers'' responsibility to act as parents or guardians of your child.

Yes, parents can make mistakes. So what? The fault still lies with the parents. You''re supposed to *learn* from your mistakes, not cop out and blame them on someone else. It''s not our fault if a father leaves a large, loaded rifle on their bed and their bedroom door unlocked so their toddler can walk in and play. All it takes is common sense; something that appears to be in increasingly short supply.

Should countries like the UK be deprived of first-person shooters just because the citizens of the USA can''t be bothered to keep their artillery under lock and key?

Every time a censor removes a choice from you, it means a wall is replacing a door. That door gives freedom of choice: you can open it if you want to see what''s on the other side, or leave it closed if you don''t like the sound of all that screaming.

Art is about creating new doors. Nobody is forcing you to open them.



--
Sean Timarco Baggaley
Technical Author
Criterion Technologies

#20 Anonymous Poster_Anonymous Poster_*   Guests   -  Reputation:

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Posted 20 April 2000 - 11:23 AM

Any child that goes off and kills people BECAUSE OF a violent game they played is so maladjusted that they should have been institutionalized a long time prior.

I put it to you that eliminating all violence in computer games will not stop school or any other form of actual violence.

I put it to you that eliminating all violence in all media will not stop school or any other form of actual violence.

If people can''t take responsibility for their actions (and note that this includes the act of having a child), then we''re collectively screwed. Every time an institution is charged with exercising responsibility on behalf of the people, the people suffer.

$0.02




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