- Hardcover: 272 pages
- Publisher: The MIT Press; 1 edition (April 24, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0262012650
- ISBN-13: 978-0262012652
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,458,972 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Ethics of Computer Games 1st Edition
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"Miguel Sicart's The Ethics of Computer Games is a thoughtful and nuanced investigation of a topic of great importance. Sicart weaves together insights and influences from several fields, providing an erudite (and also approachable) introduction to the subject. This book will be valuable to educators who want to target ethics in their Game Studies curriculum, as well as to journalists, parents, and others who have ethical concerns about games."--Katherine Isbister, Polytechnic Institute of New York University
About the Author
Miguel Sicart is Associate Professor at the Center for Computer Game Research at IT University Copenhagen. He is the author of The Ethics of Computer Games and Beyond Choices: The Design of Ethical Gameplay, both published by the MIT Press.
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The book was prompted by the PC game Deus Ex (Ion Storm) issued in 2000. Apart from its diverse and absorbing game play, this action role play game is commonly praised as a fascinating dystopia with an ethical game design. Unlike many other action-based computer games, Deus Ex succeeds in the feat of making gamers reflect on their own actions. According to Sicart, this kind of ethical thinking, as well as the question of motives that comes with it, is just as significant in Deus Ex as its firearms. Viewed in this way, the game becomes an ideal example of how ethical awareness of responsibility plays a considerable role with respect to game-play strategies and the game design.
To start with, Deus Ex presents itself as yet another average first-person shooter set in a bleak sci-fi world, yet even in the first few missions the player's alter ego is confronted with increasingly difficult decisions. Soon, hints and indications display the goals and motives of the player in a different light: the gamer is shown the questionable nature of some of his/her actions. The ethical game design of Deus Ex forces the player to become aware of his role as a moral decision-maker.
Starting from the moral challenge manifested in Deus Ex as a result of the game objectives, this analysis considers the design framework on the one hand and highlights the game experience on the other. Sicart takes on the challenge of a comprehensive academic study on ethical game play and game design - the book's theoretical foundation is laid by linking philosophical theories such as constructivism and information ethics, which are in places extremely demanding in terms of language and content. In fact (and as predicted by the author), the philosophical debate in Sicart's Game Ethics requires a high degree of concentration. However, these rather more difficult-to-digest theoretical chunks are simplified by concrete examples in clear case studies (e.g. on Bioshock or MMORPG representative World of Warcraft) as well as a debate on ethical problems.
The socio-cultural significance of this philosophical analysis can primarily be seen in Sicart's conclusion, which states that video games should not just be reduced to their economic role (they have recently become the biggest branch of the entertainment industry). Rather, games should be viewed as an expressive mediator of communication and creativity in the 21st century. For Sicart, computer games are above all infospheres with set rules, in which interaction takes place. Players are thus in no way mindless zombies, but operate on a moral level and are responsible for the decisions they make in the game. As per Sicart's definition, these "virtuous players" are not only responsible for their actions within the framework of the game design; they also have the capacity to decide which games are played at all. Players therefore by definition have moral positions of responsibility and thus also co-form societal values. Consequently, computer and video games also have the ethical power and responsibility to influence social debates. Nowhere else, according to Sicart, are there similarly unique and interactive contributions such as the ideas realised in the virtual worlds of digital games. Creative and societal conflict with new technologies is an essential structural trait for further cultural development and, by implication, also allows for the evaluation of a new dynamic culture of interaction.
Conclusion: Despite computer and video games nearly having achieved becoming a fixed part of the dominant general culture, the question of ethics in digital games has to date been a poor cousin of Game Studies. The Ethics of Computer Games is not always simple, yet nevertheless worth reading as it offers a well-founded access point to understanding ethics and morality in computer game playing. Game Ethics is currently only available in English, but non-native speakers with knowledge of the language will also be able to tackle it. It is worth it, as Miguel Sicart's insights not only show us how we play, but also highlights games' potential to demand "ethical" game design. The player himself primarily holds the reins in such an ethical and thus engrossing game play - "It is our game now".
This is a book that should be included in the mandatory reading list of any serious course on game studies or design.