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September 13, 2004
Ethics in Computer Game Content?
I posed this question to my graduate class last year: "Does the games industry have an ethical obligation to produce less violent and/or addictive content?"
Not one of them said yes. Zero. I found that astounding. I don't really have an extended entry for this yet, I'm still mulling this over (a year later) trying to come to grips with it: I thought for sure there would be people on both sides of the issue - I've informally asked more students that I see, and *every single one of them so far* has said basically 'no, the games industry can do whatever it wants'.
I guess I feel sometimes that just because they can doesn't mean they should. I am saddened that so far I haven't found anyone in the younger than 30 player-base that agrees with me, and I'm wondering where the moral technological compass went. Perhaps it's all at the feet of Napster, the Greek God of Piracy, our ethical obligations in technology creation went right out the window. Seems to me if the games industry ever wants to shake off the shackle of its own stereotype, it has to do something about this issue (and no, I am dead-set against Congress trying to legislate the morality of video games - I am interested in the industry itself deciding for itself what it thinks is right). I've seen presentations of games at GDC where the *authors* of a game go red-faced and mumble about a games content.
Knowing that kids are dropping out of real-life society to slave against your MMORPG for 65 hours a week - sure, I agree, that's horrid parenting - but as a designer wouldn't you feel just a *twinge* of guilt designing that level ladder and reward spacing? Design to the hard-core and let the others bang their heads seems to be the motto of the day, with the exception of Call of Heroes. Final Fantasy XI stuck some warnings about remembering friends and family at the login, and that's interesting, if only for the sentiment.
I am just awestruck at the results. If you have a class, or access to folks under 25, see what they think. Hopefully it is just my microcosm.
EDIT: For related stuffs, see "Manhunt to Mortal Kombat: The Use of Violence in Video Games" by Steven L. Kent in this months Game Developer Magazine.
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