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Issue No 004

Vol. 4 - December 2005
The Ethics of E-Games

There is not much left to be said in the editors’ foreword to this issue on the ethics of e-games as its guest editors, Elizabeth Buchanan and Charles Ess, already completed it with a profound introduction to the subject. Their opening paper provides an excellent overview of the field starting with its theoretical background, moving on to the specific moral questions raised within and finally introducing well informed to the single articles putting them into a systematic context. We therefore would like to confine our foreword mainly to our expression of gratitude to Elizabeth Buchanan and Charles Ess for their outstanding piece of work not merely editing this issue but also contributing to it.

It seems like the subject hit the mark. In fact e-games are among the most dramatically expanding phenomena of ICTs in a world increasingly shaped by computing and networking technologies. They represent some of the most sophisticated utilizations of the potentials of computing and network technologies – and both their stand-alone and online versions implicate a complex array of ethical questions. They include issues of individual and community responsibilities, cross-cultural interactions, etc., alongside central philosophical questions concerning reality and its construction in human experience, human nature and play, and, ultimately, the nature of the good life, both individually and in community. At the same time, however, these compelling philosophical interests have largely been neglected in contemporary scholarship and research.

We hope that the articles collected here not only contribute in helpful and significant ways to what amounts to a new field of (cross-cultural) Computer and Information Ethics - and, further, that these articles may demonstrate especially the practical importance of such research as these articles contribute to serious social and political debates regarding E-games and their ethical dimensions. The reviews of this issue perfectly complement this approach as they critically focus on some well-observed publications on the subject of E-Games published in German as well as in the English language. Therefore we are confident that the issue in hand will encourage scholars and practitioners from all over the world to provide new intercultural and interdisciplinary perspectives to this exciting and simultaneously important debate on questions and problems of high economic relevance.


Rafael Capurro, Thomas Hausmanninger, Karsten Weber and Felix Weil, the Editors.

Full Journal
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Editorial: On IRIE Vol. 4
Language: English
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Introduction: The Ethics of E-Games
by Elizabeth A. Buchanan and Charles Ess
Language: English
abstract:   E-games are a dramatically expanding dimension of contemporary exploitations of computing and computer network technologies - one that, thus far, has evoked much more heat (often, in the form of "moral panics") among parents and politicians than light in the form of serious scholarly and philosophical analysis. We argue that e-games deserve such analysis in part because of their intrinsic philosophical interest as they raise primary philosophical questions of ontology, epistemology, human nature, the character of "gameplay," - and most especially, of ethics. We further suggest that such analyses - exemplified by the articles collected here - may also contribute to resolving the larger social and political debates evoked by e-games.
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Rule Sets, Cheating, and Magic Circles: Studying Games and Ethics
by Mia Consalvo
Language: English
abstract:   This paper provides frameworks for understanding how ethics might be expressed in gameplay situations, and how we can study the ethical frameworks that games offer to players. There are many ways to delve into such topics, and this paper considers only a few approaches. It briefly surveys some of the important ques-tions and critiques arising from audience studies, theories of play and games, and work on cheating, and begins to build a framework for considering ethics in relation to games and players that transcends the “place apart” that games are often constructed as.
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Game, Player, Ethics: A Virtue Ethics Approach to Computer Games
by Miguel Sicart
Language: English
abstract:   As the contemporary heirs of popular music or cinema, computer games are gradually taking over the mar-kets of entertainment. Much like cinema and music, computer games are taking the spotlight in another front – that which blames them for encouraging unethical behaviors. Apparently, computer games turn their users into blood thirsty zombies with a computer game learnt ability of aiming with deadly precision. The goal of this paper is to pay attention to the ethical nature of computer games, in order to understand better the ways we can evaluate their morality in western cultures providing a framework to understand some of these concerns. This paper poses questions about the ontology of games and their ethical meaning, in an attempt to give ethical theory a word in the analysis of computer games.
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Game Ethics - Homo Ludens as a Computer Game Designer and Consumer
by Gordana Dodig-Crnkovic and Thomas Larsson
Language: English
abstract:   Play and games are among the basic means of expression in intelligent communication, influenced by the relevant cultural environment. Games have found a natural expression in the contemporary computer era in which communications are increasingly mediated by computing technology. The widespread use of e-games results in conceptual and policy vacuums that must be examined and understood. Humans involved in design-ing, administering, selling, playing etc. computer games encounter new situations in which good and bad, right and wrong, are not defined by the experience of previous generations. This article gives an account of the historical necessity of games, the development of e-games, their pros- and cons, threats and promises, focusing on the ethical awareness and attitudes of game developers.
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Playing with Race: The Ethics of Racialized Representations in E-Games
by Dean Chan
Language: English
abstract:   Questions about the meanings of racialized representations must be included as part of developing an ethical game design practice. This paper examines the various ways in which race and racial contexts are repre-sented in a selected range of commercially available e-games, namely war, sports and action-adventure games. The analysis focuses on the use of racial slurs and the contingencies of historical re-representation in war games; the limited representation of black masculinity in sports games and the romanticization of ‘ghetto play’ in urban street games; and the pathologization and fetishization of race in ‘crime sim’ action-adventure games such as True Crime: Streets of LA. This paper argues for, firstly, a continuous critical engagement with these dominant representations in all their evolving forms; secondly, the necessary inclusion of reflexive precepts in e-games development contexts; and thirdly, the importance of advocating for more diverse and equitable racialized representations in commercial e-games.
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The Ethical Significance of Cheating in Online Computer Games
by K. K. Kimppa and A. K.Bissett
Language: English
abstract:   In this article cheating in network and specifically online computer games is looked into as a moral offence. Reasons for the public ignoring the issue are brought forth. We present what could be considered as cheating in generic terms and in context. Different kinds of cheating are delineated, and remedies proposed. We also identify what is not cheating.
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Electronic Gaming and the Ethics of Information Ownership
by Dan L. Burk
Language: English
abstract:   Players of electronic games, particularly on-line role-playing games, may invest a substantial degree of time, effort, and personal identity into the game scenarios they generate. Yet, where the wishes of players diverge from those of game publishers, the legal and ethical interests of players remain unclear. The most applicable set of legal principles are those of copyright law, which is often grounded in utilitarian justifications, but which may also be justified on deontological grounds. Past copyright cases involving video arcade and per-sonal computer gaming suggest that the gaming scenaria generated by players may constitute original selec-tion and arrangement of the game elements, thus qualifying such gaming sequences for copyright protection as either derivative works or works of joint authorship. But this result may be difficult to justify on utilitarian theories. Rather, the personal investment of game players suggests a deontological basis for claims of game sequence ownership.
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Social context in Massively-Multiplayer Online Games (MMOGs): Ethical questions in shared space
by Dorothy E. Warner and Mike Raiter
Language: English
abstract:   Computer and video games have become nearly ubiquitous among individuals in industrialized nations, and they have received increasing attention from researchers across many areas of scientific study. However, relatively little attention has been given to Massively-Multiplayer Online Games (MMOGs). The unique social context of MMOGs raises ethical questions about how communication occurs and how conflict is managed in the game world. In order to explore these questions, we compare the social context in Blizzard’s World of Warcraft and Disney’s Toontown, focusing on griefing opportunities in each game. We consider ethical questions from the perspectives of players, game companies, and policymakers.
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The Differences of Addiction Causes between Massive Multiplayer Online Game and Multi User Domain
by Jengchung V. Chen and Yangil Park
Language: English
abstract:   This paper proposes research propositions to study on MMOG and MUD addictions based on their causes – flow state and social interaction. Though previous studies relate MMOG addictions to Internet addictions based on social interactions, this study after examining the underlying theories of Use and Gratification The-ory and Flow Theory concludes that what cause MMOG addiction is flow experience not social interaction. On the other hand, the cause of MUD addiction is social interaction. After proposing the propositions of MUD and MMOG addiction causes, this study provides possible impacts of such addictions based on the reasoning between the two theories and two online game addictions.
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Review: Wer hat unseren Kindern das Töten beigebracht? Ein Aufruf gegen Gewalt in Fernsehen, Film und Computerspielen.
by Thomas Hausmanninger
Language: German
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Review: Der virtuelle Krieg. Zwischen Schein und Wirklichkeit im Computerspiel.
by Michael Nagenborg
Language: German
pdf-fulltext (36 KB)

Review: Handbook of computer game studies
by Michael Nagenborg
Language: English
pdf-fulltext (32 KB)

Review: Vernetzt gespalten: Der Digital Divide in ethischer Perspektive
by Richard A. Spinello
Language: English
pdf-fulltext (40 KB)


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