18.734 cfp: special issue on games and ethics

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Sun, 24 Apr 2005 07:51:01 +0100

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 18, No. 734.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

         Date: Sun, 24 Apr 2005 07:28:49 +0100
         From: Charles Ess <cmess_at_drury.edu>
         Subject: cfp: special issue on games and ethics

CFP -- special issue of IRIE on e-games.

- Deadline for abstracts: June 30, 2005
- Notification of acceptance to authors: August 15, 2005
- Deadline for full chapters: September 30, 2005
- Publication: December, 2005

The Ethics of E-Games
Call for Papers - IRIE, Vol. 2/2005
International Review of Information Ethics.

Deadline for abstracts: June 30, 2005


Computer-based or e-games, in both standalone and networked incarnations
(including "Massive Multiplayer Online Games" or MMOGs), represent one
of the most popular -- and an economically profitable -- uses of ICTs
and CMC in the contemporary world. Such games not only simulate a range
of human social interactions, from building (perhaps utopian) societies
to historical and fantasy warfare of every age: the games further
occasion and catalyze a range of human interactions that rightly inspire
research from a variety of disciplines and specialties.

Especially violent games (e.g., Quake, Doom, Grand Theft Auto III, and
others) have generated some critical discussion, ranging from "moral
panics" in popular media to social science investigations into possible
effects and consequences of participating in such games. But e-games
represent a relatively neglected subject in Information Ethics. At the
same time, however, if broader discussion of e-games is to include
responsible and informed ethical reflection, much more critical
reflection from the various perspectives of Information Ethics upon the
multiple dimensions of e-games and game-playing is needed. Hence this
special issue of IRIE calls for such critical ethical reflection.

Possible Topics and Questions

1. The Rules -- and thus Ethics -- of Play

While much has been written about potential psychological and social
consequences of e-games, very little academic research has focused on the
ethics of e-games.

The ethical questions and issues here, however, are many -- for example:

A. What ethics -- if any -- may be expected of gamers (e.g., honesty,
fairness, respect, integrity - see: Code of Ethics

B. On the contrary, is it ethically justified to suspend such ethical
expectations within specific games (e.g., Grand Theft Auto III) --
precisely because these are "just a game," i.e., a kind of psychological
and/or social exercise that, like Carneval and other traditional events
that temporarily invert prevailing social norms, may have cathartic
and/or other beneficent effects?

C. Are there ethical norms to be expected of game designers -- e.g.,
avoiding designs that intentionally or inadvertently reinforce questionable
(if not dangerous and unethical) stereotypes regarding gender, ethnic and
national identities, etc.? Or is anything justified as long as it sells in
the marketplace?

D. How do different cultures shape and shade these ethical questions and
responses? For example, are concerns with illicit sexuality in games
primarily only an issue for U.S. (puritanical) parents, while European
parents are more concerned about violence, while parents in Asian countries
are concerned about 8A? Do different cultures understand the role of games
differently -- and thus, the ethical questions and ways of responding to
these questions in different ways?

E. Additional questions / issues?

2. Virtue Ethics and Ethics of Care

E-games, especially in their online versions, bring together
participants from around the globe. A specific approach to the ethics of
e-Games invokes virtue ethics -- e.g., in Aristotelian and/or Confucian
traditions -- to ask the question, what human excellences and potentials
are fostered by our playing such games (e.g., Coleman 2001)?

Contemporary feminist ethics, including an ethics of care (e.g., as
developed by Nel Noddings) would also raise critical questions regarding
what we learn and develop -- specifically, what capacities for caring,
if any -- as we play such games.

What would such ethical analyses suggest to us regarding contemporary
games? Are these analyses legitimate to use -- and/or do they beg
several questions regarding the nature of games, gamers, and

[Coleman, Kari. 2001. Android Arete: Toward a Virtue Ethic for
Computational Agents, Ethics and Information Technology, 3 (4): 247-265.]

3. Social Dimensions

The larger social impacts of computing and information technologies are
one set of consequences that are ethically relevant to design and use of
ICTs -- and thus are of importance in Information Ethics.

Many negative consequences of game-playing are thematic of both popular and
scholarly literature, e.g., concerns with encouraging violence, potential
addiction, and other anti-social impacts. At the same time, however, at
least some games may be argued to have ethical and social value as they
enhance social and other sorts of skills, serve as an attractor in
e-learning environments, etc.

What can reliable research in fact tell us regarding these impacts -- both
positive and negative? And: given the best available research on these
impacts -- what ethical conclusions (if any) may be drawn regarding the
production and consumption of e-games?

4. Gender, Culture

It is not hard to find examples in especially the more popular e-games
of gender and cultural stereotypes -- stereotypes that are ethically
reprehensible insofar as they ideologically justify a range of
inequalities and the violation of basic human rights. If certain games
only work to reinforce prevailing "masculinist" stereotypes regarding
how to be male; and if certain games teach us to see "the Other"
(whether as a female and/or as a member of a cultural/ethnic identity
different from our own) as naturally inferior, the legitimate target of
violence, etc. -- then a strong ethical case against such games could be

On the other hand, gamers may be perfectly aware that "this is just a
game" -- i.e., they may well approach such stereotypes with a distance
and irony that helps diffuse rather than reinforce them. Moreover, not
all games work by presuming such gender and/or cultural stereotypes. And
finally, a growing community of women gamers directly challenge these
stereotypes about games. Are there games and ways of playing games that
help us explore our identities as gendered beings in positive and
fruitful ways, rather than simply playing off and thus reinforcing
stereotypes that may be questionable, if not oppressive? Are there games
and ways of playing games that in fact help us overcome ethnocentrism
and come to see "the Other" in ways that teach us to respect the
irreducible differences that define diverse gender and cultural
identities -- perhaps even teach us to communicate more effectively
across these differences?

5. None of the Above

We do not imagine that this initial list of suggestions exhausts all
possible topics and approaches to ethical reflection on e-Games. On the
contrary, we encourage interested authors to propose additional frameworks,
questions, ethical and analytical approaches, etc., that will add to our
insight regarding ethics and e-Games.

The Rules of the Game

Potential authors are asked to provide an extended abstract (max. 1.500
words) by 30. June 2005. The abstract should be written in the mother tongue
of the author. An English translation of this abstract has to be included,
if the chosen language is not English or German. The IJIE will publish
accepted articles (3000 words or 20,000 letters including blanks) in German,
English, Spanish, French or Portuguese. For further details see the
submission guidelines <http://ijie.zkm.de/About#submissionguidelines> .

The abstracts will be selected by the guest editors, Dr. Charles Ess and Dr.
Elizabeth Buchanan. Authors will be notified by 15. August 2005.

Deadline for the final article (according to IRIE format guide) is 30.
September 2005. All submissions will be subject to peer review. Therefore
the acceptance of an extended abstract by the members of the editorial board
does not imply the publication of the final text unless the article passed
the peer review.

For more information about the journal see: www.ijie.org

A list of documents, which potential authors might find useful, can be
requested by e-mail. Members of the ICIE will get a copy of the list via the
ICIE mailing list.


Please send queries and proposals to guest editors,

Dr. Charles Ess: <cmess_at_drury.edu>

Dr. Elizabeth Buchanan: <eliz1679_at_uwm.edu>


Charles Ess

Distinguished Research Professor, Interdisciplinary Studies
Drury University
900 N. Benton Ave. Voice: 417-873-7230
Springfield, MO 65802 USA FAX: 417-873-7435

Home page: http://www.drury.edu/ess/ess.html
Co-chair, CATaC: http://www.it.murdoch.edu.au/catac/

Exemplary persons seek harmony, not sameness. -- Analects 13.23
Received on Sun Apr 24 2005 - 03:06:26 EDT

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