We explore controversial ethical issues about video games (e.g. what should be censored), in video games (e.g. what counts as cheating), and in video game design (e.g. what works to make a game morally interesting). Your hosts are Shlomo Sher, Ph.D. (Philosophy Professor and Video Game Ethicist) and Andy Ashcraft (Veteran Video Game Designer and Professor).
How Video Games Represent Poverty (with Adam Crowley)
We encounter poverty in lots in games. We might play in a GTA-“ghetto” or interact with people in a “slum” using common tropes our culture has about the poor. We might be poor ourselves and set out to level up through the tropes of wealth and power. Sometimes our real world economic capacity can even be a factor in a game – say, with pay to win gamrs. In this episode, we look at how poverty is depicted in games and what questions it raises about how we should play and design them.
Episode 50 – Trash Talk in Esports (with Sydney Irwin)
In esports, players trash talk, fans trash talk – even commentators trash talk!
Sometimes trash talk is fun harmless banter, but other times is unsportsmanlike and shows disrespect for the game or other players. And, of course, trash talk can easily turn into harassment. What norms do esports have about trash talk and where should we draw the line between morally acceptable and unacceptable trash talk?
The challenge of Creative Collaboration in game development (with Casey O’Donnell)
Game development is often a creative collaboration among people with very different skill sets, passions, and worldviews. What does it mean to treat the people you’re working with in projects like these as a part of a team? What does it mean to respect one another? What can be done when interpersonal conflict inevitably arises?
When AIs Compete in Real-Time Military Strategy Games (with David Churchill)
When we heard that David Churchill hosts an AI competition with the Real Time Strategy game Starcraft, we were instantly fascinated. We wanted to know what cheating concerns a competition among AIs raises, and also what real world implications arise when training AIs to control strategic military assets in a game. Dr. Churchill did not disappoint!
Episode 48 – Gaming and the Environment (with Paula Escuadra)
Have you ever considered how gaming and game companies contribute to environmental problems like global climate change? We haven’t! At least not until we spoke and were inspired by our guest Paula Escuadra to think about the many ways that game companies and design can help bring about a greener world!
Episode 47 – Ethics in Pirating in Video Games (with the Studying Pixels Podcast)
Hundreds of millions of players have pirated video games. Most of them didn’t feel any guilt about it. Some even felt justified. But game companies, like virtually all producers of creative products, have told us for decades that piracy is wrong – that it’s theft somewhat similar to stealing physical things. Are they right? We’ve teamed-up for this episode with the hosts of the Studying Pixels Podcast to try to shed some light on whether or when pirating video games is morally justified.
Really makes me think
Great deep dive into a very rich and relevant topic!
As someone who only mildly connects to the gaming world (a few casual games here and there), I’m finding this podcast to be a refreshing examination of the complex moral terrain around a complex industry. With struggling indie developers on one hand and vast money-making exploitative corporations on the other, the show has so far been a thoughtful examination of all sides of the ethical aspects of gameplay, design, monetization… all things worth considering if you are at all interested in the gaming ecosystem. It’s on my weekly listen list now!