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Workshop on Games, Ethics and War

Malcolm Ryan

Monday, 24 November 2014 from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm (AEDT)

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Event Details

Macquarie University Department of Computing and the Ethics Centre would like to invite academics, industry professionals and other interested parties to the Workshop on Games, Ethics and War.
 
 This one-day workshop will discuss such questions as:
  • How is war depicted in videogames? How does this match up to the reality?
  • What is ethical warfare? Is videogame war ethical?
  • How do we design meaningful and engaging ethical decisions in games?
  • How can game developers depict war and violence without glorifying it?
  • Can games be used as a tool for developing ethical expertise? 
Keynote speakers:

Program


10am - Opening remarks, Malcolm Ryan


10:10am - Cory Davis - Crafting an Interactive Experience as a Vehicle for an Existential Conversation


10:40am - Dr Stephen Coleman & Rev Nikki Coleman - Just War and Gaming


11:00am - Hugh Davies - Transmedia Warfare: The Militarisation of Alternate Reality Games


11:20am - Paul Formosa - Ethical Decision Making in The Walking Dead


11:40am - Dan McMahon - Long periods of boredom punctuated by moments of terror


12:00pm - Lunch


1pm - Michał Drozdowski - This War Of Mine – War from a Civilian Perspective


1:30pm - Anna Griffin - TBA


1:50pm - Dan Staines - Designing Games for Moral Engagement: Opportunities and Pitfalls


2:10pm - Alexander Muscat - Warfare in the Uncanny Valley


2:30pm - Luke van Ryn, Robbie Fordyce - The ethical terrain of players vs code


2:50pm - Afternoon tea


3:10pm - Robert Sparrow (presenting), Rebecca Harrison - Playing for fun, training for war: what can military simulations tell us about violent video games?


3:30pm - Will Owen - TBA


3:50pm - José Zagal - If War is Hell, what about Videogames?


4:20pm - Discussion


5:00pm - Close


Keynote speakers


Cory Davis - Crafting an Interactive Experience as a Vehicle for an Existential Conversation


A discussion of techniques for transporting the consciousness of the Subject to a contemplative space where they are able to confront their own behavior and place in the Universe.  An in-depth look at the development of Spec Ops: The Line, how these techniques were attempted, and what was learned about the process of creating a meaningful existential experience.


Cory Davis is a Creative Director and Musician from Los Angeles. His work includes titles in both the FEAR and Condemned franchises, and he was the Lead Designer and Creative Director of Spec Ops: The Line.  Cory is now busy brewing up Daedalus with the Tangentlemen.


 


 Michał Drozdowski - This War Of Mine  – War from a Civilian Perspective


At 11 bit we have always wanted to create a game with some meaning, a game that would both have an emotional impact on the player and let him experience something true and important. When we encountered an article depicting the Yugoslav war from a civilian perspective, we were so touched and shocked that without any doubts we involved ourselves in our new project - This War of Mine.


This War of Mine is a game about normal people, just like any one of us, who suddenly find themselves in dramatic circumstances of WAR. They face the lack of home, lack of basic commodities like water, food, medicaments, electricity and security. They are trying to survive… but are faced with many ethical decisions and dramatic choices, as war changes their lives completely.


During the speech I would like to present how we approached the subject of war and ethical choices from a design perspective. What we wanted to achieve the most, was to let the players:


experience war as civilians, victims of a war conflict

play as a average guy, not a hero

make tough ethical decisions

not be judged, but face the consequences

forge their own story


Michał Drozdowski - Design Director at 11 Bit Studios. Responsible for the design of all company titles as well as leading, supervising and managing studio’s internal and external design teams. Lead designer and project leader for This War of Mine and Anomaly Warzone Earth. Previously Lead Designer, project leader & producer at Metropolis Software & CD Projekt Red.

 


 José Zagal - If War is Hell, what about Videogames?


TBA


Dr. José P. Zagal is a game designer and scholar. He serves on the faculty at DePaul University’s College of Computing and Digital Media and is currently visiting faculty at the University of Utah . He's the editor of “The Videogame Ethics Reader” (2012), a collection of writings that provide an entry point for thinking, deliberating, and discussing ethical topics surrounding videogames.


 


 Speakers


Dr Stephen Coleman & Rev Nikki Coleman - Just War and Gaming

 

Warfare is not a new phenomenon. For as long as humans have been gathering together, huddling in groups around campfires, those groups have been in conflict with their rivals for territory and resources. This conflict has led some people to ask the bigger question; "Is this the right thing to do"? Philosophers have examined the ethics of warfare for literally thousands of years, considering questions both of when it is ethically appropriate to go to war and about how those engaged in the conflict ought to conduct themselves within it; the principles which have been developed to deal with these issues have come to be known as Just War Theory. War gaming and role playing is also not new, but it has become more formalised and large scale with the advent of computing and the Internet. This paper explains the basic principles of Just War Theory and examines how those principles have been, and should be, applied to war in video and computer games.

 

Dr Stephen Coleman is Senior Lecturer in Ethics and Leadership in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, UNSW Canberra (at the Australian Defence Force Academy) and a senior researcher in the Australian Centre for the Study of Armed Conflict and Society. He teaches undergraduate and postgraduate courses in military ethics and is the author of Military Ethics: An Introduction with Case Studies (Oxford University Press, 2013).

 

Rev Nikki Coleman is a PhD student in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, UNSW Canberra and a researcher in the Australian Centre for the Study of Armed Conflict and Society. She teaches undergraduate and postgraduate courses in military ethics at the Australian Defence Force Academy and undergraduate courses in bioethics at the Australian National University.

 

 


Hugh Davies - Transmedia Warfare: The Militarisation of Alternate Reality Games


This presentation argues that where video games have been developed as training devices for combat operations, Alternate Reality Games are developed as instructional experiences for the military intelligence industry. Citing existing research and providing transmedia game examples, Hugh will explore how the playful and paranoiac aesthetic that is encouraged in ARGs is being weaponised for intelligence gathering, coercion, data analysis and pattern recognition within the real world of military intelligence.


Hugh Davies is an artist and media researcher. He works as a Senior Lecturer in Media, Screen and Sound at LaTrobe University where he also operates as deputy director for the Centre for Creative Arts.


Hugh is the founding Chairman of the Freeplay Independent Games Festival.


http://www.latrobe.edu.au/humanities/about/staff/profile?uname=HMDavies

http://www.freeplay.net.au/about/


 


Paul Formosa - Ethical Decision Making in The Walking Dead


Video games provide an important medium within which to explore ethical decision making in engaging and realistic ways. Typically, however, the types of ethical decision scenarios presented in games tend to revolve around a conflict between prudence (or self-interest) and morality (or other-interest). While this is an important conflict to explore, there are many other more interesting and complex ethical decision making scenarios that might be profitably explored in games. In order to examine this point in detail we shall look at one recent game that deals with complex ethical decisions in a realistic and engaging way, Telltale Games’ The Walking DeadSeason 1. We shall first analyse the different kinds of “tough” ethical decisions faced by players in this game, before generalising about the different kinds of ethical decisions that might be explored in video games.


Dr Paul Formosa is an ARC DECRA research fellow and Lecturer in the Department of Philosophy at Macquarie University. His research focuses on various issues in moral and political philosophy, such as dignity, autonomy, and evil.


 


Anna Griffin - TBA


TBA


 


Alexander Muscat - Warfare in the Uncanny Valley


Since 2001 Bohemia Interactive has developed military themed games atypical to the mainstream. Their most recent title, Arma 3, continues this trend. It represents an all-encompassing philosophy to depict a realistic combat experience.


The high fidelity in both gameplay and environment design, is present from weapons to the flora and fauna of the Greek isles. Yet with increases in complexity and fidelity come complications. For instance, the game sanitises in-game human toll. This causes a disconnect between the reality of warfare and simulation.  


If we are to maintain our suspension of disbelief, how may developers better address this? How might we make simulated warfare more believable?


Alexander Muscat is a PhD candidate at RMIT University’s Games and Experimental Entertainment Lab (GEElab), researching into digital game narratives and the intersection between design and user experience.


 


Luke van Ryn, Robbie Fordyce - The ethical terrain of players vs code


This paper is about the gap between developers and players in terms of their expectations about ethical acts in games. When developers create games, the code they write produces what acts are possible in the game world. This, in essence, produces a 'moral code' unique to that game. Players bring their own ethical codes to games and attempt to bring these ethics to bear in moments of play, perhaps choosing not to use tools given by developers, perhaps choosing to exploit bugs, or perhaps modding the game. The ethics of players and the ethics of developers relates to "the ethics of games", and by examining the tension between these two directions we can best examine the relationships between games, ethics, and code.

We illustrate this argument by drawing on a number of games whose development is either ongoing or limited, as these games hold explicit debates about the morality of the play that they allow. By focusing on Dwarf Fortress (Bay 12 Games, 2006 - present), Prison Architect (Introversion Software, 2012 - present) and the "critical games" by Molleindustria (e.g. "Phone Story", 2011 and "to Build a Better Mousetrap", 2014), we can see that the experience of ethics and morality appears in three ways: in a scripted form by developers, in a managed form by players, and in an awkward combination of both.

 

Luke van Ryn is a PhD candidate in the School of Culture and Communications at the University of Melbourne. His research explores the intersection of food, technology and communication. His thesis addresses networking and justification in the production ecology of MasterChef Australia. He is a co-convenor of the Technology and Culture Reading Group.


Robbie Fordyce is PhD Candidate in the School of Culture and Communications at the University of Melbourne. His primary research focus is on Italian Marxism and the networking involved in contemporary protest movements. His other research areas include sociological and theoretical approaches to 3D printing, as well as research into videogames. He is a co-convenor of the Technology and Culture Reading Group.


 


Robert Sparrow, Rebecca Harrison - Playing for fun, training for war: what can military simulations tell us about violent video games?


In the cultural controversy surrounding “violent video games”, the manufacturers and players of games often insist that computer games are a form of harmless entertainment and that they are unlikely to influence the real-world attitudes or behaviour of players. Yet games and military simulations are used by military organisations across the world to teach the modern arts of war, from how to shoot a gun, to teamwork, leadership skills, military values and cultural sensitivity. Indeed, according to J.C. Herz and Michael Macedonia military organisations are increasingly viewing computer games as “powerful tools for learning, socialization, and training”. In this presentation we survey a number of ways of reconciling these apparently contradictory claims and argue that none of them are ultimately successful. Thus either military organisations are wrong to think that games and simulations have a useful role to play in training anything other than the most narrowly circumscribed physical skills or some recreational computer games do, in fact, influence the dispositions and attitudes of players.


Rob Sparrow is an Australian Research Council Future Fellow in the Philosophy Program, a Chief Investigator in the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science, and an adjunct Associate Professor in the Centre for Human Bioethics, at Monash University, where he works on ethical issues raised by new technologies. He has published widely on the ethics of military and aged-care robotics, as well as on topics as diverse as human enhancement, artificial gametes, cloning, and nanotechnology. He is a co-chair of the IEEE Technical Committee on Robot Ethics and one of the founding members of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control.

 


Dan Staines - Designing Games for Moral Engagement: Opportunities and Pitfalls


An examination of how moral psychology -- specifically the concepts of moral expertise and disengagement -- can inform the design of moral content in videogames, providing an overview of current thinking in the field and recommendations for designers/content creators based on same.


Dan Staines is a PhD candidate at the University of New South Wales who has written about videogames professionally for 14 years. He refuses to spell "videogames" as two words.

 
 
 
Have questions about Workshop on Games, Ethics and War? Contact Malcolm Ryan

When & Where


Macquarie University
E6A 102 Theatrette
Sydney, NSW 2109
Australia

Monday, 24 November 2014 from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm (AEDT)


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Organiser

Malcolm Ryan

Lecuturer and researcher in computer game design at Macquarie University.

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