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  1. 1. Designing Ethical Dilemmas Manveer Heir Raven Software July 28, 2009
  2. 2. What Would You Do... <ul><li>If you had to choose between your wife and your daughter? </li></ul><ul><li>You found a wallet on the street with $1000 and no clear owner? </li></ul><ul><li>Watch a mother and her child wither away to ensure your survival? </li></ul>
  3. 3. Who Is This Guy? <ul><li>B.S. Computer Science – Virginia Tech </li></ul><ul><li>Programming Intern at Big Huge Games on Rise of Legends </li></ul><ul><li>Gameplay Programmer at Raven Software on Wolfenstein for 2+ years </li></ul><ul><li>Game Designer at Raven Software on Wolfenstein </li></ul><ul><li>Currently Lead Designer on a top-secret project </li></ul>
  4. 4. What This Talk Is About <ul><li>How to understand and design games that let players experience ethical dilemmas </li></ul><ul><li>This talk is not about: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Ethical responsibilities of the designer </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How to act ethically in the workplace </li></ul></ul>
  5. 5. No one told me research = reading :(
  6. 6. Why Ethical Dilemmas? <ul><li>One tool to create more meaningful play experiences </li></ul><ul><li>Need game emotions beyond fear and aggression </li></ul><ul><li>Can be the key to unlocking these new emotions in players </li></ul>
  7. 8. Ethics vs. Morals <ul><li>Morals are the “principles of right and wrong behavior” (Merriam-Webster) </li></ul><ul><li>Ethics are “a set of moral principles: a theory or system of moral value” (Merriam-Webster) </li></ul><ul><li>Ethics are “a rational, methodological approach to the questions of good, evil, duty and values” (Sicart) </li></ul>
  8. 9. Types of Ethical Designs <ul><li>Open Ethical Design </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Open System Design </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Open World Design </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Closed Ethical Design </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Substracting Design </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Mirroring Design </li></ul></ul><ul><li>(Sicart) </li></ul>
  9. 10. Open Ethical Design <ul><li>Open System Design </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Rules, systems, and mechanics are affected by player choice, but not narrative </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Games such as BioShock </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Open World Design </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Character, narrative, fiction being affected by player choice </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Games such as Fable </li></ul></ul>
  10. 11. Closed Ethical Design <ul><li>Subtracting Design </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Player knows actions have weight, but has to decipher </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Player deciphers the ethics of gameplay outside the scope of the game </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Mirroring Design </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Create a relation between the actions of the player and the character </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Can reward unethical gameplay this way to challenge the player's ethical framework </li></ul></ul>
  11. 12. Dilemmas Require Open Design <ul><li>Closed designs rely on a high level of authorship by the designer </li></ul><ul><li>These games can potentially become preachy and don't take full advantage of the medium </li></ul><ul><li>Open designs are harder to account for, but potentially more rewarding </li></ul><ul><li>Open designs will be the way in which our games will open up new emotional responses in players </li></ul>
  12. 13. We Got Problems
  13. 15. Black and White Model <ul><li>Designers tells you if you are doing a good or bad job </li></ul><ul><li>Binary system that doesn’t account for ambiguities that exist </li></ul><ul><li>Applying scores and mechanics to ethical decisions marginalizes the decision </li></ul>
  14. 16. BioShock <ul><li>Saving or killing Little Sister’s starts off as an emotionally impactful decision </li></ul><ul><li>Turns to realization of the strategy </li></ul><ul><li>Robs the impact of the ethical decisions and turns the decision into one of optimal strategy </li></ul>
  15. 17. Star Wars <ul><li>Never feel like Luke in the games </li></ul><ul><li>Need something more </li></ul><ul><li>Need ambiguity! </li></ul>
  16. 18. World is Gray
  17. 19. How Do We Reach Our Potential? <ul><li>Narrative </li></ul><ul><li>Consequences </li></ul><ul><li>Obstacles </li></ul><ul><li>Permanence </li></ul>
  18. 20. Narrative <ul><li>Player must be invested in world </li></ul><ul><li>Not economically invested </li></ul><ul><li>Emotionally invested </li></ul><ul><li>Ludic elements need to support narrative elements </li></ul><ul><li>Ludonarrative Dissonance (Hocking) </li></ul>
  19. 21. No Magical Formula For Narrative
  20. 22. Consequences <ul><li>Choices have consequences </li></ul><ul><li>Need to significantly impact the game </li></ul><ul><li>Player needs to understand consequence is a result of earlier choice </li></ul><ul><li>Do not minimize impact of consequences </li></ul>
  21. 23. Mass Effect
  22. 24. Obstacles <ul><li>Obstacles can make the player stop </li></ul><ul><li>Push player down a new path </li></ul><ul><li>Try making “moral” road the more difficult </li></ul><ul><li>Game paths don't have to be equal </li></ul><ul><li>Challenge player's conceptions of what is ethical! </li></ul>
  23. 25. Train
  24. 26. Permanence <ul><li>Redoing our choices robs them of the impact </li></ul><ul><li>Choices that are mechanical (shooting) are fine to redo </li></ul><ul><li>Forces player to live with consequences </li></ul><ul><li>Lends self to experiential gameplay, not mastery </li></ul>
  25. 27. Tenpenny Tower
  26. 28. A Funny Thing Happened...
  27. 29. <ul><li>ENRAGED </li></ul><ul><li>UPSET </li></ul><ul><li>BETRAYED </li></ul><ul><li>DISGUSTED </li></ul>
  28. 30. How Does Tenpenny Tower Fare? <ul><li>Narrative – I care about the world of Fallout, I feel bad for the Ghouls being treated like less than humans. I want to save them and “do the right thing”. </li></ul><ul><li>Consequences – If I “do the right thing” the humans still die and they never come back. </li></ul><ul><li>Obstacles – It's easier to just kill one side outright. “Doing the right thing” requires me to convince others and do an extra quest </li></ul><ul><li>Permanance – I decided not to let myself reload... why? </li></ul>
  29. 31. VENGENCE
  30. 32. This Is The Potential Of Ethical Dilemmas In Games
  31. 33. Thank You <ul><li>Questions? </li></ul><ul><li>Contact Info </li></ul><ul><li>E-Mail: [email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>Design Rampage: </li></ul><ul><li>Follow me on Twitter: @manveerheir </li></ul>