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Ethics and Games Series: The Vanishing of Ethan Carter by Sherry Jones (Apr. 29, 2018)

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About This Presentation: This is a philosophy and game studies presentation featuring the game, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter (2014, 2015), a first person horror adventure game developed and published by The Astronauts.

The presentation explores the rhetoric and the ethics of The Vanishing of Ethan Carter using the following theories: Baruch Spinoza's monism.

Additional themes explored are: Conformity vs. Individuality, Fantasy vs. Reality, Child Abuse, Trauma, Confronting the Truth, Unreliable Narrator, Fragmented Memory, Memory and Identity, Memory and Truth, Multiple Consciousness, Subjectivity and Reality, Multiplicity of Truth.

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This presentation was featured at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Games and Simulations Network live webcast on April 29, 2018.

The live webcast video was recorded and made available on Youtube, as well as made available in this presentation.

Please feel free to watch the video while exploring the presentation.

Published in: Education
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Ethics and Games Series: The Vanishing of Ethan Carter by Sherry Jones (Apr. 29, 2018)

  1. 1. Ethics & Games: Sherry Jones Philosophy & Game Studies Twitter @autnes The Vanishing of Ethan Carter
  2. 2. About this Presentation This presentation was featured at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Games and Simulations Network live webcast on Apr. 29, 2018. The live webcast video was recorded and made available on Youtube, as well as made available in this presentation. Please feel free to watch the video while exploring the presentation.
  3. 3. Recorded Live Webcast
  4. 4. ⧞ What is The Vanishing oF Ethan Carter?
  5. 5. First Person Horror Adventure Game ❖ The Vanishing of Ethan Carter (2014, 2015) is a first person horror adventure game developed and published by The Astronauts. ❖ Released on MS Windows, Playstation 4, and Xbox One. ❖ Famous for its innovative storytelling techniques, harmonious gameplay, and environmental design, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter won the “Best Game Innovation Award” at the 2015 British Academy Game Awards (BAFTA). ❖ One of the game’s innovations is the use of photogrammetry technology to create realistic environments.
  6. 6. Example Photo- Grammetry Used In The Game
  7. 7. Game Story: Key Elements ❖ TVEC is set in the fictional town of Red Creek Valley, Wisconsin. ❖ The game story revolves around Paul Prospero, a paranormal investigator who receives a fan letter from a 12 year boy named Ethan Carter, who lives in Red Creek Valley. ❖ Prospero decides to visit Red Creek Valley, but discovers unsettling paranormal activities that reveal abuse, murders and deaths that occurred in Ethan Carter’s family. ❖ Playing as Prospero, the player is led by the voice of Prospero who is acting as the player’s avatar and as the narrator of the game.
  8. 8. Narrative Design of the Game The Astronauts team applied the “4 Layer Narrative Design Approach” by Thomas Grip (of Frictional Games) to create the narrative of TVEC: ❖ Layer 1 - Gameplay (Coherency, Streamlining, A Sense of Accomplishment, Action Confirmation). ❖ Layer 2 - Narrative Goal (Mystery, Uncomfortable Environment, Character Conflict). ❖ Layer 3 - Narrative Background (Story Fragments, Complementary Dialog, Emotionally Significant Assets). ❖ Layer 4 - Mental Modeling (Danger, Goal-Focused Mystery, Social Pressures) -- Thomas Grip (2014)
  9. 9. Game Situations and Themes (Mature) ❖ The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is a horror adventure game, so some of the game situations and themes, which include murders and deaths, are more appropriate for a mature audience. ❖ Themes: Conformity vs. Individuality, Fantasy vs. Reality, Child Abuse, Trauma, Confronting the Truth, Unreliable Narrator, Fragmented Memory, Memory and Identity, Memory and Truth, Multiple Consciousness, Subjectivity and Reality, Multiplicity of Truth. ❖ The gameplay experience shows the strangeness of reality by making scenes, people, and objects disappear or reappear.
  10. 10. A Railcar Disappears Into Thin Air
  11. 11. ⧞ Ethical Theory Relevant to the Game
  12. 12. Baruch Spinoza’s Monism and Ethics ❖ Known as one of the greatest rationalist in 17th century western philosophy, Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677) created a rationalist philosophy (proposing a monist view of God) that influenced the ideological development of the 18th century enlightenment era. ❖ In latter half of this presentation, I will apply Baruch Spinoza’s monist view of God to analyze the ethics of detective Paul Prospero’s actions in The Vanishing of Ethan Carter. ❖ First, we will need to analyze the game narrative and mechanics for meaning.
  13. 13. ⧞ Game Narrative Puzzles and Mechanics
  14. 14. Design of Narrative Puzzles and Mechanics ❖ There are 10 main narrative scenes (levels) in The Vanishing of Ethan Carter. Each game scene offers various types of puzzles with different mechanics. ❖ Mechanisms include: ➢ Point-and-click on puzzle pieces in chronological order. ➢ Insert objects in the correct slots of a puzzle. ➢ Sync elements to the right location to activate a puzzle. ➢ And more.
  15. 15. By the Way, No Hand Holding Offered.
  16. 16. ⧞ Puzzle Mechanics: Sense Trap, Reveal Rift
  17. 17. Sense Trap, Reveal Rift (1 of 11)
  18. 18. Sense Trap, Reveal Rift (2 of 11)
  19. 19. Sense Trap, Reveal Rift (3 of 11)
  20. 20. Sense Trap, Reveal Rift (4 of 11)
  21. 21. Sense Trap, Reveal Rift (5 of 11)
  22. 22. Sense Trap, Reveal Rift (6 of 11)
  23. 23. Sense Trap, Reveal Rift (7 of 11)
  24. 24. Sense Trap, Reveal Rift (8 of 11)
  25. 25. Sense Trap, Reveal Rift (9 of 11)
  26. 26. Sense Trap, Reveal Rift (10 of 11)
  27. 27. Sense Trap, Reveal Rift (11 of 11)
  28. 28. ⧞ Puzzle Mechanics: Sync Words To Location
  29. 29. Sync Crow, Reveal Rift (1 of 2)
  30. 30. Sync Crow, Reveal Rift (2 of 2)
  31. 31. ⧞ Puzzle Mechanics: Point-and-Click Light Puzzle
  32. 32. Light Puzzle (1 of 9)
  33. 33. Light Puzzle (2 of 9)
  34. 34. Light Puzzle (3 of 9)
  35. 35. Light Puzzle (4 of 9)
  36. 36. Light Puzzle (5 of 9)
  37. 37. Light Puzzle (6 of 9)
  38. 38. Light Puzzle (7 of 9)
  39. 39. Light Puzzle (8 of 9)
  40. 40. Light Puzzle (9 of 9)
  41. 41. ⧞ Puzzle Mechanics: Reading Notes Activate Dialog - A Dialog Between Grandpa Ed and Ethan
  42. 42. Note On Sap Activates Ed-Ethan Dialog (1 of 5)
  43. 43. Note On Sap Activates Ed-Ethan Dialog (2 of 5)
  44. 44. Note On Sap Activates Ed-Ethan Dialog (3 of 5)
  45. 45. Note On Sap Activates Ed-Ethan Dialog (4 of 5)
  46. 46. Note On Sap Activates Ed-Ethan Dialog (5 of 5)
  47. 47. ⧞ Puzzle Mechanics: Inspect Scene, Make Deductions
  48. 48. Railcar Inspection (1 of 8)
  49. 49. Railcar Inspection (2 of 8)
  50. 50. Railcar Inspection (3 of 8)
  51. 51. Railcar Inspection (4 of 8)
  52. 52. Railcar Inspection (5 of 8)
  53. 53. Railcar Inspection (6 of 8)
  54. 54. Railcar Inspection (7 of 8)
  55. 55. Railcar Inspection (8 of 8)
  56. 56. ⧞ Puzzle Mechanics: Newspapers Reveal Narrative Background (Clues)
  57. 57. News About a Fire (1 of 3)
  58. 58. News About a Fire (2 of 3)
  59. 59. News About a Fire (3 of 3)
  60. 60. News About Moonshine (1 of 2)
  61. 61. News About Moonshine (1 of 2)
  62. 62. News About NASA (1 of 2)
  63. 63. News About NASA (2 of 2)
  64. 64. ⧞ Game Narrative Expresses Game Rhetoric
  65. 65. Rhetoric of Memory Fragments and Character Dialogs ❖ Throughout the storyworld of The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, there are numerous notes, magazines, and objects strewn around the environment that reveal the game’s rhetoric on issues such as the multiplicity of reality. ❖ Characters’ dialogs, as well as Prospero’s internal dialogs, also reveal the game’s rhetoric that influenced Ethan Carter’s thinking.
  66. 66. ⧞ Game Rhetoric: Is Ethan Omniscient?
  67. 67. Intro: Secrets (1 of 9)
  68. 68. Intro: Secrets (2 of 9)
  69. 69. Intro: Secrets (3 of 9)
  70. 70. Intro: Secrets (4 of 9)
  71. 71. Intro: Secrets (5 of 9)
  72. 72. Intro: Secrets (6 of 9)
  73. 73. Intro: Secrets (7 of 9)
  74. 74. Intro: Secrets (8 of 9)
  75. 75. Intro: Secrets (9 of 9)
  76. 76. ⧞ Game Narrative: Reality Is Not What It Seems
  77. 77. Not an Ordinary Place (1 of 5)
  78. 78. Not an Ordinary Place (2 of 5)
  79. 79. Not an Ordinary Place (3 of 5)
  80. 80. Not an Ordinary Place (4 of 5)
  81. 81. Not an Ordinary Place (5 of 5)
  82. 82. ⧞ Game Rhetoric: To Conform Is To Be Real
  83. 83. Don’t Rock the Boat (1 of 6)
  84. 84. Don’t Rock the Boat (2 of 6)
  85. 85. Don’t Rock the Boat (3 of 6)
  86. 86. Don’t Rock the Boat (4 of 6)
  87. 87. Don’t Rock the Boat (5 of 6)
  88. 88. Don’t Rock the Boat (6 of 6)
  89. 89. ⧞ Game Rhetoric: Blame the Child (Attribute Supernatural Causes)
  90. 90. It’s Ethan’s Fault (1 of 9)
  91. 91. It’s Ethan’s Fault (2 of 9)
  92. 92. It’s Ethan’s Fault (3 of 9)
  93. 93. It’s Ethan’s Fault (4 of 9)
  94. 94. It’s Ethan’s Fault (5 of 9)
  95. 95. It’s Ethan’s Fault (6 of 9)
  96. 96. It’s Ethan’s Fault (7 of 9)
  97. 97. It’s Ethan’s Fault (8 of 9)
  98. 98. It’s Ethan’s Fault (9 of 9)
  99. 99. ⧞ Game Rhetoric: The Future Is Unknowable
  100. 100. The Magician (1 of 9)
  101. 101. The Magician (2 of 9)
  102. 102. The Magician (3 of 9)
  103. 103. The Magician (4 of 9)
  104. 104. The Magician (4 of 9)
  105. 105. The Magician (5 of 9)
  106. 106. The Magician (6 of 9)
  107. 107. The Magician (7 of 9)
  108. 108. The Magician (8 of 9)
  109. 109. The Magician (9 of 9)
  110. 110. ⧞ Game Rhetoric: Does Your Moral Actions Affect Your Future? (Question Your Morality)
  111. 111. The Witch (1 of 8)
  112. 112. The Witch (2 of 8)
  113. 113. The Witch (3 of 8)
  114. 114. The Witch (4 of 8)
  115. 115. The Witch (5 of 8)
  116. 116. The Witch (6 of 8)
  117. 117. The Witch (7 of 8)
  118. 118. The Witch (8 of 8)
  119. 119. ⧞ Game Rhetoric: Time Is Indestructible (Time Is Forever)
  120. 120. The Train Puzzle (1 of 19)
  121. 121. The Train Puzzle (2 of 19)
  122. 122. The Train Puzzle (3 of 19)
  123. 123. The Train Puzzle (4 of 19)
  124. 124. The Train Puzzle (5 of 19)
  125. 125. The Train Puzzle (6 of 19)
  126. 126. The Train Puzzle (7 of 19)
  127. 127. The Train Puzzle (8 of 19)
  128. 128. The Train Puzzle (9 of 19)
  129. 129. The Train Puzzle (10 of 19)
  130. 130. The Train Puzzle (11 of 19)
  131. 131. The Train Puzzle (12 of 19)
  132. 132. The Train Puzzle (13 of 19)
  133. 133. The Train Puzzle (14 of 19)
  134. 134. The Train Puzzle (15 of 19)
  135. 135. The Train Puzzle (16 of 19)
  136. 136. The Train Puzzle (17 of 19)
  137. 137. The Train Puzzle (18 of 19)
  138. 138. The Train Puzzle (19 of 19)
  139. 139. ⧞ Game Conclusion (SPOILERS AHEAD!)
  140. 140. The Game Conclusion: It Was All An Illusion 1 The conclusion of The Vanishing of Ethan Carter remains one of the most surprising and most shocking in game stories. Here is the reality: ❖ Paul Prospero finds out that he is only a figment of Ethan Carter’s imagination; Prospero is only one of many personalities created by Ethan’s writing. ❖ Ethan hides in a room inside his family’s mansion to get away from his abusive family, who denigrates Ethan’s desire to write, to fantasize. ❖ His mother accidentally sets fire to the mansion, leaving Ethan with no way to escape from his room.
  141. 141. The Game Conclusion: It Was All An Illusion 2 ❖ Ethan creates the personality of Paul Prospero to help himself confront the “truth” of his situation, and to help himself eliminate the fantasies that serve to protect Ethan’s mind from experiencing pain and suffering (due to smoke inhalation and being burned alive in his room within the mansion). ❖ Accepting the reality of his own identity as a figment of Ethan’s imagination, Prospero helps Ethan accept the reality of the fire, and helps Ethan pass on to death.
  142. 142. Applying Philosophy and Ethics of Baruch Spinoza’s Monism to Examine the Game, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter
  143. 143. Review: Baruch Spinoza’s Monism and Ethics ❖ Known as one of the greatest rationalist in 17th century western philosophy, Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677) created a rationalist philosophy (proposing a monist view of God) that influenced the ideological development of the 18th century enlightenment era. ❖ Spinoza’s view of God as an absolute being of substance (an essence that precedes and includes nature) serves as an argument against the Christian view of God as an absolute being of spirit (a being that is separate from and rules over nature). ❖ Let us discuss, in-depth, what Spinoza’s view of God is.
  144. 144. Spinoza’s God 1 ❖ In his book, The Ethics, Spinoza argues that God is a substance from which all beings are derived, and from which all thoughts are conceived. In other words, God = Nature. ❖ The Monist Philosophical Argument: There is no separation between being and God; Since God is a substance that is eternal and indivisible, and consists of all things, all beings are thus derivatives of God (i.e. parts of the totality of God). ❖ Spinoza’s God consists of infinite attributes, but the two attributes that are knowable to human beings are “extension” and “thought.”
  145. 145. Spinoza’s God 2 ❖ “Extension” and “Thought” are two completely different attributes of God that have no causal relationship (since neither attributes are based on matter, which follows the law of causality in the physical universe). ❖ All bodies are extended from God’s attribute of “extension,” an essence. ❖ All reasons follow God’s attribute of “thought.” ❖ Using reason, human beings can intuit ideas about Nature based on sense experience of Nature (even if our knowledge about Nature is limited by our finite sense experiences).
  146. 146. Spinoza’s God 3 ❖ If all human thoughts follow from God, and all human knowledge are mere intuitions of our limited sense experiences of God, which is Nature itself, then what does it mean to be an ethical and virtuous person? What ethical rules should human beings follow? ❖ For Spinoza, to be an ethical person is to exercise our intellect (ability to reason) for the purpose of knowing God (Nature). ❖ To follow our passions (desires) is a way to lead us astray from reason; to be ethical, we must deny our passions, and exercise our intellect to know God.
  147. 147. Connection Between Spinoza’s God and The Vanishing of Ethan Carter 1 ❖ Paul Prospero, who is a figment of Ethan Carter’s imagination, is a being whose body and thoughts are extended from Ethan Carter. ❖ In this sense, Ethan Carter is God and Nature that consists of Paul Prospero. ❖ As an ethical being, Prospero explores Nature (Red Creek Valley) and intuits knowledge about Red Creek Valley, and in turn, knowledge about Ethan Carter.
  148. 148. Connection Between Spinoza’s God and The Vanishing of Ethan Carter 2 ❖ At the end of the game, upon discovering the truth that he is only a figment of Ethan Carter’s imagination, Prospero resisted the temptation (desire) to deny his reality as an extended being of Ethan. ❖ Prospero acted ethically by accepting his reality, accepting what Ethan Carter is and means to him, and helps Ethan Carter transition to the after life. ❖ It is in the act of denying his passion (desire) to deny, the truth, to flee away from the knowledge of himself and of Ethan Carter, that Prospero acted as an ethical person.
  149. 149. Presentation by: Sherry Jones Philosophy & Game Studies SME Lecturer, Rocky Mountain College of Art & Design ISTE Games and Simulations Network Leader http://about.me/sherryjones Twitter @autnes sherryjones.edtech@gmail.com

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