Video Gaming: Playing With Ethics?
Unavoidable Ethical Questions About Video Gaming
These questions follow the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics
for Ethical Decision Making."
From a Utilitarian Perspective
Some players and developers argue that video games are better
at teaching logic and problem solving skills than many school
curriculums. And undeniably, video games bring players pleasure.
How would be weigh these benefits against the potential harms
that have been attributed to games, such as addiction, gender
stereotyping, and the promotion of violence?
From a Rights Perspective
Are video games a form of speech, and if so, do they come under
the protection of the right to free speech? Should we try to
regulate this "speech" if it degrades women? If it
leads to violence? How can we defend the access of adults to
whatever forms of speech they choose to hear while simultaneously
protecting children from exposure, especially when gaming is
such a popular activity for kids? Should it be a crime to sell
games with adult content to children? Should content be regulated?
From a Fairness Perspective
Currently, video games appeal overwhelmingly to males. Only
7-8 percent of video game developers are women. Are women being
excluded? Is this a problem? In some video games, the only female
characters are prostitutes, and the games sometimes encourage
killing them. How does this shape the players' views about women?
How do questing games portray men, and is that a stereotype?
From a Common Good Perspective
What effect does video gaming have on the community? At what
point-five hours a week? 25 hours a week?-does gaming interfere
with people's obligations to their families and communities?
Is gaming an asocial activity, or does it involve players in
a different kind of community? Can true communities exist online?
Do game developers have any obligation to make the on-line experience
From a Virtue Perspective
Understanding that there are only 24 hours in a day, how much
time should you fill up with video games, and what kind of person
will that make you? Is there anything inherently more virtuous
about reading than about playing video games? What difference
does the content make? Does playing violent video games make
you violent? Does playing violent games desensitize you to violence?
Let's say the violence has no effect on you but you know that
for some subset of the people playing video games, all the gore
brings out an inclination to violence-should their access to
the games be restricted, and how? Should young children be allowed
to play violent games?
This list of questions was prepared by the Markkula Center
for Applied Ethics for a presentation Nov. 29, 2005, in conjunction
with the "Game On" exhibit at the Tech Museum of Innovation,
San Jose, Calif.