GDC: Ethics in Games and Game Development

March 1, 2011 -

Speaking to Develop (and giving a speech at GDC this week), Miguel Sicart, associate professor of Computer Games Research at the IT University of Copenhagen, laid out guidelines for ethics in game development. Issues such as crunch time, digital rights management, and data-mining are ethical issues that need to be explored and addressed 'on a moral basis.' Sicart points out that data mining is an issue that is "extremely interesting from an ethical perspective."

"We agree to let companies take data from us and profile us, and I think that’s a fantastic tool for developers," says Sicart. "But data mining raises moral concerns. The main problematic question is what happens to our data."

"I don’t know what Steam is doing with my data, I, like millions of others, haven’t spent time reading through all the licence agreements," he adds. "The duty is on the developer to be clear and transparent about what they are doing with such information."

He also said the treatment of gamers was another serious ethical issue, as it relates to tools such as DRM-locks:

"Any game is not only an entertainment product, but an implicit contract between the developer and player. Every future game developer should know how they are going to relate to these people, these human beings, and not just see them as customers."

He also mentions briefly that some games force players to engage in acts that would be deemed unlawful or wrong in the real world:

"Players thus create values in games," he said. "Developers should think about what the good values can be transmitted to players. The defining moral principal of life is to be the nicest, best person you can be."

But one of the most important things that could come out of having a code of ethics is a change in crunch time policies:

"The key moral issues in game development are workplace ethics; crunch and team management. Those are very problematic issues in game development that affects a lot of people. A lot of game developers eventually get married and work in other, less demanding industries."

"If you look at most software development practices, the issue of overtime is considered either in a professional code, or day-to-day workplace ethics," he said. "I’m not saying the conclusion to this issue is no crunch at all, but crunch has ethical implications. It harms people and therefore it harms the profession. Crunch may or may not have a negative impact on the quality of a game, but it affects developers’ mental health, family life and social relations. You have a burn rate in game development, and that’s a long-term issue."

Source: Develop


Re: GDC: Ethics in Games and Game Development

On an unrelated note, good thing you got that double post of this story fixed :P.

There are only 10 types of people in this world, people who know binary and people who don't.

There are only 10 types of people in this world, people who know binary and people who don't.

Re: GDC: Ethics in Games and Game Development

Beyond ethical issues.. crunch time has significant 'long term' issues.  It gives you a short term gain, but it burns people out and causes a lot of talented developers to leave the industry early, resulting in most people being young and inexperienced, with all the software development life-cycle costs THAT incurs.

Re: GDC: Ethics in Games and Game Development

If none of that means anything to the consumer, consider this: thaose burned out people leaving, forcing the industry to hire inexperienced replacements, THAT is responsible not only for the porr quality of releases that require severe patching day one (Red Alert 3 and Fallout New Vegas for example), but also the lack of creativity coming from major publications lately.

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Which group is more ethically challenged?:

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Matthew WilsonI am old school on this. I believe its a conflict of interest to have public sector unions. that being said, I do not have a positive look on unions in general.07/07/2015 - 3:59pm
TechnogeekWhat's best for the employee tends to be good for the employer; other way around, not so much. So long as that's the case, there's going to be a far stronger incentive for management to behave in such a way that invites retalitation than for the union to.07/07/2015 - 3:10pm
TechnogeekTeachers' unions? State legislatures. UAW? Just look at GM's middle management.07/07/2015 - 3:05pm
TechnogeekIn many ways it seems that the worse a union tends to behave, the worse that the company's management has behaved in the past.07/07/2015 - 3:02pm
james_fudgeCharity starts at home ;)07/07/2015 - 2:49pm
james_fudgeSo mandatory charity? That sounds shitty to me07/07/2015 - 2:49pm
E. Zachary KnightGoth, if Union dues are automatically withdrawn, then there is no such thing as a non-union employee.07/07/2015 - 2:38pm
Goth_Skunka mutually agreed upon charity instead.07/07/2015 - 2:33pm
Goth_Skunkyou enjoy the benefits of working in a union environment. If working in a union is against your religious beliefs or just something you wholeheartedly object to, dues will still be deducted from your pay, but you can instruct that they be directed towards07/07/2015 - 2:33pm
Goth_SkunkBasically, if you are employed in a business where employees are represented by a union for the purposes of collective bargaining, whether or not you are a union member, you will have union dues deducted from your pay, since regardless of membership,07/07/2015 - 2:32pm
Goth_SkunkIt's something that has existed in Canada since 1946. You can read more on it here: - 2:27pm
Goth_SkunkSee, we have something similar in Canada, called a "Rand Employee." This is an employee who benefits from the collective bargaining efforts of a union, despite not wanting to be a part of it for whatever reason.07/07/2015 - 2:22pm
Matthew Wilson@info depends on the sector. for example, have you looked at how powerful unions are in the public sector? I will make the argument they have too much power in that sector.07/07/2015 - 12:39pm
InfophileIt's easy to worry about unions having too much power and causing harm. The odd thing is, why do people seem to worry about that more than the fact that business-owners can have too much power and do harm, particularly at a time when unions have no power?07/07/2015 - 12:31pm
Matthew Wilsonthe thing is unions earned their bad reputation in the US. the way unions oparate the better at your job you are, the likely you want to be in a union.07/07/2015 - 11:33am
InfophilePut that way, "right to work" seems to have BLEEP-all to do with gay rights. Thing is, union-negotiated contracts used to be one of the key ways to prevent employers from firing at will. Without union protection, nothing stops at-will firing.07/07/2015 - 11:06am
Infophilehas an incentive to pay dues if they're represented either way, so the union is starved for funds and dies, unless things are bad enough that people will pay dues anyway.07/07/2015 - 11:02am
InfophileFor those who don't know, "right to work" laws mean that it can't be a condition of an employment contract that you pay union dues. That is, the right to work without having to pay dues. Catch is, unions have to represent non-members as well, so no one...07/07/2015 - 11:01am
MechaCrashUnexpected? Seriously?07/07/2015 - 10:55am
Mattsworknamejob they wanted without the unions getting involved. The problem is, it has some unexpected side effects, like the ones Info mentioned07/07/2015 - 8:49am

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