Ethics of Persuasion

As one of my favorite profs in the College of Ed @ UT, Dr. Northcutt, told me my first semester back in grad school, “It’s not about the answers folks, it’s about the questions…” So, how do we know that the questions raised by these games are valid?  Who decides the rules that drive these games?

By definition, the job of persuasive gameplay is to guide us towards a particular viewpoint or otherwise serves a social objective, both by direct interaction as well as through publicity.  By definition then, the organization that sponsors the game–in many cases not the game design firm–gets to define the rules of gameplay.  For instance, in Ayiti, the game on Haiti was designed by kids in the Global Kids Initiative, who used Unicef resources inform them about background content for the game.

Darfur is Dying was developed in partnership with the Reebok Human Rights Foundation and International Crisis Group.  MtvU held a ‘Darfur Digital Activist Contest’ as a way to encourage student activism.  As a result, 5 students from USC designed the game and worked with experienced aid workers to develop the game.

So, this begs the question,

In what ways are the issues raised by games such as the ones in these posts valid?  In what ways are they controversial?  Perhaps the games mentioned thus far aren’t that controversial, but what of games such as “Harpooned”?  Harpooned is a game that raises awareness of Japan’s controversial (and not widely discussed in the media) whaling program.  In Harpooned, participants control a whaling ship and get to slaughter whales, offload the carcasses and capture protestors.  Controversial?  To say the least.  Is it right to promote such games?  Or play them?

Some would argue that games like this play a critical role in raising awareness of a tragic issue, and that without such exposure the activity would never be brought to light.  Do the ends justify the means?  Go to the Harpooned website, read the press and decide for yourself.

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