The Burden of Choice: Using Games to Teach Ethics as a Skill


  • Joan Casas-Roma Universitat Oberta de Catalunya


ethics, ethics learning, game-based learning, moral gameplay, interactive narrative


Learning and teaching ethics often presents a series of challenges that are not found in other topics. In order to teach (and learn) ethics as a skill, descriptive approaches are often not enough, and a more direct experience to ethically-relevant situations that prompts for subjective reflection is needed. Examples of relevant scenarios might be used to strengthen the learning of ethically-relevant matters, but even in these cases, the spectator is still a sort of "back-seat driver" with no agentivity. However, interactive media, such as digital games, can sometimes require the player to decide, up to a point, the way a fictional story is tailored. This added agentivity can allow for the appearance of a feeling of responsibility towards choices and outcomes, and can be helpful to foster genuine reflection on the ethically-relevant dimension behind. This paper explores how different game design approaches can be used to prompt genuine ethical reflection in their players. This exploration focuses on the design of meaningful choices, attachments and spaces for reflection as the key elements in order for a game to be used as a gateway to learning ethics by subjective exposure. The paper starts by considering how different techniques have be used in commercial games in order to do create genuine moral involvement. The insights taken from these considerations are then applied in the design and implementation of a prototype of an interactive narrative, currently under development, aimed to be used as a complementary tool to teach (and learn) ethics as a skill.