PROFESSIONAL ETHICS IN SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING CD5590. Game Ethics. Gordana Dodig-Crnkovic

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1 PROFESSIONAL ETHICS IN SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING CD5590 Game Ethics Gordana Dodig-Crnkovic Department of Computer Science and Engineering Mälardalen University 1

2 Video Game Violence Ethical Issues Based on: Kim Anttila & Thomas Larsson s materials 2

3 Overview A preferred leisure activity Examples of game violence Research results on game violence Effects on individuals and society Ethical principles Whose responsibility? Family, society, game industry Conclusions 3

4 A Preferred Leisure Activity In the U. S. the average 2 17 year old child play video games 7 hours a week. Games in general can of course be beneficial. E.g. games can teach problem solving skills, and even be used as a tool in medical rehabilitation and habilitation. We will only discuss violent video games!!! Highly violent games are frequently found among the top 10 best-selling games 4

5 Examples of Game Violence Highly violent titles arrived in the 1990s E.g. Mortal Kombat (1993), Streetfighter, Wolfenstein 3D, Doom A recent example is Grand Theft Auto (GTA) III The game glorifies violence and crime and it degrades women. Activities include running over bystanders, driving prostitutes around town, beating people up, killing people, setting bombs, bribing the police. You can have sex with a prostitute and then kill her to get extra scores. 5

6 Examples of game violence In Washington state, a law bill has been signed to ban sales of e.g. GTA III to minors (anyone under 17). GTA III is a game so suffused with sadism that its considerable technical attributes are lost in a nihilistic realm that thumbs its nose at any sense of propriety or responsibility -- LA Times 6

7 Research on Game Violence The body of research on the effects of exposure to violent video games is relatively limited: There seems to exist about 30 published studies. A majority of them indicate a significant a positive correlation between violent video gaming and aggressive behavior. Due to some methodological shortcomings, however, particularly in early studies, some people denies these results. More research is needed. 7

8 Research on Game Violence In any case, the research literature on the effects of exposure to TV violence is huge and conclusive There is a link between early exposure to TV violence and real world acts of violence. This research suggest that exposure to game violence results in the same consequences, or even worse consequences, because of the active learning nature of video games. 8

9 Research Results Indicate Short term effects Exposure to video game violence increases aggressive thoughts, feelings, and behavior. Violent video games tend to decrease pro-social behavior. 9

10 Research Results Indicate Long term effects Involve learning processes which develop knowledge structures, e.g., perception, interpretation, judgment and action Subjects may be desensitized to violence, see the world as a more hostile place, and have a tendency to respond to conflict with aggression (aggressive personality) Violent video games teach violent behavioral scripts, which may become easily accessible in real world situations. 10

11 Research Facts Exposure to violent TV causes increases in aggression and violence and the effects are not small! Regardless of whether the research method has been experimental studies, cross-correlation studies, or longitudinal studies the results are that exposure to media violence increases aggression. 11

12 Research Facts There is a consensus among experts: the data point overwhelmingly to causal connection between media violence and aggressive behavior in some children a joint statement by the following six professional societies: American Psychology Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, American Medical Association, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Psychiatric Association 12

13 Effects on Society Media violence contribute to a more violent society The extremely high aggravated assault rates in our societies depends on many factors What s the actual cost of video game violence? Suppose game violence can be blamed for some murders. How many do you think is acceptable? 13

14 Effects on Society Economic Impacts Market size and value added to the economy? What would happen to the market size without highly violent titles? (According to ESA, 16 of the top 20 best-selling games where rated E for everyone) What does the prevalent fascination by violence as entertainment say about our society? 14

15 Three Most Fundamental Ethical Principles Human life Care for children Trust among people 15

16 Relevant Ethical Principles The right to free speech Free speech legislations E.g. First Amendment Amendment I: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. Convention on the Rights of the Child Children s right to healthy development 16

17 Relevant Ethical Principles ACM codes of ethics for computer professionals Contribute to society and well being Avoid harm to others Ensure that users and those who will be affected by a system have their needs clearly articulated during the assessment and design of requirements 17

18 Relevant Ethical Principles Ten commandments of computer ethics Thou shalt not use a computer to harm other people Thou shalt think about the consequences of the program you write Thou shalt use a computer in ways that show consideration and respect 18

19 In the charter of UNESCO it is stated: Unesco Charter "Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed". 19

20 Popper The philosopher Karl Popper explains that the main goal of civilization essentially consists of reducing violence and that s also the main aim of democracy 1. We have further moral obligation towards our children, and that is to give them the best we can, including the best influence we can design for their happiness. 2 1: Karl Popper and John Condry, La television: un danger pour la démocratie, Paris, Anatolia, 1994, p.33 2: Karl Popper, Lesson of this century, London, Routledge, 1997, p.36 20

21 Family's Responsibility The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child recognizes some fundamental principles that most of the member nations has agreed up on: that childhood is entitled to special care and assistance, Convinced that the family, as the fundamental group of society and the natural environment for the growth and well-being of all its members and particularly children, should be afforded the necessary protection and assistance so that it can fully assume its responsibilities within the community. Bearing in mind that, as indicated in the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, "the child, by reason of its physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care". 21

22 Society's Responsibility States Parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, States Parties recognize the right of every child to a standard of living adequate for the child's physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development. 22

23 Society's Responsibility The preparation of the child for responsible life in a free society, in the spirit of understanding, peace, tolerance, equality of sexes, and friendship among all peoples, ethnic, national and religious groups and persons of indigenous origin 23

24 Game Industry s Standpoint Defends their constitutional right to free speech, in all its various forms, which includes the right to produce whatever games they like (they can sell) Parents have the right to make choices freely about what is best for their children No harmful effects have been proven Accepts game rating through their own organization Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) 24

25 What to Do? TV violence increase aggressive behavior Violent games are likely to have even more effect because of reinforcement learning How about the argument that human is basically an agressive animal, that have a need to work off its anger one way or the other, and if so, then it is best to take it out on a computer in virtual fight then on real people? Conditioning of soldiers by violent video games Media violence is aping military conditioning, but without the vital safeguard of discipline. What about socially sanctioned violence? 25

26 CONCLUSIONS What can we conclude? About the importance of ethics for professionals? About our professional responsibility for other peoples well-being? About future development? 26

27 References Basic material: MORAL PHILOSOPHY THROUGH THE AGES, James Fieser, Mayfield Publishing Company, 2001 Craig A. Anderson and Brad J. Bushman, The effects of Media Violence on Society, Science, Vol. 295, pages , 29 March Conditioning Kids To Kill ETHICS AND COMPUTING, Living Responsibly in a Computerized World, Kevin W. Bowyer Editor, IEEE Press Additional resources: Internet-sites dealing with ethics Social Issues of Computing Codes of Conduct/Practice/Ethics from Around the World Professional Ethics Resources 27

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