Ethical Considerations in the Gaming Industry
Ethical considerations are something that all of the creative media industry needs to take into account, but this has historically been an issue that has caused the gaming industry more problems than other aspects of the creative media industry. For instance, should a film depict a character that kills or murders another person, this wouldn’t be seen in the same light as a video game character doing the same thing due to the fact that the person playing the game would be controlling their actions. Because of the nature of several video games that are currently on the market and how involved or immersed that players can become when playing, the actions that can be taken by the player are much more akin to real life, rather than watching a film or reading a book.
One of the earliest cases of a gaming company failing to take into consider the ethics that their game would be portraying was the 1976 game “Death Race” by Exidy, a game based on the film of the same name by Paul Bartel. The objective of the game was to run down and kill “Gremlins” that left a tombstone in place of their corpse. Because of this, the challenge of the game would increase as time went on due to the fact that there would be more and more tombstones.
The reason that this particular game was surrounded with so much controversy was because of the hardware limitations of games during the 1970’s, the Gremlin enemies were a mixture of black and white blocks, resembling real people rather than the monsters that the developers wanted. This fact was criticised more due to the fact that prior to the creation of Death Race, Exidy’s working title for the game was originally “Pedestrian”. The implication that this brought was that the game was created in order to promote violence by forcing the player to run down and kill actual people. This sparked large media coverage of the story, also causing several news stations to produce shows displaying the psychological impact of video games.
A more modern example of this would be Rockstar’s “Grand Theft Auto” series, which is often criticised due to the criminal activity that is shown in the series. Examples of this include stealing cars, murder and robbery.
Some of the disadvantages of not considering the ethical values of consumers may include negative press, loss of sales or the loss of customers. Whilst these games are still legal under the UK law and PEGI’s age rating system, it would still be wise for developers to take these things into consideration to ensure that their games would be well received and have the largest audience possible at their disposal.