From a teacher’s perspective, the Quality Teaching Framework is an important professional document supporting learning in NSW schools. At a glance, for readers unfamiliar with the QTF framework, here’s an overview:
I’d like to relate a recent and ongoing class conversation, related to the element of ‘problematic knowledge’, raised in dialogue with some experts Year 10 engaged about ‘ethics’ and ‘gaming’.
NB The boys are doing a PIP (Personal Interest Project) and I am modelling connecting with experts to learn more about a topic. They will do something similar before the end of the year to make some kind of product – film, blog, wiki, documentary etc. – that reveals their learning (process).
Mike Jones has extensive experience writing and lecturing about screen media. His work on gaming and narrative is very impressive and a brilliant keynote presentation at an ETA conference several years ago memorably employed Half Life 2 to explore the emerging conventions of this genre. I contacted Mike regarding the unit and what we had been doing. He had a number of intelligent challenges:
I find the notion of ‘ethical game design’ intriguing, as essentially I have no idea what ‘ethical game design is’. I’ve certainly never heard of the phrase as some kind of umbrella term for a particular kind of game design process, nor as a game genre. My first reaction, I must confess, is not a positive one.
Mike goes on to explain his perspective further:
To play devil’s advocate I would say that to suggest there is such a thing as ‘ethical game design’ is to imply that there is a dominance of ‘unethical game design’. And this I find a rather useless and unproductive distinction that cannot be validated. An arbitrary, presumptive, perhaps moralistic assertion rather than a viable analytical distinction. Such a categorisation has no place in discussion of other artforms – we don’t talk about ethical and unethical filmmaking, or ethical sculpture or painting so why should we categorize Ethical Game design as separate and apart? If we except that games are an artform just like any other creative endeavor, then what separates them is quality, craft, process and popularity. All subjective certainly but all can be informed by tangible measures and arguments. But, to bring a notion of whether a game is ‘ethical’ or whether it was made ‘ethically’ into the discussion, to me, is not helpful or tenable. Who is to say whether a art work is ethical or not? Just because a game has violence or depicts ideas that some might find offensive does not make it unethical. That’s a dark road that leads to censorship and book burning.”
Mike’s commentary certainly gives our class something to wrestle with in the coming weeks and, I would suggest, decades. Jeremy Ray’s (and some of his interviewee’s) points about the concern the game industry needs to show regarding unethical game design seemed like common sense to the class, most of them avid gamers, but now a much deeper conversation is taking place. My class (and the teacher) especially needs to grapple with the notion of ‘problematic knowledge’ that Mike’s commentary raises.
What are your reflections about the QTF or Mike Jones’ commentary regarding the place of ethics in this discussion of games and game design?