Junglist over at 5 inch Floppy has put together an interesting overview of the changing debate over gaming and addiction entitled “Unethical Game Design” (see below). There are some short interviews with Aarseth and Bogost, as well as a psychologist specializing in addiction, and some commentary on games like World of Warcraft and Farmville. One highlight for me was a segment on compulsion, distinguishing between “compulsion satisfaction” and “compulsion manipulation.” The latter speaks to “unethical” game design techniques heavily employed by gamification, the subject of my recent commentary on the rattomorphism of gamification.
One take-away point from the video is the importance of a distinction between chemical addiction and behavioral addiction. Junglist suggests, I think rightly, that in the rush to defend games as an important cultural form gamers have failed to make important critical judgments about the games they enjoy. For those interested in pursuing the idea of “unethical game design” Miguel Sicart’s The Ethics of Computer Games is essential reading. Although the aspect of game ethics Sicart explores has to do with design incoherence, e.g. a contradiction between game world and system design, his view is united with Junglist’s in the idea that game design can be unethical, and that these concerns naturally lead to considerations of social responsibility on the part of everyone involved in game culture: industry people, designers, gamers, academics.