Towards a theory of transformational ethical gameplay

Matthew J. Gaydos, Aline Nardo

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


The rapid advance of technology and science is increasing the gap between what we can do, and our understanding of the ethical ramifications of our actions. In light of these developments, ethics education is more important than ever. From an educational point of view, ethics is a challenging domain, in part, due to the inconclusive nature of ethics content. Ethics, rather than a static set of principles, has to be understood as a contextualised and dialogic practice.Therefore, adequate ethics education combines a broad spectrum of educational objectives - from knowledge about ethical guidelines to ethical sensitivity and cultural competence. Simultaneously, little is known about suitability of different educational arrangements in ethics education; for example, discussion-based arrangements, though well-liked amongst students, may not always be adequate depending on educational objectives. Recently, games have entered the ethics education discussion (e.g., de Sousa et al., 2018). With their ability to immerse players in narrative-rich scenarios, in which players become ethical agents ‘forced’to weigh in on complex ethical problems, games can be uniquely advantageous for ethics education. In this work-in-progress paper, we describe the design of anew ethics game, the challenges we encountered when applying existing theoretical frameworks for educational games (e.g., Barab et al., 2010; de Sousa et al., 2018), and describe how we are addressing these challenges. The game under development is a narrative-driven role-playing experience that models 98 graduate student research and publication practices. It will be played by incoming graduate students as a part of a research ethics course at a large research university in Western Europe. In the game, players make ethics-related decisions pertaining to authorship, originality, and honesty. Based on our current experiences in designing the educational ethics game, we contend that current games ethics frameworks need to expand the judgment-action-feedback loop and incorporate ambiguity in gameplay as a catalyst for learning. The approach we are working towards also seeks to clarify the role of instruction in game-based ethics education.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationECGBL 2020 - Proceedings of the 14th European Conference on Game Based Learning
PublisherCurran Associates Inc
ISBN (Electronic)9781912764709
ISBN (Print)9781912764716
Publication statusPublished - 17 Nov 2020

Publication series

NameEuropean Conference on Games-Based Learning
ISSN (Print)2049-0992


  • ethics education
  • game
  • transformative play
  • Dewey


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