Narrative video game aesthetics and egocentric ethics
A Deweyan perspective
This article argues that video gaming allows for player-focused (egocentric) moral experience that can be distinguished from the other-focused (allocentric) moral experience that characterizes literature and film. Specifically, a Deweyan perspective reveals that video games aff ord fi rst-personal rehearsals of moral scenarios that parallel how, in real life, individuals mentally rehearse the diff erent courses of moral action available to them. This functional equivalence is made possible because the aesthetics of video games bear unique affinities to the human moral imagination. However, whereas the moral imagination may be limited in terms of the complexity and vividness of its analog imaginings, the ethically notable video game may draw on the medium’s digital capacities in order to stage elaborate and emotionally compelling ethical rehearsals. The article concludes by applying this perspective to the ethically notable video game Undertale.
Alderman, N. (2013). The existential me (episode 1). BBC Radio 3. Retrieved July 1, 2020, from https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03h3p4q.
Banks, J. (2015). Object, me, symbiote, other: A social typology of player-avatar relationships. First Monday, 20(2). https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v20i2.5433.
Barsalou, L.W. (2008). Grounded cognition. Annual Review of Psychology, 59, 617-645. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.psych.59.103006.093639.
Consalvo, M., Busch, T., & Jong, C. (2019). Playing a better me: How players rehearse their ethos via moral choices. Games and Culture, 14(3), 216-235. https://doi.org/10.1177/1555412016677449.
Currie, G. (1997). The moral psychology of fiction. In S. Davies (Ed.) Art and its messages: Meaning, morality, and society (pp. 49-58). University Park: Penn State Press.
Dewey, J. (1922). Human nature and conduct: An introduction to social psychology. New York: Henry Holt and Company.
Dewey, J. (1980). Art as experience. New York: Perigee Books.
Dewey, J. (1984). Three independent factors in morals. In J. A. Boydston (Ed.), The later works of John Dewey, 1925-1953 (vol. 5), 279-288. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.
Dewey, J., & Tuft, J.H. (1932). Ethics (rev. ed.). New York: Henry Holt and Company.
Fesmire, S.A. (1995). Dramatic rehearsal and the moral artist. Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society, 31(3), 568-597. https://www.jstor.org/stable/40320558.
Frome, J. (2006). Representation, reality, and emotions across media. Film Studies, 8(1), 12-25. https://doi.org/10.7227/FS.8.4.
Gee, J.P. (2003). What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Greitemeyer, T., & Mügge, D.O. (2014). Video games do affect social outcomes: A meta-analytic review of the effects of violent and prosocial video game play. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 40(5), 578-589. https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167213520459.
Grodal, T. (2000). Video games and the pleasures of control. In D. Zillmann, & P. Vorderer, (Eds.), Media entertainment: The psychology of its appeal (pp. 197-213). New York: Routledge.
Icard, T., Cushman, F., & Knobe, J. (2018). On the instrumental value of hypothetical and counterfactual thought. Proceedings of the 40th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, pp. 517-522. https://cogsci.mindmodeling.org/2018/papers/0114/0114.pdf.
Jenkins, H. (2010). Foreword. In K. Schrier, & D. Gibson (Eds.), Ethics and game design: Teaching values through play (pp. xv-xix). Hershey: IGI Global.
Johnson, M. (1993). Moral imagination: Implication of cognitive science for ethics. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Johnson, M. (2014). Morality for humans: Ethical understanding from the perspective of cognitive science. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Juul, J. (2005). Half-real: Video games between real rules and fictional worlds. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press.
Kearney, R. (1988). The wake of imagination. London: Hutchinson.
Lazzaro, N. (2004). Why we play games: Four keys to more emotion without story. Proceedings of the Game Developers Conference. http://xeodesign.com/xeodesign_whyweplaygames.pdf.
Mar, R.A., & Oatley, K. (2008). The function of fiction is the abstraction and simulation of social experience. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 3(3), 173-192. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1745-6924.2008.00073.x.
McCormick, M. (2001). Is it wrong to play violent video games? Ethics and Information Technology, 3, 277-287. https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1013802119431.
Mosca, I. (2017). What is it like to be a player? Th e qualia revolution in game studies. Games and Culture, 12(6), 585-604. https://doi.org/10.1177/1555412016666367.
Murray, J.H. (2016). Hamlet on the holodeck: The future of narrative in cyberspace (updated ed.). New York: The Free Press.
Nussbaum, M. (2017). Cultivating humanity: The narrative imagination. In J. Rivkin, & M. Ryan (Eds.), Literary theory: An anthology (3rd ed.). Hoboken: Wiley-Blackwell.
Patridge, S. (2017). Video games and imaginative identifi cation. The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 75(2), 181-184. https://doi.org/10.1111/jaac.12355.
Perron, B. (2016). Emotions in video games: Are you concerned? In B. Perron, & F. Schröter (Eds.), Video games and the mind: Essays on cognition, affect and emotion. Jefferson: McFarland.
Plantinga, C. (2009). Moving viewers: American film and the spectator’s experience. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Robson, J., & Meskin, A. (2016). Video games as self-involving interactive fictions. The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 74(2), 165-177. https://doi.org/10.1111/jaac.12269.
Schulzke, M. (2014). Simulating philosophy: Interpreting video games as executable thought experiments. Philosophy & Technology, 27, 251-265. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13347-013-0102-2.
Shaffer, D.W., Squire, K.R., Halverson, R., & Gee, J.P. (2005). Video games and the future of learning. Phi Delta Kappan, 87(2), 105-111. https://doi.org/10.1177/003172170508700205.
Sicart, M. (2009). The ethics of computer games. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press.
Simkins, D.W., & Steinkuehler, C. (2008). Critical ethical reasoning and role-play. Games and Culture, 3(3-4), 333-355. https://doi.org/10.1177/1555412008317313.
Snoman Gaming. (2015). Good game design – Undertale: Real morality. Retrieved July 1, 2020, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KkJ8C1MEKLs&t.
Tavinor, G. (2009). The art of video games. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.
Tsukiura, T., & Cabeza, R. (2011). Shared brain activity for aesthetic and moral judgments: Implications for the beauty-is-good stereotype. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 6(1), 138-148. https://doi.org/10.1093/scan/nsq025.
TV Tropes. (2019). Golden ending aka: True ending. Retrieved July 1, 2020, from https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TrueEnding.
Walton, K.L. (1990). Mimesis as make-believe: On the foundations of the representational arts. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Weaver, A.J., & Lewis, N. (2012). Mirrored morality: An exploration of moral choice in video games. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 15(11), 610-614. https://doi.org/10.1089/cyber.2012.0235.
Zagal, J.P. (2009). Ethically notable videogames: Moral dilemmas and gameplay. Proceedings of DiGRA 2009: Breaking new ground: Innovation in games, play, practice and theory. http://www.digra.org/wpcontent/uploads/digital-library/09287.13336.pdf.
Articles submitted to MedieKultur should not be submitted to or published in other journals. Articles published in MedieKultur may be used (downloaded) and reused (distributed, copied, cited) for non-commercial purposes with reference to the authors and publication host.
The authors and MedieKultur own the copyright to the published articles and reviews.