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Ethics in Representation of Video Game Development

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Ethics in Representation of Video Game Development

1.0 Introduction

        The video game industry has had a long history and seen the development of games that exceed the expectations of gamers. Many see this as form of communication and leisure among individuals of all ages. It enhances player’s hand eye coordinations which are even used in flight and military training. (Gotterbarn, 2009, p. 370). Although games such as Grand Theft Auto have been proven to be filled with violence and racism, a different approach is taken. Instead of focusing on the users, it is worth diving into aspects of the games themselves. The ethics of game developers are observed and questioned.

        This literature review examines this issue by looking at three aspects: microtransactions, gender representation and game ratings.

2.1 Microtransactions

Not all video games are available to the public for free, most usually come at a price. Therefore, the ethical aspects of purchasing such software products will be discussed. One obvious way for creators to ensure profit would be by selling the game to customers. Nenad (2017) notes that his would mean players had to pay a price to be able to experience the full game. This process is called a ‘microtransaction.’ “Microtransactions denote payments for purchasing applications for mobile phones or payments for purchasing the additional content for video games.” (Nenad, 2017, p. 241). Game developers often times use tricks such as offering a free trial for the game which bait players to play it or offer a game for free but fill it with advertisements. This pressures the player into paying for the full game or advertisement removal.

King (2017) uses ‘Multiplayer Online Battle Arena’ (MOBA) game League of Legends to further discuss this. “In League of Legends, microtransactions allow players to purchase a type of currency called “Riot Points.” (King, 2017, p. 1367). Players commonly use Riot Points to purchase characters and skins for them. Following an in-game event called ‘Burning Tides’, developers decided to remove a character names Gangplank from the game. Many dissatisfied players complained on forums as they had paid for the character and skins already but got no refund. (King, 2017, p. 1369).

In some cases, the game is designed in a way that would prevent it’s completion without payment. Such games can also be negatively publicized by the public due to their dissatisfaction and prevent others from purchasing it. (Nenad, 2017, p. 250). Players who make many microtransactions in multiplayer games also risk getting looked down upon by others because deemed not as skillful because they pay their way through the game. Children are also often times unaware of making microtransactions with real money due to platforms such as Steam that make it easy to complete such payments.

We may be unaware on the purpose of such schemes but it can definitely bring about negative issues and question the developers ethics. However, these articles should explain further the process of making a microtransaction.

2.2 Gender Representation

Many researchers over the past years have analysed movies and television shows of our century and shown that some contain negative representation of gender. This issue has since been made aware and improved but that isn’t the case for video games. (Dickerman, Christensen & Kerl-McClain, 2008). Hence, the unethical portrayal of women in popular games will be explored.

Kondrat (2015) conducted a survey and interviews to examine how women are generally represented across genres of video games. Among participants were a small number of females gamers due to their increase over the years but this involved industries stereotyping them by creating games they thought would appeal to them. “Most of these games were based on the stereotyping that girls like to play with dolls, dress them and buy things.” (Kondrat, 2015, p. 178).  Kondrat’s surveys showed that adventure and RPG games were the most common genres and among all participants, 76.9% said women were stereotyped. Ways of stereotyping women are often by creating sexually provocative female characters and have them dressed seductively while others include lack of female protagonists. (Kondrat, 2015, p. 188). Interviews with two experts from University of Uppsala showed them both agreeing as well that women are stereotyped. However, Kondrat concluded that some replies indicated an improvement among games as they try to input more female protagonists.

Han and Song (2014) provides a very precise example as they focus solely on the video game Tomb Raider and the characterization of the Lara Croft. This shows us a contrast of Kondrat’s survey replies that claim input of more female protagonist is an improvement as these character are used as subjects to satisfy sadomasochistic male fantasies. Han and Song noted that Lara Croft has evolved over the years to emphasize more of her sexual features. “Croft’s outward appearance depicts a woman that does not, and cannot, exist in the real world.” (Han & Song, 2014, p. 35). Camera angles in the game also seem to pan a certain way to reveal her sexual features. Lara is degraded into an object instead of a hero as male players play as her and are able to manipulate the view to survey her body and fully control it. (Han & Song, 2014, p. 37).



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