The Dilemma of Games: Moral Choice in a Digital World

From Berkman@10
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The Dilemma of Games: Moral Choice in a Digital World

Friday, May 16

3:15-4:45 (This session will extend into coffee hour)


How can video games -- which rely so heavily on giving users meaningful choices -- promote pro-values such as responsibility, charity, or sacrifice? Can video marry these values to the kind of "systems thinking" at which they're particularly good and which are becoming more vital in our networked world? WGBH, the renowned public television station, is launching a transmedia TV show and game that tackles these questions head-on. In this workshop, you'll help have a chance to shape this project that aims to teach children about environmental systems and their own choices within that system.

What you'll brainstorm in this workshop

WGBH is proposing a transmedia TV show (largely animated) set within a video game, as well as a real online game and potential commercial game, to teach children ages 9-11 the science concepts of systems, natural and man-made, and the pathways to environmental sustainability. The project will have broad impact by: (1) increasing students’ understanding of natural and man-made systems—how they function, how they interact, how they thrive, how they fail; (2) modeling for kids ages how they can use science inquiry skills to explore the natural world and how they can use systems thinking to investigate interdependence and causality; and (3) teaching kids how they can help sustain the earth and, through a connection to nature and better choices, how they can sustain themselves on the earth. Ultimately, the goal of the program is to both advance scientific understanding and deepen participants' concern for the Earth.

The game-within-the-show does several important things: it appeals to children’s innate love of exploring online virtual worlds; it turns digital media into a tool for discovering and exploring the wonders of the natural world; and it supports our sustainability curriculum, which requires that we are able to move forwards and backwards in time, zoom in and out in scale, learn systems and rules, and explore cause and effect. We will take advantage of all of this in the online game and commercial game as well.

Participants will have the chance to develop game concepts related to one unit of this curriculum.

What you'll do in this workshop

3:15-3:20 Welcome & overview (Gene & Shenja)

3:20-3:30 Overview of the WGBH project (Blyth)

3:30-3:35 Workshop instructions (Gene)

3:35-3:45 Curriculum overview and unit learning objectives (Blyth)

3:45-4:15 Group discussion

4:15-4:30 Group presentations

4:30-4:45 General feedback and wrapup

Group discussion topics

Each group will develop ideas with special attention to a different issue:

  • Evaluation (Eitan+): How do we know that players are learning the intended knowledge, skill, or values objectives?
  • Affect (Doris): How can the design deepen moral, spiritual, personal, or other values-based commitment to environmental protection? (Or, alternatively, raise the question in a meaningful way?)
  • Motivation: What are the incentives for youth to play this unit?
  • Safety: How does WGBH ensure the safety of the participants while also encouraging maximum engagement and openness?
  • Transmedia opportunities (Sam): What opportunities arise because the game will run alongside a TV show?
  • Engagement (Marleigh): How does the program resolve the apparent tension between a show that encourages engagement with nature and a medium (video games) that's often tied to an indoor computer or console?
  • Participation gaps (Josh): How can the game ensure that significant gaps do not open up across genders, class, rural/urban, or other social divisions?
  • Business model (Eitan+): Can this game be financially sustainable? Profitable?

+Eitan is doing either Eval or Biz model, doesn't care which one

Workshop moderators

  • Gene Koo, Berkman Fellow
  • Shenja van der Graaf, Berkman Fellow
  • Marisa Wolsky, Executive Producer, WGBH
  • Blyth Lord, Project Director, Children's Programming, WGBH
  • Gary Goldberger, VP and Director, Fablevision
  • Marleigh Norton, Prototyping Manager, MIT-Singapore GAMBIT Game Lab
  • Dr. Doris Rusch, GAMBIT
  • Jaroslav Svelch, Fulbright Scholar, GAMBIT
  • Peter Rauch, MIT Comparative Media Studies '07
  • Eitan Glinert, MIT Computer Science '08
  • Josh Diaz, developer, MIT Comparative Media Studies '09
  • Sam Gilbert, Research Assistant, GoodPlay Project @ HGSE

Confirmed participants

(Please add your name to this list)

  • Prof. Helen Haste, University of Bath, Harvard Graduate School of Education
  • Prof. Barry Fishman, University of Michigan, Harvard Graduate School of Education