Video Games

In this module we will investigate the impact of video games through some video and text narratives. The goal is to think about the implications of video games for society and the role of developers in creating these digital artifacts.


Video games were some of the earliest computer programs dating back to the 1950s with the creation of Bertie the Brain or the Nimrod computer. However, despite their long history, the role that video games ‘play’ in society has changed dramatically in just the last decade because of the rise in mobile computing and multi-player gaming platforms.

These innovations in gaming have broken down boundaries between cultures and created new e-sports venues, but these innovations have also created new problems with managing online conduct in an anonymous world.

Video games have become so prevalent in society that the WHO have officially named gaming disorder an official disease. Ethical questions have arisen about the dangers of loot boxes, an in-game form of gambling that allows players the chance to access new features of the game. In addition to looking at these current ethical issues in the creation of video games as a form of digital engagement, this module will also explore a question that has plagued the gaming industry for decades:

Does video game violence promote real life violence?

To begin, complete the five tasks below before Activity 1:

Please, answer this short concept check. - approx. 5 minutes

Read this introductory narrative on video games - Halbrook et al, 2019 - approx. 15 minutes

Watch Herman Narula's TED talk on the transformative power of video games. - 12 minutes

Review the World Health Organization's description about 'gaming disorder' and its impact - 5 minutes

Read the 2019 Verge article on the impact of loot boxes on gaming communities and the intersection with online gambling -10 minutes

Activity 1 :

The New Illnesses of a Gaming Society

Activity 1 :

Respond to the two discussion questions based on the narratives you have read/viewed:

What kind of positive effects can video games have on players?

What is the evidence that 'gaming addiction' is a disease?

Activity 1 wrap up

Follow up to Activity 1 (complete before next meeting)

View results of the Virtual Line Up and respond after you have read the following four narratives:

(see email attachments for short articles referenced below):

  • AARSETH et. al. 2017. Scholars’ open debate paper on the WHOICD-11 Gaming Disorder proposal

  • Przybylski, Weinstein, and Murayama. 2017. Internet Gaming Disorder: Investigating the Clinical

Relevance of a New Phenomenon

Activity 2

Multiplayer Communities: Building Up and Breaking Down Relationships

Warmup: Kahoot !!!! Video Games by the Numbers (or Game PIN: 08491357) (10 minutes)

Activity 1 Follow-up: Small Group Discussion Prompt with shared doc reporting (10 minutes)

Why might video games be different from other non-digital games we play?

  • How do they introduce new ethical issues that did not exist before the advent of game played using computing tech?

  • How does the scale (size), scope (variety), span (production), and speed (innovation) of the video game technologies industry make them different than other non-digital games we play?

Whole group report out/discussion (10-15 minutes)

Activity 2 Breakout room reading, prompts, and discussion (20-30 minutes)

  • How does engaging with online video games shape our relationships with others -- inside and outside the games? (Rooms 1 and 2)

  • Should game companies be responsible for monitoring and maintaining a certain level of conduct and behavior in their multiplayer experiences? Why or why not? If they should, how could they do so in an effective way? If they shouldn't, how should we fix the problems that currently plague multiplayer games? (Rooms 3 and 4)

Whole group report out/discussion (10-15 minutes)

Follow up to Activity 2 (complete before 10am EST 12/11/20)

Read Gotterbarn and Moor (2009) Virtual decisions: video game ethics, Just Consequentialism, and ethics on the fly. ACM SIGCAS Computers and Society 39(3):27-42 DOI: 10.1145/1713066.1713068


Activity 3 (12/11/20)

Immersion and Virtual Violence

Module Wrap Up and Reflection:

Ethical Issues in Video Game Technologies