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Update April 1, 2008

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I have not published much on my blog recently, it has been a couple of weeks since I last post. However, this recession is not due lack of interest. I have been busy building my dissertation document, and gathering my research data. The interviews went well, dispite an uncertain start, however it all went succesfully, and have got the transcriptions done. The method and methodology draft is finished, but will need editing in places, and now I have got the results I  can move on. The end is beginning to reveal itself on the horizon, ive just got to move on and finish the results, and conclusion.


Sade-Beck article summary February 29, 2008

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Below I have reviewed and summarised the article on Internet Ethnography by Liav Sade-Beck from the University of Isreal, he posses some interesting issues surrounding the use of this methodology.

Internet Ethnography: Online and Offline by Liav Sade-Beck (2004)

Describes methodological issue resulting from Internet-based qualitative research.

Demonstrates the path used to deal with problems of such research, it is based on Integration of online observations, interviews and content analysis.

He suggests that there is little writing on integration of the Internet into qualitative research.

o Jones (1999) explored both theoretical and practical issues in his book “Doing Internet Research”.

o Hine (2000) shows how important the need to study the Internet, as a cultural product and also in its cultural context through his text “Virtual Ethnography”.

o Mann & Stewart (2000) defined the Internet as a research field, and as a data gathering instrument in qualitative research.

Jones (1999) highlights several methodological issues in Internet Ethnography due to complex, diffuse and multi-faceted structure; as a result it is difficult to maintain a focus.

o The population for Internet research can not be determined on regular criteria, as it is not limited to a single social space.

o Data analysis is difficult as you cannot obtain a ‘Hard Copy’ of the Internet database.

o The Internet is updated daily, thus needs to be monitored on a daily basis

Sade-Beck suggests the Interview and Online Observation cause more problems.

o Interaction is done through writing. Adds problems as there is no face to face meeting, which results in loss of many additional layers of meaning including speech tone, body language, facial expression and gestures.

o The time lapse between thought and writing as in speech gives the Interviewee more time to think and organise the answer.

o Following the activities of actual people is difficult, so ‘Participant-observer’ cannot be applied to description of online observation.

o At what point does the researcher define ones status, which is similar to other web users, it shakes the researchers professional authority.

o The Internet enables the researcher to be anonymous, which raises some ethical issues.

o Only focusing upon the online aspect is looking a part of the picture. Offline (RL) is also part of the picture, as it is linked to Online, this just adds to the difficulty. “…the virtual world and the real world merge, creating a broader definition of reality. Instead of relating to the features that distinguish the Virtual world, we must adopt an approach focusing on imagination, associations and reciprocity between the two worlds…” Sade-Beck referring to Wittel (2000)

New Meat for Dissertation Flesh February 19, 2008

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Below I have summarised a journal article that I found on the net, it poses some interesting ideas about understanding Video Games, and provides a definiton of the authors understanding of how they work. It gives reference to society too, which is always useful.

Beyond Play: A New Approach to Games (Thomas M. Malaby, 2007)

His ideas are centred around the following definition of a game

“A Game is a semi-bounded and socially legitimate domain of contrived contingency that generates interpretable outcomes”

In this work Malaby is trying to move away from the common pitfalls that other game theorists fall into. He suggests that looking at games in a way the removes them out of the context of play, and holds them up against reality is an inappropriate way of studying them. For example, suggesting that video games cause violence. However, he also wants to avoid theorists who see games in a utopian light, in that they are a positive thing to be doing or playing, an example of this is studies that demonstrate how playing games boosts in a learning environment helps kids learning.

He suggests that existing (normative) treatments of games, that separate between games and play run into problems. As by treating play activities as pleasurable and fun experiences is more or less the same way in which games are treated. As a result how is it possible to say that the two are separate, when it is clear that games and play intrinsically, is the same thing?

To get away from existing treatments, Malaby explains that a better way of viewing games is in a non-normative way, where games are considered as socially constructed artefacts. Under this he suggests the follow ideas about games:

Games are processual i.e. the experience of them is an ongoing and evolutionary process.

Games can change as they are played i.e. rules altered in monopoly where chance and community card fines are paid into a pool, and whoever lands on free parking can claim the money.

They can change when new ways are found to play games (can lead to rule changes) i.e. being able to see through walls on Counter-Strike, which was outlawed from the game as it gave you an advantage over other players.

That games are grounded in human practice in that they are always a process of becoming something.

– That games are not reducible by rules at any given moment that may produce new practices or meaning.

Malaby goes on to say that games are like social processes as they are dynamic and recursive, reproducing their form through time. It doesn’t matter how stable a game is as it can change like social processes.

From all of the above, it is suggested that it is possible to identify the universal feature of games as a set of processes.

Games are seen as a contrived contingency, this is because games are designed to have a number of different possible paths (contingencies) to follow some are predictable others are unpredictable. As a result of this games are popular as they allow us to see what could have been if a different route is taken. This can be done in RL, but risk is involved. In games bigger risks can be taken than in RL.

The contingency within games is utilised by game designers, it is there job to contrive how multiple options (contingencies) are integrated into their games. The effectiveness in which this is done, will impact on how well the game is received by the audience.

Found a Brilliant Link February 17, 2008

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I wish that I had stumbled upon this link at a much earlier time, basically its a group of researchers who over the last few years have been collectively working in the field of video games or ‘Digital Games’ as they refer to it. The website is called Digiplay Initiative.

The timing of finding this link is bad because one of the researchers works at Manchester University, and it would have been good to speak to him at an earlier stage in my dissertation project.

However, all is not lost as the website that the research collective has created is very good. Infact, so good that it contains a timeline of video games, which I have been searching for months to find. This one has academic groundings too, which is always a bonus. More useful material will be uncovered the deeper I travel into the website.

Here is the link: http://digiplay.info/about

Lack of Posts February 16, 2008

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Having looked back on my previous posts I have noticed that they have been on an unregular basis. As a result of this I need to make more of an effort to at least put a comment on my blog every other day, if not everyday until the hand in date of my dissertation.

I will have more to write about now, as I am beginning to flesh out my dissertation. I also have found some more journal articles and usefull websites to write posts about.

Henry Jenkins quote February 13, 2008

Posted by nutheadgreg in Gaming ethics.
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I have found a useful quote from the work of Henry Jenkins, it features in his book Fans, Bloggers, Gamers. This is going to be of use in the introduction section.

“We turn to violent entertainment for the same reason moral reformers turn toward apocalyptic rhetoric-because it gives us a sense of order in a world that otherwise can seem totally chaotic. We fantasize about a lot of things we’d never want to do in real life, and through fantasy we bring those impulses momentarily under control. What is bad about a lot of games isn’t that they are violent but that they trivialize violence. They tell us little about our inner demons because they fall back too quickly on tried-and-true formulas. Without fail, the works that moral reformers cite are not the ones that are formulaic but those that are thematically rich or formally innovative. It is as if the reformers responded to the work’s own provocation to think about the meaning of violence, but were determined to shut down that process before it ever gets started”

In this Jenkins demonstrates how violent games get a bad press, he suggests that the trivial manner that violence is used in games is the problem. This can be linked back to Brands ideas on game ethics surrounding violence, as in some video games such as Counterstrike you are rewarded for killing both a terrorist or a counter terrorist this blurring in what Jenkins is refering to when he suggests that bad games trivialize violence. This becomes all the more confusing when you consider that fact that Counterstrike is still the most popular online FPS game, however just becase a game is popular, its not necessarily a good game.

The second theme running through this is the moral reformers (parents, mass media, government officials) are only looking at violence through the view of sensation, and moral panic. They do not look below the surface, as a result their issues do not get resolved.

Skeleton Chapter Plan February 12, 2008

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I have constructed a list of titles that will be contained within my dissertation, I have created around 20 titles and this should enable me to structure my ideas in order to guide the reader.

Breakdown of Dissertation Content


An introduction to the World of Gaming

Video Games from the Past

The Emergence of the First-Person Shooter game

Defining discursive Gaming Language

The importance of Play in understanding Gaming

How can a Game be defined?

The theory behind understanding the Video game

How Games can be applied to Moral Ethics and Values

What I expect to gain from the research

Method and Methodology

Approach to my study and Philosophy behind it

Explanation of Internet Ethnography

How is my Internet Ethnography relevant

Application of Internet Ethnography

Other Methods used in Conjunction with Internet Ethnography

Ethics of Research

Proposed choice of Data Analysis

How I aim to operationalise the Data for use

Data Analysis and Evaluation

Summary of Interviews

The Key findings

Discussion of Results

How do my findings relate to my proposed outcomes?

The extent to which my research relates to previous theory

Personal Critique of my study

How can the area of Computer Game ethics can be researched further?





This is the structure I aim to work with, however some of the titles may change. As new ideas will emerge from my writing that will allow them to become more concise and better formed.

Rambling Brand: Video Game Ethics: Part Four-Sex January 15, 2008

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Here is the conclusion to the posts about Rambling Brands ideas surrounding ethics in video games, I know it has been a long break but now its time to get down to it.

The main crux of Brands ideas surround the ethics of sex in video games relates to the idea that there is not a great deal of actual intercourse within video games. But he draws a distiction between two different types of games that deal with sex, firstly are those games which feature sex, and then sex games, that are intirely focused around the act. An example of a game of this nature is Sex Tetris, or Naruto Girl, these aren’t particularly advance games, and are programmed in Flash, so aren’t that anotomically correct.

However, I am only interested in games that feature sex or sexual reference, examples of these are Duke Nukem, GTA, Leisure Suit Larry, these are also listed by Brand in his blog post. He suggests that monogamy doesn’t exist in video games that feuture sex, this demonstrated in Leisure Suit Larry as the aim of the game is to bed as many girls as possible, also in GTA: Vice City and onwards you have six main girlfriends available. As for the act of sex in these sorts of games there is not a great deal, the exception to this is LSL as the main aim of the game is to have sex, however the private parts are blacked out. In GTA thing are done in a less in your face manner, when you hire a prostitute, the only thing that symbolises the act is the bouncing of the car (seems to me like a stereotype borrowed from the realms of film and tv).

This is a breif explantion of Brands ideas on this issue, I will not focus on this in my dissertation so I don’t need to take it any further.

Here is the link to the original post:


Rambling Brand: Video Game Ethics: Part 3 – Lying December 4, 2007

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From this post it seems that lying within games doesn’t really exist to the extent that you might expect, it is infact a rarity. Lying can only feature in games that ask the player questions, as a result a number of genres can be eliminated from the debate. Effectively ruling out racing, sports, action, and god games.

Acording to Brand, there are a number questions base arround four themes that make lying – to some extent – possible. Firstly are those which relate to gameflow altering questions. These are questions depending on a binary (one of two choices) answer, either of which opens up a different route. To me however I don’t understand how it allows for not telling the truth. I face the same probelm with the third question which relates to inventory questions, in that a NPC (non-player character) will ask you to gather something, or go on a mission. If you go back to the character claiming that you have done that task / aquired the item, when you haven’t. However, the NPC will then say that it isn’t in your inventory. Thus as a result, means that you cannot lie and get away with it.

On the other hand the other two question options do to some extent allow for lying. The first one is concerned with storytelling, Brand explains that this usually comes in the form of multiple choice questions. This is often a feature within RPGs (Role-Playing Games) such as Dragonfable, Final Fantasy, Adventure quest etc. However, the lying or more appriopriate non-truth telling, often comes in the form of a riddle from a NPC. In that you ask a question, and the NPC doesn’t give you a straight answer, but this is neither a truth or a lie. The final set of questions relate around moral issues, in that if you lie then this has an effect upon your characters development. Brand gives the examples of Fable, in which if you lie, your morality bar moves towards the evil side; and Star Wars: The Knights of the Old Republic, where lying results your character drifting into the dark side. This is also the case in a game know as Huygen’s Disclosure, in that if you are considered to be telling a lie by the Alien leader, you are killed instantly on the spot.

This demostrates that lying does exist in games, but it is on a quite basic and crude level. Some developers have chosen a useful way of integrating it into games, where lying can affect the gamers experience, and sometimes become their demise. Brand concludes on the issue stating that “Why are there so few games that allow lying? Because it’s not good gameplay” and to some extent this is true as the majority of gamers do not want to be ethical, as video games aim to escape the grasps of reality including morals.

Here is the link to the original blog post:


Rambling Brand: Video Game Ethics: Part Two – Theft November 20, 2007

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In this post the author is discusing the concept of theft within computer games. The ethical aspects of this concept only apply to a few games, but somTe of the ideas can be transferred into other games. He explains that the idea of theft in games originated from an in game featured known as an inventory. It enabled the in game character to store items that had been acquired throughout the game.

This featured in a number of 2d platform games, it is possibly most commonly associated with the vastly popular Tomb Raider games from Eidos. In this game the objective is to prevent precious and powerful artifacts from falling into the wrong hands. You have to negotiate a number of different tombs located over the globe, in which you have to kill and steal keys and codes off henchmen who are preventing your progression through the game. Thisi concept of being able to steal in video games, added a new dimension to gameing.

The idea of theft is not just limited to adventure games though, Brand demonstrates that it is also present within action games too. He explains that ‘carrots’ are used to attract the player to steal, these come in the form of weapon upgrades, healt packs, armour etc. These features area an itegral part toany modern action or shhoooter game. In some resepcts though you are not really stealing, ryou area aquiring things that have beeen left lying around on the floor. However, this raises the ethical issue of what is actujally considered as stealling??? In games such as Grand Theft Auto it is a lot more clear cut, in tehat you can steal cars and go and get them sprayed so the police will not recognised the stolen vechicle. One of the missions also required you to go to a rival gangs headquarters and steal some vital information.

It seems to me that stealing within games is a feature used sparingly, and brand suggests that “it seems that, ethically, this issue is considered a non-issue by most games (you don’t hear about any court cases where a defendant says that he learned to steal by playing Thief).”

Here is the link to the original blog post: