The most popular games of all time usually contain violence. Such games bring excitement and a new perspective to our mundane everyday lives. War-themed games are popular because they offer a thrilling and exciting experience, with players able to contribute to their team's victory in various ways, simulating a war-like situation.
Throughout human history, we find instances of destructive wars that devastated the world for decades to come. In the last century alone, we saw two such cataclysmic wars where humanity came tantalisingly close to finishing each other, namely World Wars 1 and 2. These wars resulted in tens of millions of casualties and inflicted indescribable horrors on the entire human civilisation.
Despite the devastation caused by World War I and II, these conflicts have also been the subject of many popular video games. This may seem surprising, given the tragic nature of these wars. However, video games can provide a unique way to explore the human experience of war and to learn about the historical events that shaped our world.
But these are all conflicts from the past; what if someone were to create a video game based on current conflicts? Would it be ethical? Or would it be called profiteering from war? Unlike historical World War 1 and 2 games, creating a video game based on ongoing wars raises complex ethical concerns. It's not just about entertainment; it touches on sensitive subjects, respect, and social responsibility. This blog explores the ethical aspects of developing games about ongoing conflicts, addressing factors that influence these considerations.
Sensitivity to Real-Life Events
One of the primary ethical concerns when creating a game about an ongoing war is the need for sensitivity to real-life events. Wars involve significant human suffering, loss of life, and long-lasting trauma for those affected. Developing a game that trivialises or ignores these very real consequences can be seen as unethical and disrespectful. Players may engage with such games for entertainment, but it is essential to remember that the people directly impacted by the ongoing conflict do not have the luxury of disengaging from the harsh realities they face.
Game developers should take a thoughtful and empathetic approach to address this issue. They should consider the emotional weight and human cost of the ongoing war. This means that the game's narrative, characters, and gameplay should be designed with a deep understanding of the suffering and sacrifice experienced by those involved. The game should strive to humanise the conflict and help players comprehend the real-life implications.
Respect for Cultural and Political Sensitivities
Video game developers must also be aware of the cultural and political sensitivities surrounding an ongoing war. These sensitivities can be highly charged, as conflicts often involve complex geopolitical factors, historical grievances, and differing perspectives on the causes and solutions.
Misrepresenting the conflict or presenting a biased perspective can exacerbate tensions and contribute to misunderstandings. This is particularly important if the game is set in a region with a history of conflict, as it can perpetuate stereotypes and reinforce negative perceptions. The ethical approach here is to objectively research and represent the conflict, acknowledging the diverse viewpoints of different stakeholders.
Educational and Thoughtful Approach
While entertainment is a primary objective of video games, they can also serve as a medium for education and raising awareness. Games can be used to inform players about the realities of ongoing wars, encouraging empathy and promoting a deeper understanding of the issues at hand. Games developed with this educational and thoughtful approach can be considered more ethically sound.
Educational games can provide players with historical context, geopolitical complexities, and insights into the daily lives of those affected by the conflict. Such games may also challenge players to consider the consequences of war, potentially leading to a greater awareness of the importance of peace and conflict resolution.
Avoiding Exploitative Elements
One of the most significant ethical pitfalls in creating games about ongoing wars is exploiting the conflict for profit or sensationalism. Using real-life tragedies to drive game sales or as a marketing gimmick is highly unethical. It not only trivialises the suffering but also commercialises it for personal gain. The line between entertainment and exploitation can be thin, and developers must be vigilant in their choices.
Games should not glorify violence, war, or the suffering of individuals. Instead, they should aim to provide a meaningful and respectful portrayal of the ongoing conflict. Developers must be cautious not to reduce complex geopolitical situations and human suffering to mere entertainment or shock value.
Consultation with Affected Communities
In some cases, it may be appropriate and ethical to consult with individuals and communities directly affected by the ongoing war. This can help ensure the game's portrayal is accurate, respectful, and culturally sensitive. Collaborating with people who have lived through the conflict can provide invaluable insights into the nuances of the situation.
Consultation can take various forms, including seeking advice on cultural and historical accuracy, understanding personal narratives, and addressing potential concerns or sensitivities. However, it's essential to approach such consultation with humility and openness, recognising that diverse viewpoints and experiences may exist even within affected communities.
Considering the age-appropriateness of games based on ongoing wars is crucial from an ethical standpoint. Video games often have age ratings that guide the appropriate audience for the content. If a game contains graphic or violent content, it should be clearly labelled as such to ensure it does not reach an inappropriate audience, particularly children and adolescents.
Parents, guardians, and educators rely on these age ratings to make informed decisions about what games suit young individuals. An ethical approach is to ensure that the content and themes align with the age rating, preventing inadvertent exposure to disturbing or inappropriate material.
International Laws and Regulations
Depending on the specifics of the situation, there may be legal and ethical considerations related to international laws and regulations when developing games about ongoing wars. Different countries may have restrictions on depicting ongoing military operations or portraying certain political figures or symbols.
Developers should know these legal requirements and act responsibly to ensure compliance. Failing to do so can result in legal consequences and harm international relations and public perceptions of the game and its creators.
Creating video games based on ongoing wars is a moral challenge. Developers must balance entertainment with respect for real-life events. Thorough research, community consultation, and avoidance of exploitation are key. Games can educate and raise awareness, but developers must be cautious, as their choices shape public perceptions of ongoing wars and their impact.
In this era where video games hold significant cultural influence, developers wield the power to educate and entertain, fostering empathy and understanding. Their responsible approach can help ensure that games about ongoing wars become a means of respectful remembrance rather than trivialising or sensationalising human suffering. It is a delicate balance that, when achieved, can harness the potential of games for the greater good.
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