Play Digest: Moves and Mores

When we think about the decisions we have to make while playing a game, we usually consider strategy above standards; our own gains above those of the group. When we watch our favorite sports teams, what’s more valuable: gamesmanship or sportsmanship? In this week’s Play Digest, we explore the ethics of play.

Does the moral compass by which we live impact what we play and the way we play it? Should we be applying our moral standards to our gameplay? Are we making ourselves and those around us unhealthy? Unsafe? And what kind of time should we even devote to play; where do we—and the people who design and build games—find that time in our over-demanding lives?

Like many aspects of play, play psychology, and play theory (especially in the age of video games), there is a whole lot of thinking going on around the subject. This is especially true of the scholarship and criticism of first-person shooter games (are they “good clean fun” or the basis for a moral panic? do game makers have a moral responsibility to the consumer?) and around how adults control the parameters of play for children.

The question about good and bad, right and wrong—in gaming, in play, in culture—is age-old, complicated, and seemingly ever-changing, or at least open to interpretation. As games become more “intelligent” and our lives and games blur, we will continue to be faced with ethical quandaries. And even that challenge can be a playable moment.

Check in next week for a new roundup of the latest play news and stories.

(Image credit: Photo of referee Ryan Justice, courtesy mark6mauno via Flickr.)


About Eugenia Bell

Eugenia Bell is the guest editor for She is the former executive editor of Design Observer and Design Editor of Frieze. Her writing has appeared in Frieze, Artforum, Bookforum, and Garage, among other places.