How I Learned to Love the Bomb: Defcon and the Ethics of Computer Games

  • Miguel Sicart
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 5309)


In this paper I present an analysis of the ontology and ethics of computer games from an Information Ethics perspective. This analysis uses the concepts of Level of Abstraction and Gradient of Abstraction, as defined by Luciano Floridi’s Information Ethics, applied to the specific study of computer games. The goal of this paper is to argue for the consideration of games as interesting ethical objects and experiences. Computer games appeal to a player capable of ethical reasoning in her interaction with simulated environments and rule systems. This paper provides a theoretical model for the study of the ethics of computer games both as designed objects, and as player experiences.


Information Ethics Computer Game Ethics Method of Abstraction 


  1. Bateman, C., Boon, R.: 21st Century Game Design. Charles River Media, Massachusetts (2005)Google Scholar
  2. Bogost, I.: Persuasive Games. The Expressive Power of Videogames. The MIT Press, Massachusetts (2006)Google Scholar
  3. Caillois, R.: Man, Play and Games. Translated by Meyer Barash. University of Illinois Press, Urbana (1958/2001)Google Scholar
  4. Carnagey, N.L., Anderson, C.A., Bushman, B.J.: The effect of video game violence on physiological desensitization to real-life violence. Journal of Experimental Psychology (2006)Google Scholar
  5. Feezell, R.: Sport, play, and ethical reflection. University of Illinois Press, Urbana (2004)Google Scholar
  6. Floridi, L., Sanders, J.: Internet Ethics: the Constructionist Values of Homo Poieticus. In: Cavalier, R. (ed.) The Impact of the Internet on Our Moral Lives, New York, SUNY (2005)Google Scholar
  7. Floridi, L., Sanders, J.: Levellism and the Method of Abstraction, Information Ethics Group Research Report (2004a),
  8. Floridi, L., Sanders, J.: On the Morality of Artificial Agents. Minds and Machines 14(3), 349–379 (2004b)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Floridi, L.: On the Intrinsic Value of Information Objects and the Infosphere. Ethics and Information Technology 4(4), 287–304 (2003a)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Floridi, L.: Two Approaches to the Philosophy of Information. Minds and Machines 13(4), 459–469 (2003b)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Funk, J.B., Baldacci, B., Heidi, Pasold, Tracie, Baumgardner, Jennifer: Violence exposure in real-life, video games, television, movies, and the internet: is there desensitization? Journal of Adolescence 27, 23–29 (2004)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Gadamer, H.G.: Truth and Method (1975); Translated by Weinsheimer, J., Marshall, D.G. Continuum, New York (2004)Google Scholar
  13. Huizinga, J.: Homo Ludens. The Beacon Press, Boston (1950)Google Scholar
  14. Juul, J.: A Certain Level of Abstraction. In: Proceedings of the III DiGRA Conference (2007)Google Scholar
  15. Juul, J.: Half-Real. Video Games between Real Rules and Fictional Worlds. The MIT Press, Massachusetts (2005)Google Scholar
  16. Latour, B.: Where are the Missing Masses? - the Sociology of a Few Mundane Artifacts. In: Bijker, W., Law, J. (eds.) Shaping Technology/Building Society, pp. 225–258. The MIT Press, MassachusettsGoogle Scholar
  17. Norman, D.: The Design of Everyday Things. Perseus, New York (2002)Google Scholar
  18. Salen, Katie, Zimmerman, Eric: Rules of Play. Game Design Fundamentals. The MIT Press, Massachusetts (2004)Google Scholar
  19. Suttton-Smith, B.: The Ambiguity of Play. Harvard University Press, Cambridge (1997)Google Scholar
  20. Weisfeld, M.: The Object Oriented Thought Process. Sams Publishing, Indianapolis (2000)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© IFIP International Federation for Information Processing 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Miguel Sicart
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Center for Computer Game ResearchIT University of Copenhagen, Url: http://www.itu.dkDenmark
  2. 2.IEG - Oxford University, Url:
  3. 3.GPI - University of Hertfordshire, Url:

Personalised recommendations