Ethical Intention in Development: Mindset Matters

Ethical Intention in Development: Mindset Matters

Software developers and artistic creators rarely believe they are unethical but we still observe countless examples of algorithms resulting in toxic systems or works that fail to address difficult topics with the appropriate delicacy.

In fact, to be an ethical creator you must develop with conscious intention. Using the lens of video game development, we will discuss how projects can go wrong without ethical intention, describe our approach to crafting and practicing intention, and provide examples of works which were improved by their creators' deliberate ethical intention. Attendees will leave equipped to think about and implement their own values in order to ensure people are better-off from interacting with their work.

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Melissa Avery-Weir

February 13, 2018
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Transcript

  1. 1.

    Ethical Intention in Development Mindset matters. Melissa and Gregory Avery-Weir

    @playfutureproof futureproofgames.com Slides: http://fpgam.es/ethicaldev
  2. 2.

    Content Warning • Discussion of familial abuse with mild imagery

    and brief descriptions. • Discussion of hostile work environments with examples. • Discussion of misogyny in specific games.
  3. 3.

    To be an ethical person in our society, you must

    design and develop with that intention. Design such that people are enriched by using your software.
  4. 5.

    “When we play or design without being critical, we can

    defend or even reinscribe the same things that we think we are decrying... But if we do work critically as designers... we will have a chance to 'undermine that [status quo]' that keeps us in our place.” — Austin Walker. “Making and Playing Games in a Time of Political Struggle.” NYU Game Center Lecture Series. Feb 1, 2018. https://youtu.be/EM4S_dD2-Q8
  5. 6.

    Detroit: Become Human Quantic Dream “You have to be respectful

    because this is a game. We put a lot of passion and we’re honest and sincere. But it’s nothing compared to real issues and real people in the real world. We try to be aware of that and we want to be respectful of real things.” — David Cage. Interview with Polygon.com. June 14, 2017. https://www.polygon.com/e3/2017/6/14/ 15796224/detroit-become-human-ps4- david-cage-interview-e3-2017
  6. 10.

    Quantic Dream’s Toxic System — Matt Gerardi. “Heavy Rain developer

    Quantic Dream accused of being a hostile, sexist workplace.” The A.V. Club. Jan 15, 2018. https://www.avclub.com/heavy-rain-developer-quantic-dream-accused-of-being-a-h-1822093463 “Over the weekend, three different French media outlets reported on wide- ranging accusations of workplace misconduct at Quantic Dream… …[Cage] making racist and homophobic jokes, having ‘a lack of consideration for female colleagues,’ and making ‘inappropriate remarks about actresses in his games.’ …[co-CEO De Fondaumière] ‘hitting on staff at parties’ and making an inappropriate amount of contact when greeting employees with Parisian cheek kisses. …a specific instance of Cage busting out some ‘hilarious’ racist humor. …a collection of 600 images of Quantic employees Photoshopped into degrading and/or sexual pictures. …Cage twice told Le Monde that, despite having a workforce that is reportedly 83 percent male, Quantic Dream ‘is not a rugby locker room.’ He was sitting in front of a painting the newspaper described as ‘a penis with farting testicles’ at the time.”
  7. 11.

    People Can Smell Insincerity • Omikron: Nomad Soul: must possess

    a character based on David Bowie’s wife to seduce someone for the location of a factory… next door • Indigo Prophecy/Fahrenheit: female lead changes from tough, assertive cop to desperate sexual conquest • Heavy Rain: female lead has arbitrary shower scene and threatened with sexual violence • Beyond: Two Souls: Quantic Dream makes naked model of actor Ellen Page after she refuses to model naked
  8. 13.

    Aspects of Ethical Intention • Power imbalances you want to

    challenge: • Economic inequality • Systemic racism • Family dynamics • Behavior you want to encourage: • Kindness • Charity • Curiosity • Skills that you want to promote: • Skepticism • Community Involvement • Empathy
  9. 14.

    Audacious Compassion One of our intentions: to encourage compassion and

    empathy for the uncomfortable and the alien, producing a more nuanced ethical perspective. • Ossuary: Understanding the perversion of virtue and the relativism of sin • Exploit: Zero Day: Antagonists who consider themselves ethical, allies who are “inhuman” • The Majesty of Colors: Embodying an eldritch undersea monster who doesn’t understand humanity • The Audacious Compassion podcast: Monthly podcast discussing the difficulty of empathy in everyday situations
  10. 15.

    Results of Our Intention User feedback: • Audacious Compassion –

    we hear from real people how our viewpoints have improved their situations • We periodically get messages from game design students saying how our work is inspiring and thought-provoking Interest from strange quarters: • Professors and industry interested in Exploit: Zero Day as a teaching tool • “The Majesty of Colors” has shown up on college syllabi Community activity: • People are having ethical discussions on our Exploit: Zero Day forums Press • “The Majesty of Colors” is on a list of “Games That Make You Think About Life”
  11. 16.

    Other Examples: Papo & Yo “[The character Monster’s behavior] reflects

    that of [developer] Cabellero's real-life abusive alcoholic father; and that the relationship between Quico and Monster stands as a metaphor for his childhood. ‘I wanted to make something meaningful for me and for everyone else. I wanted to get this story out to the world.’” — Joe Donnelly. “How ‘Papo & Yo’ Shined a Light on Alcoholism and Mental Health.” Waypoint.com. May 4, 2017. https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/ezj4 pz/how-papo-and-yo-shined-a-light-on- alcoholism-and-mental-health
  12. 17.

    Other Examples: Secrets Agent “[Influenced by:] Sometimes strangeness, sometimes intimacy,

    of being told how to beat a video game by a stranger.” — Joni Kittaka. “Influences and thoughts.” “My work tends to focus on reconciling anxieties and insecurities with the desire for kindness, softness, and connection.” — Joni Kittaka. https://even-kei.itch.io/ https://even-kei.itch.io/secrets-agent http://v6p9d9t4.ssl.hwcdn.net/html/469819 /Secrets%20Agent/index.html (Chrome audio fix)
  13. 18.

    “When we play or design without being critical, we can

    defend or even reinscribe the same things that we think we are decrying... But if we do work critically as designers... we will have a chance to 'undermine that [status quo]' that keeps us in our place.” — Austin Walker. “Making and Playing Games in a Time of Political Struggle.” NYU Game Center Lecture Series. Feb 1, 2018. https://youtu.be/EM4S_dD2-Q8
  14. 19.

    To be an ethical person in our society, you must

    design and develop with that intention.
  15. 20.

    • Thank you to our friend Michael Stewart and CS

    Speaker Series Coordinator Ramon A. Mata-Toledo • Contact us: info@futureproofgames.com • These slides: http://fpgam.es/ethicaldev • Our Works: • Ossuary • Exploit: Zero Day • “(I Fell in Love With) The Majesty of Colors” • Audacious Compassion podcast • Granny Square Colors