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Published January 6, 2020

[EDIT: The deadline for submissions has been extended until April 3].

The Morality Play workshop (first held at FDG/DiGRA 2016) will return to DiGRA 2020 this June. We are calling for short or long papers dealing with themes of empathy and ethics in games and play.

Moral questions have always been a cornerstone of art. Many of our greatest dramas hinge on our struggles to decide between right and wrong and to put those decisions into effect, both on the grand stage and in intimate relationships. Games are no exception, with titles such as Disco Elysium, Frostpunk and Bloodborne offering unique opportunities to explore difficult questions of morality first-hand.

Moral themes can also be explored for advocacy and education, with games allowing us to practise the skills of ethical decision-making in a safe and controlled environment. Role-play and hypotheticals have long been tools for ethics education. Videogames are now being recognised as means for making such exercises more engaging and widespread.

The Morality Play workshop focuses on the moral significance of gameplay, in both in-game and real-world contexts, asking questions such as:

  • How do players engage (or disengage) with the ethical significance of gameplay?
  • What factors influence ethical decision-making in games?
  • How do we create empathy for characters in games?
  • Can games be used to improve real-world ethical decision-making?
  • How does the representation of “ethical choices” affect the meaning of a game?
  • What design factors affect these questions?
  • How do we measure player’s moral engagement in games?

The workshop invites papers dealing with topics such as:

  • Critiques of games with moral choices or themes
  • Principles and frameworks for the design of moral gameplay
  • Experimental evidence for moral effects of games
  • The role of ethical dilemmas in games and other media
  • Games for moral pedagogy
  • Applications of philosophical or behavioural ethics to game design
  • The design of games to promote empathy
  • The ethics of subversive, taboo and treacherous play

We particularly welcome cross-disciplinary scholarship from philosophy, psychology, education and other related disciplines, as well as the traditional fields of game design and criticism.

Paper submission: 3 April, 2020
Notification to authors: 10 April, 2020

Workshop Organization: The Morality workshop will be held on Tuesday June 2, in conjunction with the 2020 DiGRA conference in Tampere, Finland. It will feature a half day of research paper presentations, followed by a group discussions on challenges and opportunities in ethics and game design, concluding with short presentations of group discussion results.

Paper submission: The research paper program will consist of extended abstracts (400–800 words) and full papers (up to 5000 words) selected via a peer-review process. Since the workshop is intended to explore new ideas and directions, submission of incomplete and in-process results are encouraged.

Papers should be formatted using the DiGRA template.

Papers can be submitted using EasyChair at:

Demonstrations: We are also inviting demonstrations of games exhibiting novel design for ethically engaging play. Game demonstrations should be submitted with an accompanying 1-2 page abstract describing the game and its research purpose.

Organisers: Dr Malcolm Ryan leads the Game Design and Development program in the Dept of Computing at Macquarie University. A/Prof Paul Formosa is part of the Centre for Agency Values and Ethics in the Dept of Philosophy. Dr Dan Staines is an adjunct lecturer in the Dept of Computing.

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