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Published November 13, 2020

This paper describes the design of the game Judgment Call from the Ethics & Society team at Microsoft. Interested in promoting awareness of ethical issues that arise in technology development (and specifically in the use of artificial intelligence) the authors designed this game to prompt moral sensitivity and perspective taking. The premise is simple: considering a (real or fictional) product under development, the players are invited to imagine a world in which the product has been released and write both positive and negative reviews from the points of view of various stakeholders. Cards are drawn to select a stakeholder, a review score (1, 3 or 5 stars) and an ethical principle the review should focus on (fairness, reliability, privacy & security, inclusion, transparency, or accountability). Reviews are collected and read aloud to the team.

This is an interesting illustration of the potential for role-play to improve our ethical sensitivity by inviting us to think about a topic from a perspective outside our own. The stakeholders are not provided with the get, rather they are the result of an in-game brainstorming process that explicitly asks players to identify people who are affected by the product both directly and indirectly, as well as people who are excluded from using the technology (e.g. through physical, cognitive or social constraints). The authors admit the limitations of this approach: we may be unable to adequately represent groups we are not part of. However the imaginative exercise can still prompt players to explore perspectives that they might have otherwise neglected.

This game is rather different from other games we have discussed in that the moral content is not so much in the game, as in the world (or in an imagined world of the players’ construction). The game mechanics have more in common with improv games, in that they exist as a prompt for storytelling rather than as a simulation. There are a lot of ways this kind of roleplay could be expanded to explore complex moral scenarios.



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