Leveraging Digital Games for Moral Development in Education: A Practitioner’s Reflection

Leveraging Digital Games for Moral Development in Education: A Practitioner’s Reflection

Ross FitzGerald (Shady Hill School, USA) and Jennifer Groff (Futurelab, UK)
Copyright: © 2011 |Pages: 18
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-120-1.ch015
OnDemand PDF Download:


Ethical and moral development is a result of cognitive structures generated through experience in the pivotal stage of adolescence, during which formal education plays a critical role. Recent advancements in cognitive psychology have explored the very nature of moral development, as well as the critical role education plays in that development. Digital games are potentially powerful learning environments to shape moral development for students. This chapter describes two case studies of digital games used in a middle school classroom to enhance moral development. Finally, it reflects upon and analyzes these cases using the developmental theories of Robert Selman and others as a framework.
Chapter Preview


Recent advancements in cognitive psychology have demonstrated that education plays a powerful role in ethical and moral development (more than age alone), influencing one’s ability to make sophisticated judgments using moral reasoning (Fischer, Yan & Stewart, 2003). Specifically, adolescence is seen as a critical period where one’s development in these areas is framed for adulthood: “These are the years not only for learning specific social skills and strategies but also for the growth of our capacities for social understanding and empathy” (Selman, 2003). As a result, in our experience, many teachers concerned with student moral development seek tools and methodologies that help them positively shape this with their students

As digital gaming is increasing in acceptance for use in education, practitioners have begun exploring their potential to develop a classroom environment that will facilitate experiences to support healthy community and interpersonally oriented moral development—developmentally appropriate progression as “children become socially wise” (Selman, 1980, p. 311)New and emerging web-, computer- and console-based games and simulations can provide further support to the ethical development that pushes early adolescents to coordinate social perspectives, a key foundation for moral development. Within a classroom setting, games can provide both a tangible experience and a structure for intellectual exploration. Certain computer games, while not specifically created for an educational purpose, could potentially be a powerful platform for exploring and guiding the complex relationship that exists in an individual and in groups between thought and action—ultimately helping to shape ethical development at this opportune stage of development.

This chapter describes a case study on the application of such technologies to promote positive community and interpersonally focused moral development, combined with an analysis of the literature on human development of ethics. We argue, through our observations and reflections on the use of computer games in the classroom, that some games have the potential to be a powerful platform for promoting ethical development during the critical stage of adolescence.

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book:
Editorial Advisory Board
Table of Contents
Cathy N. Davidson
Karen Schrier
Karen Schrier
Chapter 1
Mia Consalvo, Greg Costikyan, Drew Davidson, Nick Fortugno, David Shaenfield, Pete Vigeant, Christopher Weaver, Karen Schrier
In this chapter, seven experts from the games industry and from academia discuss late-breaking and big picture trends in ethics and games. Rather... Sample PDF
Quick Takes on Ethics and Games Voices from Industry and Academia
Chapter 2
Jose P. Zagal
Ethically notable games are those that provide opportunities for encouraging ethical reasoning and reflection. This chapter examines how games can... Sample PDF
Ethical Reasoning and Reflection as Supported by Single-Player Videogames
Chapter 3
Jamey Stevenson
For those seeking an entry point into the complex topic of ethical games, a framework for classification and criticism can be a helpful tool, if... Sample PDF
A Framework for Classification and Criticism of Ethical Games
Chapter 4
Jonathan Melenson
Many games classify player decisions as either “good” or “evil.” This ignores the full range of moral behavior exhibited in real life and creates a... Sample PDF
The Axis of Good and Evil
Chapter 5
Ian Schreiber, Bryan Cash, Link Hughes
This chapter discusses ethical dilemmas and their role in game design. The chapter first defines what ethical dilemmas are and then argues for why... Sample PDF
Ethical Dilemmas in Gameplay: Choosing Between Right and Right
Chapter 6
Devin Monnens
This chapter argues for a game design ethic for war game production and the development of games that produce a more realistic and conscientious... Sample PDF
War and Play: Insensitivity and Humanity in the Realm of Pushbutton Warfare
Chapter 7
Peter Rauch
In God of War, the protagonist Kratos seeks revenge against the Ares of Greek mythology. As Kratos, the player is called upon to act in a manner... Sample PDF
God of War: What is it Good For?
Chapter 8
David I. Schwartz, Jessica D. Bayliss
This chapter demonstrates how legal concepts, accepted practices, and research in reverse engineering (a process of disassembling a system to... Sample PDF
The Ethics of Reverse Engineering for Game Technology
Chapter 9
Lindsay Grace
This chapter introduces critical gameplay design as a technique for creating digital games that offer alternative play. Critical gameplay provides... Sample PDF
Critical Gameplay: Design Techniques and Case Studies
Chapter 10
Mitu Khandaker
Novel kinesthetic and mimetic video game interfaces, such as the Wii Remote, PlayStation Move, and Microsoft Kinect, are seeing widespread... Sample PDF
How Games Can Touch You: Ethics of the Videogame Controller
Chapter 11
Adrienne Shaw
Often, literature on the representation of marginalized groups in videogames focuses on how groups have been and should be portrayed in games.... Sample PDF
Toward an Ethic of Representation: Ethics and the Representation of Marginalized Groups in Videogames
Chapter 12
Nathan G. Freier, Emilie T. Saulnier
This chapter discusses the significant role that virtual worlds, particularly massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs), such as Club Penguin and... Sample PDF
The New Backyard: Social and Moral Development in Virtual Worlds
Chapter 13
Randy Kulman, Gary Stoner, Louis Ruffolo, Stephanie Marshall, Jennifer Slater, Amanda Dyl, Alice Cheng
Numerous studies support the contention that videogames can be useful in developing specific attention and memory skills. Videogames and other... Sample PDF
Teaching Executive Functions, Self-Management, and Ethical Decision-Making through Popular Videogame Play
Chapter 14
Rania Hodhod, Paul Cairns, Daniel Kudenko
Promoting ethical, responsible, and caring behavior in young people is a perennial aim of education. Schools are invited to include moral teaching... Sample PDF
Fostering Character Education with Games and Interactive Story Generation
Chapter 15
Ross FitzGerald, Jennifer Groff
Ethical and moral development is a result of cognitive structures generated through experience in the pivotal stage of adolescence, during which... Sample PDF
Leveraging Digital Games for Moral Development in Education: A Practitioner’s Reflection
Chapter 16
Andrea Gunraj, Susana Ruiz, Ashley York
This chapter defines basic principles of anti-oppression and its ethical implications. Anti-oppression is a framework used in social work and... Sample PDF
Power to the People: Anti-Oppressive Game Design
Chapter 17
Nahil Sharkasi
In the field of fertility medicine, technology has vastly outpaced our ethical, legal, and social frameworks leaving us in a quagmire of gray... Sample PDF
The Doctor Will Be You Now: A Case Study on Medical Ethics and Role-Play
Chapter 18
Sharman Siebenthal Adams, Jeremiah Holden
This chapter examines ethical ambiguities confronted by the design and play of serious games focused on civic engagement. Our findings derive from... Sample PDF
Games, Ethics and Engagement: Potential Consequences of Civic-Minded Game Design and Gameplay
Chapter 19
Sasha A. Barab, Tyler Dodge, Edward Gentry, Asmalina Saleh, Patrick Pettyjohn
While gaming technologies are typically leveraged for entertainment purposes, our experience and aspiration is to use them to encourage engagement... Sample PDF
Uganda’s Road to Peace May Run through the River of Forgiveness: Designing Playable Fictions to Teach Complex Values
About the Contributors