Ethical Considerations for Learning Game, Simulation, and Virtual World Design and Development

Ethical Considerations for Learning Game, Simulation, and Virtual World Design and Development

Scott J. Warren (University of North Texas, USA) and Lin Lin (University of North Texas, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-762-3.ch001
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Abstract

The goal of this chapter is to identify ethical concerns that instructional designers should be aware of when designing and developing learning games, simulations, and virtual worlds. Partly taken from ethical considerations that researchers are required to follow as part of standard institutional review board processes for the protection of human subjects, we suggest specific ethical principles which designers should consider prior to and during the design of these complex learning systems as well as during the evaluation of the products. We provide examples from existing and past learning games, simulations, and multi-user virtual environments that have either followed these principles or left questions to be addressed and propose a series of ethical considerations in future designs.
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Introduction

Since the early 1960s, games and simulations have received increasing attention in educational settings (Zuckerman & Horn, 1973; Stadsklev, 1974). With the rapid development of digital technologies, using simulations and games for teaching and learning is not only an alternative method, it has also been advocated as necessary for educators and researchers to motivate today’s generation of learners (Dickey, 2007; Gee, 2003; Prensky, 2001; Tuzun, 2004). The presence of rapid feedback structures, high-end dual coding of audio and visual affordances, and the very fact the kids play games at a rapidly increasing rate in their non-school time have all prompted this imperative (Entertainment Software Association, 2007). Further, simulations and games in the classroom offer the promise of increased student interactivity, autonomy to learn at an individualized pace, and the safety to repeatedly practice skills in a digital environment without the threat of real-world consequences (Prensky, 2001; Winn, 2002).

Despite the excitement within the field of simulations and games, there are growing concerns with commercial products that do not align with the ethical responsibilities of teachers and researchers. Increasingly, news reports have shown that these technological tools, when misused, have led to child neglect (Press, 2007b) and more than one player death (Press, 2007a; Writer, 2005). Recently, the American Psychiatric Association (Press, 2007b) has even pushed to classify Internet and video game addiction as psychological disorders. Instructional designers, teachers, and researchers must be aware of these concerns as they develop or use simulations for instruction or research.

The purpose of this chapter is to examine some of the core ethical concepts that create both ethical obligations and challenges that educators, instructional designers, and researchers need to consider when designing games, simulations, and multi-user virtual environments (MUVE) for teaching and learning. To begin, we examine basic concepts of ethical obligation as have emerged from research over the past decades and then explore how games and simulations create challenges for designers.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Simulation: A simulation is a model of a system. Also known as: reality model, similar to: virtual model; associated in the manuscript with: simulation games, learning simulations. Notable appearances of this term can be found on: 1, 6.

Instructional Design: Using theories and models of learning and instruction, instructional design is the systematic development of learning specifications to be used by teachers and learners or as part of a technological development to support learning activities. Also known as: learning design; similar to: curricular design; associated in the manuscript with: learning environment design process and research. Notable appearances of this term can be found on: 7, 8, 9.

Ethics: A system of moral principles; namely, what people ought to do; this specifically focuses on of rights, obligations, benefits to society, fairness, or specific virtues. Also known as: Ethical principles, ethical systems; similar to: moral principles; associated in the manuscript with: morals, design decisions. Notable appearances of this term can be found on: 1, 2, 3, 4, 7.

Alternate Reality Game: Alternate reality games are online games blending real world treasure hunting, interactive storytelling, audio, video, video games and online community. Also known as: ARG; similar to: augmented reality games; associated in the manuscript with: video game, ARG, The Door, Broken Window. Notable appearances of this term can be found on: pgs. 8, 9, 10.

Game: Games are systems that include1.) artificial conflict spurring play, 2.) win scenarios concluding play, and 3.) a rule-based system governing play and providing interaction for players. Also known as: digital games, electronic games; similar to: analog games; associated in the manuscript with: learning games, educational games. Notable appearances of this term can be found on: 1, 3.

Human Research Protections: Principles, regulations, and policies affecting research that include human participants in research activities. Also known as: Institutional Review Board Protections, similar to: IRB, HRP; associated in the manuscript with: Protecting human subjects. Notable appearances of this term can be found on: 3, 13.

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