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There's a new initiative to create a game industry code of ethics

A group of game industry professionals and academics launched a new collaborative initiative today aimed at collectively codifying and improving ethics in games.

A group of game industry professionals and academics launched a new collaborative initiative aimed at collectively codifying and improving ethics in games.

This new Ethical Games initiative was unveiled today during a live panel discussion on game ethics at the Games for Change Virtual Festival. Each of the panelists was part of the group that drafted the proposed code of ethics, which has two components: the first half suggests ethical standards for the player community, while the latter half focuses on ethical treatment of workers in the game industry.

Together, game UX consultant Celia Hodent, Geogrify chief Kate Edwards, UCI visiting researcher Kat Lo, and Fair Play Alliance cofounder Carlos Figueiredo discussed how their work had sparked their passion for addressing ethical issues in the game industry. 

“I think a lot of the ways we think about ethics are reactive,” said Lo. “I like that what we’re doing here is being proactive.”

They described a pressing need for more conversation and commitment to ethical standards in everything from community management to localization and culturalization, pointing to examples of how unethical practices in the game industry (from loot box monetization schemes to the whitewashing of voice actors) have hurt people and the industry at large.

They also called for higher ethical standards within the game industry, calling out harmful examples (like gender pay gaps and the dominance of white men) and encouraging game makers to expect ethical behavior from their employers, their peers, and themselves. 

“Games are an art form, and they’re made by people,” said Hodent. “Human rights apply to these people, and it's important to think about how we can raise the bar for inclusion and diversity.”

Ubisoft and its recent rash of high-profile executives resigning amid sexual misconduct allegations was mentioned multiple times as a prime example of why the game industry needs to codify and commit to a code of ethics. The panelists pointed out that unethical practices and systems don't just harm the people caught in those systems; they also hurt the companies who foster them when those ethical failures come to light.

“I think racism or sexism is always wrong; I don’t care the context, I don’t care where it is, I think it’s always wrong. If you see a gender wage gap at your company, that’s wrong. There’s no moral or ethical justification for that,” said Edwards. “One of the things I’d really like to see, [is] companies really unequivocally look at themselves in the mirror and say, is this the company we want to be?”

But throughout it all they kept the people who suffer from unethical treatment in the game industry front and center, calling repeatedly for more game industry workers to collaborate on this initiative and work to improve the ethical standards for both players and creators. For more details on the effort, check out the Ethical Games website.

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