War Ethics: A Framework for Analyzing Videogames


DiGRA '17 - Proceedings of the 2017 DiGRA International Conference
Melbourne, Australia: Digital Games Research Association, July, 2017
Number: 1
Volume: 14
ISBN / ISNN: ISSN 2342-9666

While much has been done exploring how ethics and videogames can overlap in interesting ways, there is little work examining the philosophy of war and its relation to videogames. This seems unusual since videogames have a long tradition of engaging with war as its subject matter. We provide a framework for analyzing and articulating ethical issues and concerns in videogames that feature representations of war. This framework is based in traditional war ethics, more specifically the notion of the “just war” and considers the ethical concerns that include when engaging in a war is morally justified (jus ad bellum), how to wage a war ethically (jus in bello) and the ethical responsibilities of the aftermath of a war (jus post bellum). Our framework consists of five lenses consisting of the perspective offered to players, the scale and scope of war represented, the centrality of war to the game experience, the type of military that appear in the game, and the authenticity of a game’s representation. For each lens we also provide a list of questions that can be used to examine the subtleties and nuances of how war is represented in the game that hopefully lead to deeper and more insightful analyses. We conclude with thoughts on how this approach could be productive as well as outline some additional areas worth considering for future work.