Moral Dilemmas

Here are two moral dilemmas I recently stumbled upon. They are both about what kind of content is suitable for children. Now, the German government is really touchy this subject, especially in computer games. I strongly disagree with banning media – why not simply setting a higher minimum age?! However, I think we all agree that some kind of content simply isn’t suitable for children. But what about those two:

Violence against Robots
Droid Torture
I recently watched The Clone Wars (or rather let it run in the background). It was obviously abysmal. But I was surprised about some quite violent scenes. Especially, there are some “funny” scenes where robots are pushed of a cliff and fall into their deaths just for fun. In Star Wars, robots exhibit features very similar to humans. They can speak, make decisions, have a unique identity and can feel pain (remember the droid torture scene from The Empire Strikes back). I also suspect they can be broken beyond repair – they die. Showing characters die in a children’s movie is bad enough but showing death and pain in a lighthearted and casual way is really bad taste.

Do intelligent movie robots have human rights? Should violence against them be treated just like violence against human characters? There are aliens in that movie after all and violence against them is treated seriously. Isn’t this even some kind of hidden racism? It is somewhat an absurd situation. We need to determine the moral value of a hypothetical scenario because already the display of that hypothetical scenario has implications.

By the way, in Episode 1 they kinda jumped that bullet by making the robot army remote-controlled. This way, the robots appeared more mechanical. In The Clone Wars, there is no such backdoor.

Lego Adult Content
Lego Decapitation
Lego nowadays releases toys based on successful movies. They inevitably create interesting moral dilemmas. For example, you might have noticed that there are no Nazis in their Lego Indiana Jones toyline. There are just some vanilla uniformed military bad guys. They don’t have the swastika insignia. It sounds absurd at first. If kids play with the toy they must have seen the movie and they know that the bad guys are Nazis. On the other hand, Lego might simply just avoid the PR-Nightmare of things like Neo-Nazi Lego enthusiasts re-creating Triumph des Willens with minifigs.

But there is more. The heart removal scene from Temple of Doom is supposedly missing in the Lego Indiana Jones game. Why? There are other violent scenes where minifigs loose their heads or are cut at the waist or even explode into pieces. Why would they make a stop at removing internal organs? Is it just a practical choice – minifigs have removable heads but no removable hearts?

So that’s it. Just two questions I’ve been digesting since yesterday. What do you think?

By the way, after playing the demo I’ve ordered Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga. I have this hunger for a simple action game, I love the humor of it and I would like to try the co-op functions. Also: The Euro almost matches the Pound by now and so you get games from UK quite cheap (I got mine here)!

Krystian Majewski

Krystian Majewski was born in Warsaw and studied design at Köln International School of Design. Before, he was working on a mid-size console project for NEON Studios in Frankfurt. He helped establish a Master course in Game Design and Research at the Cologne Game Lab. Today he teaches Game Design at various institutions and develops independent games.

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The Game Design Scrapbook is a second blog of group of three game designers from Germany. On our first blog, Game Design Reviews we describe some games we played and point out various interesting details. Unfortunately, we found out that we also need some place to collect quick and dirty ideas that pop into our minds. Hence, welcome to Game Design Scrapbook. You will encounter wild, random rantings. Many of then incoherent. Some of them maybe even in German. If you don't like it, you might enjoy Game Design Reviews more.


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