Focus, Sensitivity, Judgement, Action: Four Lenses for Designing Morally Engaging Games

Malcolm Ryan, Dan Staines, Paul Formosa


Historically the focus of moral decision-making in games has been narrow, mostly confined to challenges of moral judgement (deciding right and wrong). In this paper, we look to moral psychology to get a broader view of the skills involved in ethical behaviour and how these skills can be employed in games. Following the Four Component Model of Rest and colleagues, we identify four “lenses” – perspectives for considering moral gameplay in terms of focus, sensitivity, judgement and action – and describe the design problems raised by each. To conclude, we analyse two recent games, The Walking Dead and Papers, Please, and show how the lenses give us insight into important design differences between these games.


game design, lenses, ethics, empathy, videogames, moral psychology, Four Component Model

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Published by the Digital Games Research Association.