Game Cultures: Games of Ethics and Politics

Date & Time:

26th February, 16:00


C284, 2nd floor Curzon B
Birmingham City University
4 Curzon Street B4 7BD


Game Cultures: Games of Ethics and Politics
Meghan Dennis (Leeds City College) A Model of Looting Incentivization in Video-Games
John Sear (Independent Game Designer) Blurring the lines: Where does the theatre begin?

Dr. Meghan Dennis (Leeds City College) A Model of Looting Incentivization in Video-Games

The relationship between video-game players and the environments they inhabit through play is a complicated one, shaped by internal and external factors. Decisions made during the development process as to the inclusion of cultural landscapes and objects of cultural patrimony, and the treatment of both through ethical and unethical positioning within a video-game’s narrative and through world-building choices, impact how a player manipulates elements of potentially unfamiliar or foreign cultures. There is nowhere this is more visible in video-games than through the incentivization of looting and artifact theft.

The three types of looting present in video-games illustrate that changes in professional ethics within archaeology have failed to translate to archaeological representation in video-games. Looting and related ethical breaches present in early console-based video-games still occur within recent games, and a generalized view of artifacts as commodities and archaeologists as treasure-hunters persists. This talk will discuss a theorized tripartite model of looting in video-games, with a focus on how the three types of looting incentivization interplay with issues of space, place, and landscape. Examples will be provided from both current and past video-games.

John Sear (Museum Games) Blurring the lines: Where does the theatre begin?

John Sear, designer of real-world games, will talk about the world of Immersive Theatre. This will include a post mortem of his recent game A Moment Of Madness, a fascinating mix of immersive theatre and escape room in which players take part in a covert stakeout, attempting to undercover evidence of political scandal. John reflects on the practicalities of designing experiences for real-life spaces, and working with actors to make his games come to life.

About the speakers:

Dr. Meghan Dennis is a researcher at Leeds City College and the lead for the Women in Games Project. Her work focuses on digital archaeological ethics and the impacts of ethical representations of archaeology in interactive media. Previously, Meghan worked as a researcher in Turkey, Tanzania, Belize, Mexico, and Peru, ran a heritage consultancy in the United States, and was a narrative designer and community manager within the video-game industry. Currently, Meghan is a member of the SAA Media Relations Committee and the Committee on Ethics, and is a CAA ethics officer, where she designed the organization’s first code of ethics.

John Sear is a veteran game designer with 20+ years in the games industry who now develops unique and magical experiences for public spaces. Having started out building console games and then moving over to mobile platforms, he now develops games for cinemas, car-parks and other indoor & outdoor spaces. This has led him to work much more closely with the galleries, libraries archives & museums (GLAM) sector. In addition to making bespoke high-end experiences for larger venues, he also works with much smaller cultural institutes, training them in the skills needed to develop their own interactives