Game Studios Take a Look at CMO Ethics
WASHINGTON, D.C., June 29, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — The ethical use of technology by industries and governing bodies is on everyone’s mind. And the problem with so much emphasis on cybersecurity, according to researchers at MindShift, is that it’s too narrow in focus and not very broad enough.
The scope of ethics and data privacy issues is endless, experts say, and that broad nature is what is missing. Although recent headlines have all been about cybercriminals taking advantage of data breaches or even understanding the vulnerabilities of robotic cars, key misunderstandings related to how technology affects us and our individual lives go largely undiscussed.
Companies, governments, and society are still learning how technology might play a role in reducing healthcare costs, while adopting some of the complexities associated with raising a family, accessing digital media and school, studying at a college, or evaluating financial risks.
One area where ethics is still poorly communicated and addressed, according to Moulamad Tueni, co-founder of MindShift, is in games. “An ethics scholar at Stanford, for example, has written extensively on the gaming community’s views on the usage of addiction, ethics, and culture,” Tueni explains. “Yet most games we encounter do not, and have not, dealt with these concepts in a meaningful way.
“Ethics can be the cover story of ethics,” Tueni says. “The subject of ethics can be cloaked in highly technical ways, so that it can be put off the table.”
After 9/11, the topic of corporate ethics landed on all of our laps, and today many large organizations have formal Ethics Councils and employee codes of conduct. However, the complexity and nuance of each issue is too widely disparate, and, in this case, often means communication barriers. Instead, companies need to enhance a healthy dialogue about ethics and open up cross-functional discussions in the workplace so that employees, their managers, and their leaders can get a good understanding of the ethics required for success in their work environment.
At MindShift, one way to start such a dialogue is through game design. The group’s latest program is a “Road to Ethics Workshop” involving game designers, economists, business owners, and psychologists to help companies find the relevant ethical components, look at their businesses and industry lines, and ensure that they effectively address these issues to build good business practices.
The workshop is part of MindShift’s belief that values-based and ethical business choices improve overall companies’ performance and their own success as employees, customers, and partners. Employees often view companies as either a place to work or an island of morals. Both can be improved by finding the right balance between values and business considerations.
This issue isn’t unique to the video game industry, however. In fact, traditional businesses usually lag behind the current tech industry in social responsibility, and have a long way to go on broad-based involvement. Tueni says that when the group interviewed business executives, they came to the conclusion that most companies are overcomplicating a simple concept.
“They come to the point that they aren’t even sure what an ethics strategy looks like,” he says. “So, instead of trying to say ‘Here’s how I’m doing it’, they try to get people to get comfortable with ‘This is what I do.'”
Yet some companies seem to be making small but meaningful changes, such as volunteering to distribute food in the community, agreeing not to pursue patent litigation in order to co-opt a competitor’s technology, and agreeing not to impose stricter terms on charities when they share revenue.
Doing all these things requires all parties to show an ongoing effort, to learn about each other’s cultures, and to consider the ethics in the various situations. It involves not just engaging with other teams and employees but also helping businesses to see how they can be more effective. It has to start with the people in charge of making sure that the policies, rules, and values that govern the organization are being effectively communicated, observed, and followed.
“Game developers know this, but we tend to forget that,” Tueni says. “Games have the ability to do this work for business leaders in the real world.”
MindShift focuses on helping organizations better understand how they can be more effective by creating connections between business, technical issues, and cultural issues.