HGN Ethics Theme Event

As promised in last week’s update, we are now firmly in the terrain of Ethics and Historical Games. You may have seen our call for contributions for the theme, which focuses on the difficult questions developers must face when making games about the past, and the difficult questions players must encounter when playing them. These are questions of respect, principles, and responsibility: one point we are keen to engage with is how ethical responsibility is distributed not only between those who make and play games, but also those who modify, review and regulate them.

Ethical issues feature frequently in discussions of academic research, particularly where that research involves other people, and where it concerns significant contemporary issues – such as inequality or wellbeing. Discussions of ethics also appear across the heritage sector, in the games sector in respect of, for example, working conditions, and in the public sphere more generally in respect of domains such as politics or consumerism. The ethical conversation around history, however, is more weakly developed. Historical research projects can sometimes be seen to dismiss ethical issues as irrelevant, asking ‘how can this work possibly do harm if all of the people discussed are long dead?’ While many historians, and we suspect most heritage professionals, would reject this position immediately, ethics are not always the first consideration of working historians, particularly where their work concerns the more distant past.

With these matters in mind, then, we are pleased to announce the lineup for our next HGN theme event, which will take place on Wednesday 1 September 2021, at 16:00 UK time (15:00 UTC). 

One first guest this quarter is Leyla Johnson, CEO of Mohawk Games and Creative Director for the historical 4X strategy game Old World. With experience working in a range of games industry roles, including narrative design and art direction, Leyla is well placed to discuss the place of ethics in and around the development of historical games. 

Our second guest is Meghan Dennis, Postdoctoral Researcher for Data Interpretation and Public Engagement at The Alexandria Archive Institute, and ethics officer with Computer Applications & Quantitative Methods in Archaeology (CAA). Her research explores how the use of interactive media can influence youth participation in ethical interactions with heritage and archaeology, and her recent PhD thesis examined the impacts of ethical representations of archaeology in interactive media.

Our final guest is Florence Smith Nicholls, a games writer, archaeologist and journalist, as well as a Historic Environment Consultant. As if this wasn’t enough to speak to our theme, Florence is also about to embark on a PhD, focused on procedurally-generated archaeological games.

The event will, once again, be chaired by HGN’s own Adam Chapman. All of our participants will contribute to the theme in the lead-up to the event, and we’ll be able to bring all of this together in the panel discussion at the end of the theme period. Event tickets are available via Eventbrite. And if you would like to contribute to the site on this theme, please get in touch via the email link below.

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