CfP: Special Issue Games and Culture – Morality Play

Guest editors: Malcolm Ryan, Rowan Tulloch and Paul Formosa

Topic: Morality Play: The Design of Games for Ethical Engagement

Questions of morality are a pervasive topic for media and the arts. Across every medium we see artists engaging audiences with challenging moral questions concerning topics such as war, crime, corruption, fidelity and the abuse of power. Questions of morality have long been central to how we understand ourselves, our lives, and our cultural contexts; and in turn our art forms have reflected, embodied, and challenged beliefs about right and wrong.


Games, however, seem to have long existed in a moral vacuum. While morally-charged themes such as crime or war have always been present, few games invite us to engage with the morality of the worlds they depict or the behaviour they encourage us to adopt. Those games that do adopt some kind of “morality system” have been criticised for turning morality into a mere point-scoring exercise, more about optimising pragmatic outcomes than about making decisions based on the moral values.


This need not be case. A small number of titles have tried, with varying success, to bring home the moral impact of the player’s choices, including recent works such as Spec Ops: The Line, Papers Please, This War of Mine, and The Walking Dead. In this issue we want to look beyond the failures of the medium and ask, how can we do better? How can games engage players to question the morality of the worlds they live in and the choices they make?


Themes for this issue may include but are not limited to:


* Critiques of games with moral choices or themes


* Principles and frameworks for the design of ethical gameplay


* The role of ethical dilemmas in games and other media


* Games for moral pedagogy

* Applications of behavioural ethics to game design


* The design of games to promote empathy

* The ethics of subversive, taboo and treacherous play

Submission Process


Interested authors should submit an initial proposal of 1,000 words (exc. references) by the 4th of March 2016. This should be sent as a Word or PDF document to the contact emails specified at the end of this call. The proposal should describe the topic and outline the main aims or argument of the article. It should include an indicative list of references.


Authors of submitted proposals will be notified by the 1st of April, 2016.


Authors of successful proposals will be asked to submit a full article (no more than 10,000 words) by the 7th of October, 2016. Articles should be submitted to


The full article will undergo a double-blind peer review process. For details of how to submit to Games and Culture and of the peer review process, see:
Accepted articles will be published in the Spring 2017 issue of Games and Culture.


4 Mar 2016 – Paper proposals due
1 Apr 2016 – Selection notifications sent
7 Oct 2016 – Full papers due
13 Jan 2017 – Acceptance notifications sent


This issue will be edited by Malcolm Ryan, Rowan Tulloch and Paul Formosa.


Contact email:

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