cation and gamified systems, ethics
will be defined as “a set of principles
to facilitate the design of solutions
that, on balance, promote desirable
outcomes for the users.” The emphasis
here is on the intention of the gamification designer to create systems that
help rather than bring harm to others,
though defining harm is potentially
subjective. When you build things, you
can often become so attached to them
that you become blind to potential
criticism or dangers. This is why it is
useful to have frameworks and ethical
guidelines that prevent the potential
dangers of personal morals, or lack
thereof, overruling ethics.
To discuss the ethics of a system,
we need to have a framework to decide
what constitutes help and harm to
Several questions arise when de-
signing gamification-based solutions.
First, what are ethics and how do we
evaluate solutions against them? The
next crucial question is what are the re-
sponsibilities of the designer? Should
they be held accountable for the way
people choose to use their system, or
does their responsibility start and end
with the design?
This has been discussed in academic literature, but in this article, I wish
to look at the ethics of gamification
from a layperson’s perspective.
The use of the correct terminology is key
to understanding one’s perspective in
an argument for or against something.
With that in mind, it is of use to clearly
define what is meant by gamification
and ethics. Gamification is straight-
forward; it is the use of game elements
in non-game contexts. However, many
conflate ethics with social, religious,
or political norms rather than treating
ethics as a stand-alone set of principles.
Ethics researchers Richard Paul and
Linder Elder consider ethics to be a “set
of concepts and principles that guide us
in determining what behaviour helps or
harms sentient creatures”[ 2].
At a basic level, ethics are external
rules or guidelines, where morals are
more personal and inherent to an individual. It may be ethically acceptable
to consume meat, but to a vegetarian
it may be morally unacceptable. For
the purpose of this discussion, and
with relation to the design of gamifi-
Gamification is manipulation; at least that is what many people think.
Because gamification is a powerful tool for modifying behaviors, how
we should consider ethics specifically for gamification?
By Andrzej Marczewski
The Ethics of