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Ethics and Games Series: Life Is Strange by Sherry Jones (Mar. 25, 2018)

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Mar. 25, 2018 - This is my philosophy and game studies presentation featuring the game, "Life is Strange (2015)," an episodic graphic adventure game developed by Dontnod Entertainment, and published by Square Enix, Feral Interactive, and Black Wing Foundation.

The presentation explores the ethics of "Life Is Strange" using the following theories (from mathematics and philosophy): Chaos Theory; Butterfly Effect; Nietzsche's Eternal Recurrence Theory; Moral Dilemma.

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This presentation was featured at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Games and Simulations Network live webcast on Mar. 25, 2018.

The live webcast video was recorded and made available on Youtube, as well as made available in this presentation.

Please feel free to watch the video while exploring the presentation.

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Ethics and Games Series: Life Is Strange by Sherry Jones (Mar. 25, 2018)

  1. 1. Ethics & Games: Sherry Jones Philosophy & Game Studies Twitter @autnes Life Is Strange
  2. 2. About this Presentation This presentation was featured at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Games and Simulations Network live webcast on Mar. 25, 2018. The live webcast video was recorded and made available on Youtube, as well as made available in this presentation. Please feel free to watch the video while exploring the presentation.
  3. 3. Recorded Live Webcast
  4. 4. ⧞ What is Life Is Strange ?
  5. 5. First Person Episodic Graphic Adventure Game ❖ Life Is Strange (2015) is a first person episodic graphic adventure game developed by Dontnod Entertainment, and published by Square Enix, Feral Interactive, and Black Wing Foundation. ❖ Released on MS Windows, Playstation 3, Playstation 4, XBox 360, Xbox One, iOS, OS X, and Android. ❖ Designed as an “interactive fiction,” the gameplay involves prompting the player to makes narrative action choices that lead to certain consequences. The consequences have real impact on the development of multiple storylines in the game narrative.
  6. 6. Game Story: Key Elements ❖ The story revolves around the life of Max Caulfield, an 18 year old photography student at Blackwell Academy (high school), located in the fictional town of Arcadia Bay, Oregon. ❖ Max encounters a series of conflicts in her school life, and in her relationships with other people. ❖ However, the overarching conflict (above all conflicts) is Max’s vision of an impending storm that threatens to destroy Arcadia Bay, Oregon. ❖ Max mysteriously develops the power to see the future, and travel through time. She attempts to use this power to save the town.
  7. 7. Max’s Dream (Vision) of an Impending Storm Heading Toward Arcadia Bay
  8. 8. Game Themes (Mature) ❖ Life Is Strange is a story about an 18 year old’s life, so narrative elements are written to mimic the language and rhetorical speech patterns of young adults. Obscenities are sometimes used. ❖ Themes: Coming of age; gun violence; drug abuse; abusive homes; wealthy vs. poor; powerful vs. weak; surveillance; subjectivity of truth; money and corruption; untrustworthy adults; untrustworthy authorities; rebellion against authorities; bullying; confronting sexual identity; same sex relationships; purity vs. sex; religious dogmatism vs. choice; sexual violence; rape; suicide; disability; activism; protest; heroism.
  9. 9. ⧞ Relevant Theories to Game Design
  10. 10. Chaos Theory and Butterfly Effect (Math) ❖ Chaos Theory - A mathematical theory that undergirding chaotic complex systems, which may seem random or nonlinear, there exist underlying patterns that can be calculated/computed based on determining the initial conditions (initial data) of the complex systems. ❖ Butterfly Effect - This is a metaphor used within chaos theory to refer to changes in a nonlinear system that can be attributed to small changes in the initial conditions (initial data). The term is coined by meteorologist and mathematician Edward Lorenz.
  11. 11. Eternal Recurrence Theory (Philosophy) ❖ Friedrich Nietzsche’s (1844-1900) Eternal Recurrence Theory - A philosophical doctrine that all events in the universe repeat occurrences ad infinitum (again, again in the same way, forever). ❖ The “thought experiment” is based on the logic that if the amount of matter and energy in the universe are finite, and that the combination of those matter and energy are finite, then it follows that events must recur ad infinitum. ❖ Relevance of Nietzsche’s eternal recurrence theory for understanding the ethics of Life Is Strange will be addressed later in this presentation.
  12. 12. Moral Dilemmas (Philosophy) ❖ A Moral Dilemma refers to a difficult situation in which two cases offered, and a decision for one case has to be made based on moral judgement; they are thought experiments for testing the consistency of one’s ethics as a moral agent. ❖ Moral dilemmas are difficult since making one moral decision can benefit one party of the situation, but can lead to the detriment of the other party in the same situation. ❖ Many sets of moral dilemmas (involving harm, or even death, to characters) are present in Life Is Strange.
  13. 13. ⧞ Gameplay and Game Elements Mechanics
  14. 14. Gameplay ❖ Life is Strange offers a first person point and click gameplay that allows the player to interact with various environments and objects. ❖ In addition, the game also offers narrative action choices, of which the choices made can alter future narrative paths. ❖ Max (the player) acts like a “detective” who explores and uncovers the reasons why problematic events occur in Arcadia Bay. ❖ Max is afforded the power to travel through time (she discovers this power later in the game without any explanation) to undo the narrative action choices she has made, and thus, change the future.
  15. 15. Interactional Objects (Note: Playstation Controls)
  16. 16. Camera (For Capturing Time Events)
  17. 17. Journal (Documents Max’s Internal Thoughts)
  18. 18. Journal Log Example - Max Describes Herself
  19. 19. Journal Scene Saver (Allows One to Jump to Locations)
  20. 20. Photos in Max’s Room (Allows Max to Travel to Recorded Time Events)
  21. 21. Notes (Reveal Thoughts of Other People)
  22. 22. Phone (Enables Max to Send and Receive Texts)
  23. 23. Posters (Reveals School Culture and Activities)
  24. 24. Computer (Access to Max’s or Friend’s Online Activities)
  25. 25. Computer Flash Drive (Access to Secret Files)
  26. 26. ⧞ Game Narrative Mechanics
  27. 27. Narrative Action Choices (Lead to Consequences)
  28. 28. Butterfly (Warning That Each Narrative Action Recorded Has Created New Consequences)
  29. 29. Time Rewind (Rewind Time to Undo Narrative Action)
  30. 30. Dialogue Bubble (Indicates a Learned Fact that Can Be Used to Alter Narrative Action After Rewind)
  31. 31. ⧞ Game Rhetoric: Authorities Are Untrustworthy + Money Corrupt Authorities
  32. 32. About the Following Murder Scene . . . ❖ When Max Caufield went to the female restroom after class, she accidentally became a witness to a murder. ❖ A student, Nathan Prescott, came into the female restroom waving a gun and babbling to himself (while Max stayed hidden from his view). Another student, Chloe Price, followed Nathan into the restroom. After a quarrel, Nathan shot Chloe to death. ❖ To prevent this murder, Max rewinded back in time prior to the murder to activate the fire alarm and scare Nathan to run away. Chloe lived. ❖ Now, Max is confronted by principal Wells, who demands an answer.
  33. 33. Conversation with Wells (1 of 11)
  34. 34. Conversation with Wells (2 of 11)
  35. 35. Conversation with Wells (3 of 11)
  36. 36. Conversation with Wells (4 of 11)
  37. 37. Conversation with Wells (5 of 11)
  38. 38. Conversation with Wells (6 of 11)
  39. 39. Conversation with Wells (7 of 11)
  40. 40. Conversation with Wells (8 of 11)
  41. 41. Conversation with Wells (9 of 11)
  42. 42. Conversation with Wells (10 of 11)
  43. 43. Conversation with Wells (11 of 11)
  44. 44. ⧞ Game Rhetoric: Be a Hero
  45. 45. The “Everyday Heroes Photo Contest” Poster
  46. 46. Jefferson Asks Max to Enter the Contest (1 of 5)
  47. 47. Jefferson Asks Max to Enter the Contest (2 of 5)
  48. 48. Jefferson Asks Max to Enter the Contest (3 of 5)
  49. 49. Jefferson Asks Max to Enter the Contest (4 of 5)
  50. 50. Jefferson Asks Max to Enter the Contest (5 of 5)
  51. 51. ⧞ Game Rhetoric: Surveillance is Imprisonment + Be an Activist to Effect Change
  52. 52. Petition to Ban Surveillance Cameras (1 of 22)
  53. 53. Petition to Ban Surveillance Cameras (2 of 22)
  54. 54. Petition to Ban Surveillance Cameras (3 of 22)
  55. 55. Petition to Ban Surveillance Cameras (4 of 22)
  56. 56. Petition to Ban Surveillance Cameras (5 of 22)
  57. 57. Petition to Ban Surveillance Cameras (6 of 22)
  58. 58. Petition to Ban Surveillance Cameras (7 of 22)
  59. 59. Petition to Ban Surveillance Cameras (8 of 22)
  60. 60. Petition to Ban Surveillance Cameras (9 of 22)
  61. 61. Petition to Ban Surveillance Cameras (10 of 22)
  62. 62. Petition to Ban Surveillance Cameras (11 of 22)
  63. 63. Petition to Ban Surveillance Cameras (12 of 22)
  64. 64. Petition to Ban Surveillance Cameras (13 of 22)
  65. 65. Petition to Ban Surveillance Cameras (14 of 22)
  66. 66. Petition to Ban Surveillance Cameras (15 of 22)
  67. 67. Petition to Ban Surveillance Cameras (16 of 22)
  68. 68. Petition to Ban Surveillance Cameras (17 of 22)
  69. 69. Petition to Ban Surveillance Cameras (18 of 22)
  70. 70. Petition to Ban Surveillance Cameras (19 of 22)
  71. 71. Petition to Ban Surveillance Cameras (20 of 22)
  72. 72. Petition to Ban Surveillance Cameras (21 of 22)
  73. 73. Petition to Ban Surveillance Cameras (22 of 22)
  74. 74. ⧞ Game Rhetoric: The Powerful Bullies the Weak + The Weak Are Presumed to be Guilty
  75. 75. David Madsen Threatens Kate Marsh (1 of 14)
  76. 76. David Madsen Threatens Kate Marsh (2 of 14)
  77. 77. David Madsen Threatens Kate Marsh (3 of 14)
  78. 78. David Madsen Threatens Kate Marsh (4 of 14)
  79. 79. David Madsen Threatens Kate Marsh (5 of 14)
  80. 80. David Madsen Threatens Kate Marsh (6 of 14)
  81. 81. David Madsen Threatens Kate Marsh (7 of 14)
  82. 82. David Madsen Threatens Kate Marsh (8 of 14)
  83. 83. David Madsen Threatens Kate Marsh (9 of 14)
  84. 84. David Madsen Threatens Kate Marsh (10 of 14)
  85. 85. David Madsen Threatens Kate Marsh (11 of 14)
  86. 86. David Madsen Threatens Kate Marsh (12 of 14)
  87. 87. David Madsen Threatens Kate Marsh (13 of 14)
  88. 88. David Madsen Threatens Kate Marsh (14 of 14)
  89. 89. ⧞ Game Rhetoric: Privilege Can Enable Abuse + Understanding Begets Forgiveness
  90. 90. Victoria’s Privilege and Meanness (1 of 3)
  91. 91. Victoria’s Privilege and Meanness (2 of 3)
  92. 92. Victoria’s Privilege and Meanness (3 of 3)
  93. 93. Max Confronts Paint-Stained Victoria (1 of 9)
  94. 94. Max Confronts Paint-Stained Victoria (2 of 9)
  95. 95. Max Confronts Paint-Stained Victoria (3 of 9)
  96. 96. Max Confronts Paint-Stained Victoria (4 of 9)
  97. 97. Max Confronts Paint-Stained Victoria (5 of 9)
  98. 98. Max Confronts Paint-Stained Victoria (6 of 9)
  99. 99. Max Confronts Paint-Stained Victoria (7 of 9)
  100. 100. Max Confronts Paint-Stained Victoria (8 of 9)
  101. 101. Max Confronts Paint-Stained Victoria (9 of 9)
  102. 102. ⧞ Game Rhetoric: Authorities are Untrustworthy + Rape Victims are Presumed Guilty
  103. 103. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (1 of 76)
  104. 104. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (2 of 76)
  105. 105. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (3 of 76)
  106. 106. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (4 of 76)
  107. 107. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (5 of 76)
  108. 108. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (6 of 76)
  109. 109. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (7 of 76)
  110. 110. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (8 of 76)
  111. 111. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (9 of 76)
  112. 112. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (10 of 76)
  113. 113. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (11 of 76)
  114. 114. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (12 of 76)
  115. 115. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (13 of 76)
  116. 116. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (14 of 76)
  117. 117. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (15 of 76)
  118. 118. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (16 of 76)
  119. 119. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (17 of 76)
  120. 120. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (18 of 76)
  121. 121. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (19 of 76)
  122. 122. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (20 of 76)
  123. 123. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (21 of 76)
  124. 124. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (22 of 76)
  125. 125. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (23 of 76)
  126. 126. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (24 of 76)
  127. 127. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (25 of 76)
  128. 128. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (26 of 76)
  129. 129. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (27 of 76)
  130. 130. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (28 of 76)
  131. 131. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (29 of 76)
  132. 132. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (30 of 76)
  133. 133. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (31 of 76)
  134. 134. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (32 of 76)
  135. 135. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (33 of 76)
  136. 136. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (34 of 76)
  137. 137. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (35 of 76)
  138. 138. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (36 of 76)
  139. 139. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (37 of 76)
  140. 140. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (38 of 76)
  141. 141. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (39 of 76)
  142. 142. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (40 of 76)
  143. 143. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (41 of 76)
  144. 144. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (42 of 76)
  145. 145. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (43 of 76)
  146. 146. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (44 of 76)
  147. 147. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (45 of 76)
  148. 148. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (46 of 76)
  149. 149. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (47 of 76)
  150. 150. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (48 of 76)
  151. 151. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (49 of 76)
  152. 152. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (50 of 76)
  153. 153. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (51 of 76)
  154. 154. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (52 of 76)
  155. 155. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (53 of 76)
  156. 156. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (54 of 76)
  157. 157. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (55 of 76)
  158. 158. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (56 of 76)
  159. 159. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (57 of 76)
  160. 160. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (58 of 76)
  161. 161. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (59 of 76)
  162. 162. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (60 of 76)
  163. 163. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (61 of 76)
  164. 164. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (62 of 76)
  165. 165. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (63 of 76)
  166. 166. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (64 of 76)
  167. 167. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (65 of 76)
  168. 168. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (66 of 76)
  169. 169. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (67 of 76)
  170. 170. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (68 of 76)
  171. 171. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (69 of 76)
  172. 172. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (70 of 76)
  173. 173. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (71 of 76)
  174. 174. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (72 of 76)
  175. 175. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (73 of 76)
  176. 176. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (74 of 76)
  177. 177. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (75 of 76)
  178. 178. Max Visits Kate Marsh for the Truth (76 of 76)
  179. 179. Applying Philosophy and Ethics of Eternal Recurrence Theory to Examine the Game, Life Is Strange
  180. 180. Review: Eternal Recurrence Theory (Philosophy) ❖ Friedrich Nietzsche’s (1844-1900) Eternal Recurrence Theory - A philosophical doctrine that all events in the universe repeat occurrences ad infinitum (again, again in the same way, forever). ❖ The “thought experiment” is based on the logic that if the amount of matter and energy in the universe are finite, and that the combination of those matter and energy are finite, then it follows that events must recur ad infinitum. ❖ For Nietzsche, a universe that operates on eternal recurrence would lead to several ethical implications.
  181. 181. Eternal Recurrence in The Gay Science (Book IV) “This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything unutterably small or great in your life will have to return to you, all in the same succession and sequence—even this spider and this moonlight between the trees, and even this moment and I myself. The eternal hourglass of existence is turned upside down again and again, and you with it, speck of dust!" Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: "You are a god and never have I heard anything more divine." If this thought gained possession of you, it would change you as you are or perhaps crush you. The question in each and every thing, "Do you desire this once more and innumerable times more?" would lie upon your actions as the greatest weight. Or how well disposed would you have to become to yourself and to life to crave nothing more fervently than this ultimate eternal confirmation and seal?” (Nietzsche, The Gay Science, aphorism 341)
  182. 182. Eternal Recurrence Leads to Virtue Ethics ❖ The concept of eternal recurrence weighs heavily on one’s sense of ethics. ❖ Since all events recur forever, this means that such acts of crime, punishment, revenge, etc. will recur forever as well. ❖ This also means that pain and suffering will also recur ad infinitum. ❖ What does punishment mean, then, in a universe where all events recur forever? Do we learn anything through punishment, or achieve justice through punishment, when events of pain and suffering repeat forever regardless of punishment?
  183. 183. Eternal Recurrence Leads to Virtue Ethics “As [Nietzsche] describes it, revenge is essentially an attitude toward time itself: it is "the will's ill will against time and it's 'it was'." It is the result of the fact that, from a certain perspective, the past appears both to need changing and to be impossible to change, so that the will is left painfully powerless, "an angry spectator of all that is past." Among the effects of this painful condition is a desire to cause additional pain, either to oneself or to others: "on all who can suffer" the will "wreaks revenge for his inability to go backwards." (II 20.)(4) Revenge is responsible for the ideal of equality, the urge to punish, and the excessive desire to be just (II 7). Among the other works of revenge are a nihilistic hatred for the fact that the world is characterized by flux, and a longing to escape from this world (II 20).” (Lester H. Hunt)
  184. 184. Moral Dilemmas in Life is Strange (1 of 3) ❖ Without revealing the entirety of the story, Max Caufield is forced to make certain decisions that represent moral dilemmas. ❖ Moral Dilemma #1: Later in the story, Kate Marsh attempts to commit suicide by jumping off the top of the building of Blackwell Academy. Several decisions that Max made contributed to Kate’s decision to commit suicide. To reverse Kate’s suicide, Max had to travel back in time, several times, to change the outcome. Each decision Max made caused some harm to others (for the sake of saving Kate Marsh).
  185. 185. Moral Dilemmas in Life is Strange (2 of 3) ❖ Moral Dilemma #2: Each time Max travels back in time, she suffers physical damage (possibly brain damage). Max attempts to save as many people as possible, but is forced to face certain unsatisfactory outcomes. Furthermore, she is damaging herself in the process. In this sense, Max is not being moral by putting herself in jeopardy (if one believes that protecting oneself is a moral code).
  186. 186. Moral Dilemmas in Life is Strange (3 of 3) ❖ Moral Dilemma #3: When Max attempts to save the life of Rachel Amber (a character who disappeared due to the actions of Mark Jefferson, Max’s photography teacher), Max discovers that her best friend, Chloe Price, becomes disabled in the future timeline. If Max wishes to save Chloe from a fate of lifetime disability, Max must decide whether or not to not save Amber’s life. This is a situation where one person’s life is being weighed against another person’s life. Is it ethical for Max to play favoritism by saving her friend, Chloe instead?
  187. 187. Question about Time Travel ❖ Q. Does it matter that Max can travel back in time to stop certain crimes from happening, if other forms of suffering arose out of her actions? ❖ Q. If Max’s world operates on parallel universes (given that time travel is possible, and that multiple parallel time events seem to co-exist), then would it matter that Max saves everyone in one narrative timeline, when the same events of crime, pain, and suffering will recur ad infinitum in other narrative timelines?
  188. 188. Presentation by: Sherry Jones Philosophy & Game Studies SME Lecturer, Rocky Mountain College of Art & Design ISTE Games and Simulations Network Leader http://about.me/sherryjones Twitter @autnes sherryjones.edtech@gmail.com

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