Little Miss Manners, Little Big Misrepresentations.

Interesting set of papers here: (see “Program”).

But these papers seem to me, largely due to their typicality and associated predictability, though still interesting from afar, somewhat drearier up close.

E.g., there is this one, which is reminiscent of the Twixt situation:

Dual Wielding Morality: World of Warcraft and the Ethics of “Ganking” 
Stacey Goguen, Boston University, USA.

The argument therein discusses the “morality” of the ganking (“pvping” would be a more neutral description) of a funeral (“player-created event” would be a more neutral description) within World of Warcraft.  The specifics of the event are apparently documented here (reference taken from the paper):

“Funeral Ambushed.” Created by: Scrapples. 09 April 2006. 01 May 2009

Goguen’s argument, as I interpret it, is this:  The WoW game allowed pvping to take place, so that pvping was, basically, okay.  However, the pvpers interrupted real (“non-game-constrained” might be a more intelligible description) sorrow of the players people attending the in-game funeral.  Therefore, according to Goguen, reality must trump the game and…

Unfortunately, as long as we remain in interaction with other people, we never get to fully escape our status as moral beings. (p.9)

Thus:  We are trapped inside our moral-being cage, says Goguen, and the game cannot save us.

In the paper I will soon present at DiGRA 2009, I (once again, potentially tragically) defend the sanctity of the game against assaults such as those Goguen would mount against it.

Obviously, I must muster my strength.  However, let me ask here and now — briefly — these two things:

1.  Goguen seems to assume that the necessity of being subject to our status as moral beings requires us also to be subject to a singular sort of morality (e. g., “be nice to people attending funerals”).  Is this true?

2.  How critical is analogy to Goguen’s argument?  (There is a very compelling story of water pistol play in Goguen’s short essay, for instance. (p.7))

By this latter, I mean to what degree is an in-game funeral critical to our acceptance of our irrevocable moral-being status?  Suppose, for instance, an in-game funeral for Ted Kennedy had been interrupted — same result?  Suppose an in-game political fund-raiser for the Democratic party had been interrupted — same result?  Suppose an in-game anti-pvp rally had been interrupted — same result?

Suppose an in-game REPRESENTATION of an in-game funeral had been interrupted — same result?


Goguen does not pay much attention to the matter of representation in games.  I believe how games transform representations is critical to their function as games and their uniqueness as aesthetic objects.

Sometimes, cynically, I also believe that those who ignore the importance of game representations would simply like to control them.  They would like to control the meanings of funerals and pvp and, in fact, the game itself.  Perhaps they feel justified in controlling these representations because they consider themselves moral beings.  I, on the other hand, would like to think that we should (must) have some capacity to question whether or not those who represent themselves as moral beings are, in fact, actually moral beings.

Do we have that capacity?  Is that capacity, in fact, a game?