There is no solution: Wicked problems in digital games

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Ethical gameplay can be defined as "the outcome of a game sequence in which players take definitive choices based on moral thinking, rather than instrumental thinking." Often moral problems presented by video games can be solved easily once the ethical framework of the game is understood, or on the basis of help from the visible moral feedback of the game, or simply by experimenting with the different outcomes by using the game's saving/loading system. In this article, I focus on the nature of the moral problems it presents to the player with the help of the notion of "wicked problems." Using four case studies from two games that heavily rely on ethical gameplay, I will differentiate between four kinds of moral problems arising from ethical gameplay: tame moral problems, semiwicked problems, real wicked problems, and super wicked problems, each of which present a greater (moral) challenge to the player.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)543-559
Number of pages17
JournalGames and Culture
Issue number5
Early online date23 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Fallout 3
  • Mass Effect (video game series)
  • ethical gameplay
  • moral dilemmas
  • morality system
  • wicked problem


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