The Dark Side of Game Play: Controversial Issues in Playful Environments, 1st Edition (e-Book) book cover

The Dark Side of Game Play

Controversial Issues in Playful Environments, 1st Edition

Edited by Torill Elvira Mortensen, Jonas Linderoth, Ashley ML Brown


272 pages

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Games allow players to experiment and play with subject positions, values and moral choice. In game worlds players can take on the role of antagonists; they allow us to play with behaviour that would be offensive, illegal or immoral if it happened outside of the game sphere. While contemporary games have always handled certain problematic topics, such as war, disasters, human decay, post-apocalyptic futures, cruelty and betrayal, lately even the most playful of genres are introducing situations in which players are presented with difficult ethical and moral dilemmas. This volume is an investigation of "dark play" in video games, or game play with controversial themes as well as controversial play behaviour. It covers such questions as: Why do some games stir up political controversies? How do games invite, or even push players towards dark play through their design? Where are the boundaries for what can be presented in a games? Are these boundaries different from other media such as film and books, and if so why? What is the allure of dark play and why do players engage in these practices?


"This book is a richly diverse examination of the ways that games situate players in their perpetration of unconscionable and transgressive virtual acts. The essays in this collection are in different ways sensitive to the medial and cultural context of games and the means by which ludic context and attitudinal frames transform players’ relationships to such acts. The book broadens our understanding of the complex and easily misinterpreted pleasures that games offer and engage us in." --Tanya Krzywinska, Falmouth University, UK

Table of Contents

Part I: Introduction 1. Dark Play: The Aesthetics of Controversial PlayfulnessTorill Elvira Mortensen and Jonas Linderoth Part II: Discourses of Dark Play 2. Analyzing Game Controversies: A Historical Approach to Moral Panics and Digital Games Faltin Karlsen3. Of Heroes and Henchmen: The Conventions of Killing Generic Expendables in Digital GamesRené Glas4. Don’t Forget to Die: A Software Update is Available for the Death Drive Emily Flynn-Jones Part III: Dark Play or Darkly Played? 5. Killing Digital Children: Design, Discourse and Player Agency Björn Sjöblom6. Little Evils: Subversive Uses of Children’s GamesFrans Mäyrä7. Darkly Playing Others Miguel SicartPart IV: Dark Play and Situated Meaning8. Three Defences for the Fourteen-Inch Barbed Penis: Darkly Playing with Morals, Ethics and Sexual Violence Ashley ML Brown9. Exploring the Limits of Play: A Case Study of Representations of Nazism in Games Adam Chapman and Jonas Linderoth 10. Keeping the Balance: Morals at the Dark SideTorill Elvira Mortensen11. Fabricated Innocence: On How People Can be Lured into Feel Bad Games Staffan Björk Part V: Designing for Dark Play 12. Massively Multiplayer Dark Play; Treacherous Play in EVE OnlineMarcus Carter13. Dark Play in DishonoredKristine Jørgensen 14. Sonic Descents: Musical Dark Play in Survival and Psychological Horror Isabella van Elferen15. Boosting, Glitching and Modding Call of Duty: Assertive Dark Play Manifestations, Communities, Pleasures and Organic ResilienceAlan Meades

About the Editors

Torill Elvira Mortensen is Associate Professor at the IT University of Copenhagen. She studies multi-user games and digital media culture. She’s a board member of Norsk Tipping and the author of Perceiving Play: The art and study of computer games (2009). She was a founding member of the editorial group of the journal

Jonas Linderoth is a professor at the Department of Education, Communication and Learning, University of Gothenburg, Sweden. He has published several peer-reviewed journal articles about perception, learning and cognition during gameplay and is a contributor to the Routledge volume Sports Videogames.

Ashley ML Brown is a lecturer in Game Design at Brunel University London in the United Kingdom. She is a board member of the Digital Games Research Association and the author of a chapter in Dungeons and Dragons and Philosophy as well as her recently completed thesis entitled ‘Sex Between Frames: An exploration of online and tabletop erotic role play’.

About the Series

Routledge Advances in Game Studies

Games studies is now firmly established as a popular, important and significant area of study in the academic world. Bringing together theories and thought from a wide range of disciplines, this series features cutting-edge research addressing the major issues in game studies today.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
GAMES / Role Playing & Fantasy
GAMES / Video & Electronic
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Media Studies