Ethical Design and Historical Accuracy

The Historical Games Network recently published a piece by Leyla Johnson, Mohawk’s CEO on ethical game design and historical accuracy. Here is an excerpt:

For Old World, we give the player a diametric choice of slavery or freedom. Slavery gives the player a flat Orders boost (more actions each turn) but increases Discontent each turn in all cities. Freedom, on the other hand, increases Science each turn in all cities. Thus, in general, Slavery is a stronger choice earlier in the game (because of the flat Orders increase), but Freedom is a better choice as the game carries on (to keep Discontent under control and to benefit from more Science as the nation grows). We felt that making Slavery the short-term choice, and Freedom the long-term one, put the game in a better place ethically, as the opposite arrangement would be giving a very negative message (that human societies will develop from freedom to slavery instead of vice-versa). Our narrative system also includes a number of events that can only happen if you opt into Slavery, such as a series of revolts inspired by Spartacus and the Servile Wars of Rome, giving slaves some agency within our game setting.

The post was also accompanied by an academic panel with Leyla on ethics and games, which is available to watch online: