I was recently involved in co-authoring a book chapter which looked at the often difficult subject of ethics in serious games. What’s more when you add applications that seek to change behaviour to the equation such as persuasive games or gamified applications the whole area becomes a whole lot worse.
In addition to the more obvious areas such as potential for harm, consent and privacy, persuasive and gamified applications often run the risk of serious conflicts of interest. For example, what exactly will companies do with the data obtained from gamified applications that try to improve workplace efficiency? Is it simply a spying application? Also if we look at issues such as who really benefits from such apps, again ethically it should be the end-user but in reality is this really the case?
If you are interested in the ethics of such things, look out for our (hopefully to be published) chapter on this topic but do check out the American Psychological Association Code. While I am sure many psychologists and even us HCI people may be aware of it I am somewhat concerned that many game developers may not be! The code is not specifically for serious games but covers a whole raft of highly relevant areas.
For now many people I have come across only really start to actively think about ethics in serious games when confronted with an ethics committee from which they have to get approval. In reality ethics must be embedded in serious games right from the start of the design process.
More on this topic soon I suspect.