How to be responsible

Jesse Schell runs the Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon University, and he is the author of The Art of Game Design that inspired the questions on this website. 

He has designed a ritual for his students on their last day. It is based on a ring engineers use to remind themselves of their responsibility to society. Few industries have such rituals, but if they don’t then they need them, and perhaps adopting the ones engineers have created would be a good start.

Jesse was kind enough to read for us the appropriate passage from his book, which we also reproduce at the end of this post.

The Ring

(Reprinted with permission from The Art of Game Design by Jesse Schell)

Have you ever thought about your pinky? How it is strangely smaller than all the other fingers? It almost seems like an accident – like some kind of withered appendage. But it isn’t. It has a purpose that most of us are completely unaware of. Your pinky guides your hand. Every time you pick something up, or put something down on a surface, your pinky is there first, feeling things out like a little antenna, and safely guiding the hand into position.

In 1922, Rudyard Kipling was asked by the University of Toronto to create a ritual to help remind graduating engineers of their obligation to help society. At the conclusion of this solemn ritual, still practiced today, the engineer is given an iron ring, placed on the pinky finger of their dominant hand, as a lifelong reminder of this obligation.

One day, game designers may concoct their own ritual of obligation – but you don’t have time to wait for that. Your obligation begins today – this minute. If you truly believe that games can help people, then, here – take this ring. It is invisible, like mine – that way, you can’t lose it. If you are willing to accept the responsibilities that go along with being a game designer, then you should put it on, and wear it as a reminder to let these responsibilities guide your hand. Think about it carefully before you put the ring on, though, because it doesn’t come off. Oh – and if you look closely, you’ll see it bears this inscription:

Lens #98: The Lens of Responsibility

To live up to your obligations as a game designer, ask yourself this question:

  • Does my game help people? How?

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Author: Brooke Allen

A social entrepreneur and retired Wall Street executive.

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