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?

part I|12 pages


chapter 1|10 pages

Dark Play

The Aesthetics of Controversial Playfulness

part II|51 pages

Discourses of Dark Play

chapter 2|18 pages

Analyzing Game Controversies

A Historical Approach to Moral Panics and Digital Games

chapter 3|17 pages

Of Heroes and Henchmen

The Conventions of Killing Generic Expendables in Digital Games

chapter 4|14 pages

Don't Forget to Die

A Software Update is Available for the Death Drive

part III|52 pages

Dark Play or Darkly Played?

chapter 5|15 pages

Killing Digital Children

Design, Discourse and Player Agency

chapter 6|18 pages

Little Evils

Subversive Uses of Children's Games

chapter 7|17 pages

Darkly Playing Others

part IV|71 pages

Dark Play and Situated Meaning

chapter 8|18 pages

Three Defences for the Fourteen-Inch Barbed Penis

Darkly Playing with Morals, Ethics, and Sexual Violence

chapter 9|17 pages

Exploring the Limits of Play

A Case Study of Representations of Nazism in Games

chapter 10|17 pages

Keeping the Balance

Morals at the Dark Side

chapter 11|17 pages

Fabricated Innocence

How People Can be Lured into Feel-Bad Games

part V|72 pages

Designing for Dark Play

chapter 12|19 pages

Massively Multiplayer Dark Play

Treacherous Play in EVE Online

chapter 13|16 pages

Dark Play in Dishonored

chapter 14|16 pages

Sonic Descents

Musical Dark Play in Survival and Psychological Horror

chapter 15|19 pages

Boosting, Glitching and Modding Call of Duty

Assertive Dark-Play Manifestations, Communities, Pleasures, and Organic Resilience