Prototyping Kant-inspired reflexive game mechanics

Mark J. Nelson (2012). Prototyping Kant-inspired reflexive game mechanics. In Proceedings of the FDG Workshop on Research Prototyping in Games.


Immanuel Kant's categorical imperative, stating (in one formulation) that one ought to always act according to a maxim that can be made universal law, is tempting to proceduralize, in the form of a game that literally turns actions into universal laws. This paper explores difficulties that initially arise in translating that idea to a game design: some of which been covered in the philosophy literature, and others of which relate to the difficulties in defining what constitutes a proper rule induction. Then, it discusses several much less lofty, but practical, prototypes that explore what I take to be the formal game mechanics underpinning the idea: reflexive game mechanics where breaking a rule implies the free breaking of that rule for the rest of the game. By analyzing these prototypes, I attempt to determine if these prototypes result in either an interesting game mechanic (taken on its own) on the one hand, or a compelling representation of Kantian morality on the other hand reaching mixed conclusions.

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