Prototyping Kant-inspired reflexive game mechanics

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

Back to publications.