Media Ethics Learning Game


This interactive game puts you in the position of a beginning media maker creating a documentary about Syrian refugees in Greece. The decisions that you make at each stage of the game will directly influence the style and content of the documentary. Questions about funding, target audience, and how you navigate the various stages of preproduction, production, and postproduction will have a profound impact on your project.

This game highlights the complexity of balancing ethical, aesthetic, and practical considerations. This has been simplified for the sake of clarity.

Before you begin: Some notes on how to engage with the game

For Instructors: Ask students to play through the game a number of times at home while taking notes as suggested below. Then, play through the game together as a group in class. Stop at each stage to ask students which choice they made and why. As a group, you can debate if and why certain choices are unethical and, importantly what—if any—consequences follow from those choices. These consequences can be economic, professional, or aesthetic.

For Students:Play the game through at least three or four times, making different choices each time. Take note of how different choices have repercussions in both the short and the long term and can affect your relationships with your collaborators, funders, subjects, and audience.

In particular, note down anything you disagreed with or found confusing and bring these issues up in class discussion.

After you have played through the game a number of times, look up the recommended readings from Think/Point/Shoot and write your responses to the questions below.

After you have completed the game: Recommended readings and discussion questions

The game you just played explores the ethical consequences of your decisions in a number of areas. It may not always be clear if and why a certain decision is unethical. To review the material on the topics raised by the game, you can turn to the following chapters:

  • Gaining informed consent: Ch. 4 (Gold) and Ch. 6 (Sinkler)
  • Respecting privacy: Ch. 4 (Gold), Ch. 8 (Alpert), and Ch. 10 (Gurrin)
  • Identifying your target audience: Ch. 2 (Choy) and Ch. 3 (Isabel)
  • Recognizing diverse funding agendas: Ch. 2 (Choy) and Ch. 3 (Isabel)
  • Commitment to accuracy and truth: Ch. 1 (Danto), Ch. 5 (Richen), Ch. 6 (Sinkler), and Ch. 7 (Danto)
  • Protecting vulnerable subjects: Ch. 4 (Gold)
  • Responsibility as an editor: Ch. 11 (Shropshire)

In addition to coming up with your own questions, you can also use the following questions as a way to organize your ideas for class discussion:

  • When did your decisions to bend the truth damage the quality of your documentary? Why?
  • Do you think it was fair of the World Refugee Organization to demand that you return their investment even though you tried to work with EDGE to remove the most egregious material?
  • What other funding options could you have pursued that might place fewer limitations on your control over the material?
  • Who else could you have interviewed in order to get a better understanding of the context for the refugees’ experiences?
  • Did you always get informed consent from your subjects? When—and why—did you fail to get informed consent?
  • What are the differences between the agendas of your two institutional funders—EDGE and the World Refugee Organization? Do you think these differences are related to their different target audiences?
  • Identify one moment in each of the three stages—preproduction, production, postproduction—when you failed to protect vulnerable subjects? What were the practical pressures that influenced your decision in these cases? Could you have avoided being placed in those situations?