Teaching ethics with the Walking Dead

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The walking dead lee and clem

Darryn likes to disparage TellTale Games’ The Walking Dead, calling it a “choose your own death” game. You guys know I love the game, and now it is being used for more than just awesome entertainment – it’s teaching school kids lessons.

All the way up in Bergen, Norway, a teacher is using The Walking Dead in class to spur discussions about morality and ethics. Here is a video from NRK showing the use of the game in the classroom (with subtitles enabled):

For the non-video people among you, essentially the teacher lets students vote on the moral choices found throughout The Walking Dead. They choose as a group how the player will progress through the story, discussing the difficult choices and moral ambiguity. This helps them to understand ethical theories, and also debate the choices. Awesome teaching tool – well done.

We actually had an office debate about this. You may remember Darryn telling us about Infamous: Second Son letting you be a jerk. It led to a debate about how we all play games, and I was arguing that I’m always a paragon (referencing Mass Effect here), and it’s the same in The Walking Dead – I always tried to make the best decisions to protect Clementine and maintain as much humanity in the face of the apocalypse. Darryn, on the other hand, argued that video games aren’t real and he always acts like a completely immoral character.

Are you a paragon or renegade when you play games with moral choices? And don’t take the cop out approach of saying that you play multiple times – let’s just talk about the first (main) play through of a game.

Finally, looking at morality, anyone else notice (and enjoy) the fact that racism played such a small role in the Walking Dead? The main character is black, but it’s all about who he is and what he can do – not the color of his skin. Is that a sign of changing times, a utopian view of humanity, or a realistic sign of how we’d cope in the apocalypse?

Last Updated: January 20, 2014

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