Open letter to Rockstar North
First off, I'd like to congratulate you on shipping your latest game, "Manhunt", to critical acclaim. It is beyond a doubt an achievement of highest praise that a group of talented artists, developers and game innovators, such as yourselves, have collaborated on such a ground-breaking title.
As technology innovators, you have the enviable role of introducing to the world new and exciting technologies, gameplay mechanics and situations. As game industry professionals, you also represent the thousands of other game developers who, like you, are passionate about the games they create and are proud of their contributions to the industry as a whole.
There is no question in my mind that your latest game will be a phenomenal financial success, especially in light of the extreme violence that is portrayed in the game: Gamespot's Greg Kasavin, in a review of the game, writes: "The game unflinchingly depicts intense graphic violence, the likes of which you might expect from a slasher movie but not from your PlayStation 2." And although the game is awarded the Adults Only (AO) rating by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), the successes of your previous titles suggest there will be far more than just adults who will be playing your game.
It would be a common oversight to focus entirely on the financial benefits and ignore the consequences this new innovative game will bring. Everett Rodgers, in his book "Diffusion of Innovations", explains that most innovations cause both desirable and undesirable consequences. More importantly, "it is usually difficult or impossible to manage the effects of an innovation so as to separate the desirable from the undesirable consequences."
What knowledge from research does your company possess into the potential ramifications that games, such as Manhunt, could have on the entire social system? After all, very often it is everyone in the system who is touched by the consequences aforementioned. Furthermore, in light of such research, can you be absolutely certain that your creation is more service than disservice to the system?
If you are unable to answer either of those questions, think about this: Just because you can create such a game doesn't necessarily mean that you should. Every technologist in this information age has the moral and ethical responsibility to stand behind their contributions following thorough examination of potential consequences such innovations could bring. Without such research and concern, your contribution is as welcome as Thalidomide for morning sickness, snowmobiles for the Skolt Lapps, or the Therac-25 for radiation therapy.
Years from now I hope you'll be able to look back and be content with your decision to create such a game. Unfortunately, much of today's business is driven by the almighty bottom line that ethical standards are only secondary considerations, if that anymore. You are a bright young talented group of developers: I urge you to use your powers for the good of mankind, and not for another man-hunt.