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Use the GDC 2021 Session Viewer to browse and sort the ever-growing list of sessions by day, time, pass type, topic, and format. All registered attendees will be able to build their personal schedule directly within the event platform, once live early July 2021. All times are listed in Pacific Time.

UX Summit: Do No Harm: Ethical Design for Emotionally Heavy Games

Kelli Dunlap  (Psychologist & Adj Professor of Game Design, American University)

Date: Monday, July 19

Time: 10:50am - 11:20am

Pass Type: All Access Pass, Summits Pass

Topic: UX

Format: Session

Vault Recording: Video

Audience Level: N/A: I would like to deliver a virtual presentation only

There is no topic games can't tackle, but when game content intentionally evokes intense emotional experiences, game developers have a duty to minimize harm. Whether a game explores vulnerable populations or discusses topics traditionally considered stigmatized (i.e. mental illness) or traumatic (i.e. assault), game designers must actively do right by the player. In this talk, clinical psychologist and professor of game design Dr. Kelli Dunlap adapts psychological ethical standards to create guidelines for game designers working on emotionally heavy content.


Attendees will 1) identify relevant ethical standards for use in the design processes, 2) apply standards as they pertain to the development process of content that has the potential for emotional or psychological harm, and 3) bring best-practices around safeguarding the mental well-being of players and play-testers back to their studios.

Intended Audience

The intended audience for this session are individuals involved in the process of game design or development interested in the ethics around emotional and psychological impacts of games on players, developers, and play-testers.