Biotic Games raise important concerns regarding animal welfare[1] and are not without controversy. At WetWareWorks we believe ethical treatment of animals is of the utmost importance. Here we would like to argue you why we find our work acceptable.

Several researchers and developers in the field of Biotic Games have also faced opposition to their work and engaged in dialogue to further their understanding of the ethical debate. For example in “Innocent Fun or ‘Microslavery’”[2] biotic gaming pioneer Ingmar Riedel-Kruse has explored several dimensions of the discussion and addresses common issues. Informed by these discussions we would like to shed our light on the ethical issues as well.

Legality – Perhaps needless to say we urge all biotic game players and developers to adhere to the legal restrictions that are enforced in many countries preventing the maltreatment of animals. There is no excuse and no need for breaking the law.

For Fun – We noticed that some argue that Biotic Games are not games at all. Games are generally regarded as a set of rules that are fun and motivating. These are obviously subjective criteria. The prospect of playing with living organisms might not be fun or motivating to some altogether. The same is true for games that do not involve living organisms, such as gambling, violent or extreme sports. To be absolutely clear: the organisms used by WetWareWorks do not have a central nervous system, therefore they are unable to feel pain. So our games are not about torturing organisms.

What is the benefit? – Throughout history humans have utilized non-humans for all kinds of purposes including food, comfort, protection and transportation. Judgement on whether one finds these kind of utilizations acceptable differ from person to person and is often based on personal ideology or a cost/benefit analysis. For example scientific experimentation on animals is judged differently than commercial, educational or entertainment activities. Whereas scientific use of organisms is justified by the prospect of an application with public benefit, biotic games cannot appeal to the same justification under all circumstances. At WetWareWorks we hope Biotic Games contribute to an increased interest in biology and science, improved and more engaging educational curricula and help imagine new modes of interactions between biology and technology. Research has for example shown that games can have beneficial effects on animal welfare. For example, interactive gameplay lowers stress hormone levels in home alone dogs[3]. Given these potential outcomes we believe our work is beneficial to society and acceptable when conducted in a thoughtful way.

[1] Eck, W. van, & Lamers, M. H. (2017). Player Expectations of Animal Incorporated Computer Games. In Intelligent Technologies for Interactive Entertainment (pp. 1–15). Springer, Cham.

[2] Harvey, H., Havard, M., Magnus, D., Cho, M. K., & Riedel‐Kruse, I. H. (2014). Innocent Fun or “Microslavery”? Hastings Center Report, 44(6), 38–46.

[3] Geurtsen, A., Lamers, M. H., & Schaaf, M. J. M. (2015). Interactive Digital Gameplay Can Lower Stress Hormone Levels in Home Alone Dogs — A Case for Animal Welfare Informatics. In Entertainment Computing – ICEC 2015 (pp. 238–251). Springer, Cham.