Prototyping Kant-Inspired Reflexive Game Mechanics

Proceedings of the 2012 Workshop on Research Prototyping in Games

4 Pages Posted: 24 Jul 2012

Date Written: May 29, 2012


Immanuel Kant's categorical imperative, stating (in one formulation) that one ought to always act according to a maxim that can be made universal law, is tempting to proceduralize, in the form of a game that literally turns actions into universal laws. This paper explores difficulties that initially arise in translating that idea to a game design: some of which been covered in the philosophy literature, and others of which relate to the difficulties in defining what constitutes a proper rule induction. Then, it discusses several much less lofty, but practical, prototypes that explore what I take to be the formal game mechanics underpinning the idea: reflexive game mechanics where breaking a rule implies the free breaking of that rule for the rest of the game. By analyzing these prototypes, I attempt to determine if these prototypes result in either an interesting game mechanic (taken on its own) on the one hand, or a compelling representation of Kantian morality on the other hand, reaching mixed conclusions.

Keywords: game design, Immanuel Kant, rule induction

Suggested Citation

Nelson, Mark, Prototyping Kant-Inspired Reflexive Game Mechanics (May 29, 2012). Proceedings of the 2012 Workshop on Research Prototyping in Games, Available at SSRN:

Mark Nelson (Contact Author)

ITU Copenhagen ( email )



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