Dedicated to improving our understanding of digital games

To the Foundations of Digital Games community:

As you may be aware, Professor Adrian Cheok (Director of Imagineering Institute, Iskandar, Malaysia, and Professor of Pervasive Computing at City University London) delivered a keynote presentation “Sex and Love with Robots” at the 2017 Foundations of Digital Games (FDG) conference. During the talk a few attendees made tweets raising concerns and objections to argumentation used in the talk and how the research was carried out and presented with human subjects. These tweets included the #fdg17 twitter hashtag, and hence were visible to other people using Twitter who search for this hashtag.

After the conference ended, Prof. Cheok became aware of the tweets made during the conference. He singled out tweets by Assistant Professor Gillian Smith (Worcester Polytechnic Institute), and made multiple tweets in response, directly attacking her personally. Later the same day, the FDG conference issued a statement on social media that Prof. Cheok’s tweets about Prof. Smith were unacceptable. In response, Prof. Cheok wrote a series of negative tweets about the FDG conference itself. These messages were also uncollegial in content and tone.

In the days since the conference we have received further information and feedback from FDG attendees about Prof. Cheok’s keynote and its contents. Attendees have interpreted his research and its methods in many different ways, often at odds with one another. What is unanimous however, is the belief that Prof. Cheok chose not to engage with critical comments in any constructive way, instead turning to personal attacks to signal his response. Constructive critique of research projects is central and necessary to any such discourse. The analysis of moral and ethical issues is a familiar part of such critique, and is nearly unavoidable when a project engages issues of gender and sexuality. Such critique should be met with the same spirit of goodwill and intellectual generosity as would less fraught technical issues.

After the conference we saw a serious violation of such norms of generosity and goodwill. The personalization of discourse through ad hominem attacks, in which the object of discourse shifts from the critique to the critiquer, and the use of aggressive, belittling, or otherwise intimidating language, is a serious violation of the norms and values of the FDG conference and of our community.

The SASDG strongly condemns this behavior.

We ask that the members of our community come together to reaffirm support for our values of free, open, civil, and respectful discourse; freedom of inquiry; valuing and promoting diversity; creating an inclusive environment; no tolerance for harassing behavior; and openness to topics that span a wide range of disciplinary, national, and political perspectives. To address concerns raised in our community following Prof. Cheok’s keynote and his online response, SASDG will be working to codify these values in a Code of Conduct. We will expect all future keynote presenters and conference attendees to agree to and abide by its terms, and will be seeking community feedback as it evolves.

In closing, we would like to apologize to our community for Prof. Cheok’s behavior on Twitter and any harm it may have caused. We deeply regret what has happened, and will endeavour to ensure our community remains one that is welcoming to all, and where respectful academic debate is the norm.


SASDG Board of Directors

President and Chairman of the Board: Jim Whitehead, Professor, University of California, Santa Cruz
Vice President: R. Michael Young, Professor, University of Utah
Mia Consalvo, Professor and Canada Research Chair In Game Studies & Design, Concordia University
Drew Davidson, Director, Entertainment Technology Center, Carnegie-Mellon University
Mirjam Eladhari, Senior Lecturer, Södertörns University
Ian Horswill, Associate Professor, Northwestern University
Robin Hunicke, Associate Professor, University of California, Santa Cruz
Andy Nealen, Assistant Professor, NYU Tandon School of Engineering
Jichen Zhu, Associate Professor, Drexel University

FDG 2017 Conference Organizers

General Chair: Alessandro Canossa, Senior User Researcher and Analyst, Massive Entertainment / Ubisoft
Co-Chair: Casper Harteveld, Assistant Professor of Game Design, Northeastern University
Program Chair: Jichen Zhu, Associate Professor, Drexel University
Program Chair: Miguel Sicart, Associate Profesor, IT University, Copenhagen, Denmark
Keynote and Special Sessions Chair: Julian Togelius, Associate Professor, New York University