In this section, we’ve included some ethical, theoretical, practical and contextual questions we feel we may need to address.  Some of the questions have specific answers, while others are open-ended.


1. How can we normalize sex work while conveying the dangers associated with it? Finding a balance between representing the dire obstacles that many sex workers face and offering empowering depictions of sex workers is a central challenge to this project.

2. How do research funding and particular research interests influence the representation of sex work in different cities? What are the implications of depicting some of these issues as specific to certain metropolitan areas?

3. Should the identities of our characters include qualifiers that do not pertain to sex work? Having a specific character can emphasize individual experience, and highlight that we are not trying to be representative of all sex workers. However, what are the ethical implications of fabricating a specific story about an individual from a marginalized community? What are the implications of creating an imaginary sex worker character? What would be the implications if we based this character on a real-life person?

4. Should our game explicitly acknowledge its limits in adequately representing sex workers? Similarly, can we highlight the gaps of academic research in our game?

3. Does creating this game with a distinct focus on empathy towards sex workers give players sufficient room to form their own conceptions on issues of prostitution?

4. Will this game, with its strong bias on empathy for prostitution, be able to attract those whose opinions it is most striving to affect?

5. Considering this project is addressing the complex and controversial issue of legalization of the sex trade, will players be given a forum to participate in discussion on the issue/project? Or will their feedback solely be gauged in terms of their decisions as players in the game?

6. Will there be an age restriction to participate in the game?

7. Will the game address issues of child prostitution?

8. If this game is designed not only to promote empathy with the act of prostitution, but also to identify with the lives of sex workers, will any information be given concerning the actual health / psychological risks of prostitution (which are there regardless of laws)? Or is the game solely addressing consequences related to the three laws?

8. Will physical / racial characteristics be given to the characters to allow players of various backgrounds to be able to personally identify with the particularities of sex workers? (re: Shaw’s advocation for diverse and complex character creation in video games.)


ConStellation’s “Working Conditions Special” – a resource for scenario building

Stella is an invaluable resource to sex workers in Montreal.  This organization provides a variety of services to sex workers, and is also very involved in public education campaigns and advocacy.  Stella publishes ConStellation twice a year, a magazine created by and made for sex workers. Recently, we were recommended their “Working Condition Special” of ConStellation, published in 2009.

This edition shares a wealth of information about the legal, health and financial issues pertinent to sex work.  One of this issue’s most important features is that it shares the stories and advice of sex workers working in a variety of areas, including escort services, massages parlors, exotic dancing, the webcam industry, etc… These real-life stories give great insight into the daily concerns of sex workers.

I will outline just a few of the issues brought up in this edition of ConStellation that we might consider exploring further in our game:

Exploring sound

Sex workers, like any other kind of group of professionals, are a diverse and dynamic group. As we have previously discussed in this blog, different media forms, from newspapers to video games, often depict sex workers as homogeneous. Furthermore, these representations are usually negative, associating prostitutes with social ills and perpetuating stereotypes of sex workers as deviant, subservient to male desire, and victims of violence and drugs. This solidifies a specific image of the sex worker in our social consciousness, with the prostitute becoming a “public symbol of female vice” (Walkowitz, as cited by Brunschot, Sydie & Krull, 2000). Not only do we hope that our game offers empowering representations of sex workers, we also want to avoid creating simplistic sex worker characters. Though we clearly can’t capture all the complexity and nuances of sex workers’ identities and lives in one game, we have decided not to visually represent the sex worker to avoid reducing our protagonist to specific visual identifiers. We also hope that this will better accommodate different players’ ability to embody the protagonist role of a sex worker in our game.

Because of this decision, we are thinking through ways that sound can be used to create an immersive environment and move our player through the game. While attention is often placed on visual graphics in video games, sound is an integral part of game design. While audio elements are frequently used to give player feedback on their actions and therefore move gameplay forward, they can also be used to develop characters, environments, space and overall mood of the game. There are many designers that are experimenting with audio-based games.  Some of these artists are specifically interested in creating games that are accessible to visually impaired players.