The Oldest Game - Creating A Newsgame about Sex Work in Canada


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.)


Representing Sex Workers in the Canadian Newspaper

The news media, and especially the daily newspaper, can play a critical role in shaping our understanding of the world around us. For many people, newspapers dictate the social issues they learn about and how they interpret them, in effect “construct[ing] social realities” (Van Brunschot, Sydie & Krull, 2000, p.51). Not only can news reporting sway public opinion, it can affect how a culture employs politics, legislation and other powerful tactics to address a given issue.

Because of the influence newsmakers yield, certain approaches to news reporting can have problematic implications. For example, in-depth coverage and important contextual information are too commonly left out of short and salacious stories, written to catch a consumer’s attention. Readers are often left with little sense of the complexity of a given social reality, and the systemic causes behind them.

Supreme Court Strikes Down Prostitution Laws

by Sandra Gabriele

On December 20th, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that three current laws governing prostitution  (prohibiting keeping a bawdy house, living on the avails of prostitution, and communicating for the purpose of prostitution) violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“’Parliament has the power to regulate against nuisances, but not at the cost of the health, safety and lives of prostitutes,” wrote Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin in the 9-0 decision that noted “it is not a crime in Canada to sell sex for money’ ” (CBC News, 2013, n.p.).

The Canadian government has one year to adjust the criminal code.

This ruling was the result of a challenge to federal laws launched by sex workers in Ontario in 2007. They argued that  current legislation made it impossible to earn their livelihood safely and with dignity. While prostitution itself is not illegal in Canada, the laws prohibiting related activities make it almost impossible for sex workers to avoid breaking the law. These laws made it illegal for sex workers to work together indoors and to hire bodyguards, infringed on their ability to properly assess clients, and made it difficult for them to take other kinds of precautions.

For more information about this case, please visit our Legal Context Page.