The Pisces Game

The Pisces Game

The Pisces Game was played 11-19 and 11-21

Your reflective essay assignment is due 11-26-2013. Submit to Critviz by 11:59 PM on 11-26-2013. E-mail copies will not be accepted. Each student must upload their own reflective essay.

Critiques will not be part of this assignment, as this is a personal reflection and will remain private from other students. Critviz settings allow private assignment submission, which is what this assignment uses.

Personal Reflective Essay Assignment

You should begin writing your essay only after giving yourself time to reflect on the experience of the Pisces Game and thoroughly reading this guide.

Background: Participating in the Pisces Game has allowed you to confront first-hand the ethical problems associated with the Tragedy of the Commons as explained in the recent blog posts. Hopefully your personal experience has helped you identify the moral implications involved when facing such issues and develop your own opinions regarding how to deal with common pool resources. Looking back on your discussions in class should also be helpful in preparing your reflective essay.

The purpose of this essay is to encourage deep personal reflection regarding the experience of the Pisces Game as it relates to CEE 300, engineering ethics, and sustainability.

Assignment: Your assignment is to write a personal reflective essay regarding your Pisces Game experience. This essay is an opportunity for you to reflect on the Pisces Game as it relates to several important questions that you will have to answer for yourself during your education and throughout your career as an engineer. You do not need to explain the mechanics of the Pisces game in your essay, unless it is relevant to a point you are trying to make. You can assume the reader has a general understanding of the Pisces game. When writing your essays consider the following questions as starting points:


Here are some elements to consider in addressing the engineering ethics implications of the Pisces Game.

  • What obligations do you have to other students? How is this influenced (or not) by their own actions and circumstances?
  • What personal sacrifices are you willing to make to meet those obligations and why? Did your actions in the Pisces Game reflect your personal convictions regarding such obligations, or were they motivated by other factors?
  • Would things change outside of a game setting and why?


Thinking back to your original expectations regarding the Pisces game, consider the following questions.

  • Were you correct, and why or why not?
  • What were the roles of expectations and communication in the Pisces Game?
  • When did you face difficult moral decisions, and how did you address them?


The setup of the game is admittedly and purposefully unfair, but YOUR reaction was up to you. This question is NOT about the fairness of the game itself, but rather about your interaction with it.

  • Were your actions intended to bring about a fair outcome from an unfair situation, or were they mainly out of self-interest? Did you accomplish your intended goals? Why or why not?
  • What, if anything, would you change about how you played?

Engineering Canons and Sustainability

You should be familiar with the various ethics principles related to the fundamental canons of engineering. You may also have some familiarity with sustainability principles. If not, this is an excellent opportunity to find out more about them.

  • Relate the Pisces Game to the canons of engineering ethics and principles of sustainability
  • How do the lessons from the Pisces Game match expectations for engineers? Describe how your actions reflected these expectations or differed from them.
  • Explain how you reacted to any moral issues in the Pisces Game which the canons did not provide the “right” answer for, or explain how you drew upon these canons for guidance in confronting moral issues not explicitly addressed by them.


At the end of your essay, you will have an opportunity to include advice intended for future players of the Pisces Game.  Imagine yourself before playing the Pisces Game – what advice would you provide?

  • What recommendations or warnings would have helped you the most?
  • How can you help future players succeed?  Is success important?
  • What did you learn about yourself?  Does that match the advice you’re giving?

Although you are not required to answer each question listed here, you must address the topics listed including “Morals,” “Hypothesis,” “Fairness,” “Engineering Canons and Sustainability,” and “Addendum.”

When drafting your reflective essays, please keep the following guidelines in mind:

Style: In your essay, please use the first person (“I think…,” and “I felt…”), and provide details for the motivations behind your actions (“The reason I did this was…”). You should discuss other students in parts of your essay, but only as they relate to your personal experience in the Pisces Game.

Part of your professionalization is learning to express a great deal of information in a limited space.

Length: Your essay should not exceed approximately 1500 words.  You should also include an addendum not to exceed 200 words entitled “Advice for future students.” The addendum does not count towards the essay word limit.

Your essays will also be evaluated based on the criteria outlined below.

Grading: Your reflective essay combined with your Pisces Game score counts for 150 grade points TOTAL.

High quality reflective essays will display the following qualities:

  • Demonstrates understanding of ethics concepts relevant to the Pisces Game. You should refer to ethics concepts explained in blog posts, class discussions and videos or readings to support your essay.
  • Shows evidence that the writer is attuned to his or her own action and the ways in which others affect his or her behavior.
  • Your essay should convey to the reader that you understand the complexity of the issues involved and can speak with authority regarding them, without alienating the reader (e.g., incorporating references, using correct terminology, and writing with confidence).
  • Provides personal insights into salient ethical issues raised by the Pisces Game. A great deal of personal reflection is required for this essay, and the product of such reflection should be evident in your essay.
  • Communicates clearly and effectively in a concise, but thorough manner. This is absolutely vital to get across your message in only 1200 words. One way to enhance communication without increasing word count is through incorporating high quality visuals that illustrate a point.
  • Goes beyond the requirements of the assignment. Content that indicates an exceptional amount of effort or creativity, which may go beyond the bounds of the assignment as described here, will be rewarded.

Grades will be determined in a manner that greatly rewards areas in which you excel, while minimizing negative impacts of areas in which you do not. For example, if you demonstrate an excellent understanding of ethics relevant to the Pisces Game, but do not have any personal insights into these ethical issues, your grade will be more strongly influenced by your discussion of ethics than your personal insights. However, an ideal paper will excel in every category, and an “A” paper will teach us something new.

Essays are expected to be complete when submitted, as well as submitted on-time.

Due date and revisions: Submit to critviz by 11-26-13 before 11:59 PM. Submission via e-mail will not be accepted.

The initial grade you receive for your essay is not final, unless you are satisfied with it. Instead, you can view this as part of a conversation regarding your experience and your writing, culminating in re-submission of your essay for an attempt at improving your grade. Revisions must be accompanied by a cover letter detailing what feedback you received and what you changed as a result. Please contact Andrew Berardy ( for further details.  A detailed revision guide is available. Do not begin revising your papers before reading the revision guide.

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