Ethical Scenario: “The Cake is a Lie”

Sometimes when you area very tired, you ask ChatGPT to do silly things. Like maybe you’ll say this to it:

Write an ethical scenario for college students to discuss. Focus on the statement “The cake is a lie.”

And then ChatGPT comes up with the following in response:


A black and white image showing a slice of cake with a cherry on top and the tagline, The cake is a lie.You are a group of project managers in a software development company, FutureSoft, working on a highly anticipated video game. The company’s marketing team has heavily promoted a special in-game reward, a unique item referred to as “The Cake,” which players can earn after completing a series of challenging tasks and puzzles. “The Cake” has been touted as an exclusive, must-have item that offers significant in-game advantages and status.

However, as the project nears completion, the development team encounters unexpected technical issues. These issues make it impossible to include “The Cake” in the game without delaying the release by several months and significantly increasing costs. The marketing campaign has already generated considerable excitement and expectations among the gaming community.

The leadership team at FutureSoft is considering an alternative: to include a humorous message in the game stating, “The cake is a lie,” implying that the promised reward does not actually exist. This would allow the game to be released on schedule and within budget, but it could also lead to disappointment and backlash from players who feel deceived.

Discussion Points:

  • Honesty vs. Marketing:
    • How should FutureSoft balance the need for honesty with the expectations created by their marketing campaign?
    • Is it ethical to use a humorous message to cover up the absence of a promised feature?
  • Stakeholder Impact:
    • Consider the impact on different stakeholders, including players, developers, and the company’s reputation. How might the message “The cake is a lie” affect their trust and loyalty?
    • Should the company prioritize its commitments to its customers or its internal project constraints?
  • Transparency and Communication:
    • How should the project managers communicate the issue to the players? Should they be transparent about the technical difficulties, or try to downplay the absence of “The Cake”?
    • What strategies can be used to mitigate potential backlash while maintaining transparency?
  • Alternative Solutions:
    • Explore alternative solutions to address the issue. Could the company offer a different reward or compensate players in another way?
    • What are the pros and cons of delaying the game’s release to include the promised feature versus releasing it on time without “The Cake”?
  • Ethical Responsibility:
    • Discuss the ethical responsibility of the company in delivering on its promises. How does this responsibility weigh against practical business considerations like cost and deadlines?
    • Is it ethical for the company to mislead players, even if it’s done humorously? Why or why not?
  • Long-term Implications:
    • What are the long-term implications of this decision for the company’s brand and player trust?
    • How might this situation influence FutureSoft’s future marketing strategies and promises to players?

Your Task:

As a group, you are tasked with preparing a detailed report that addresses the ethical, communication, and project management challenges associated with the “The Cake is a lie” scenario. Your report should include:

  • An assessment of the potential impact on players and the company’s reputation.
  • Recommendations for handling the situation ethically and transparently.
  • A communication plan for addressing the issue with players and the broader gaming community.
  • An evaluation of alternative solutions and their feasibility.
  • A reflection on the company’s ethical responsibilities and long-term brand strategy.

Prepare to present your findings and recommendations to the company’s executive team, emphasizing the importance of maintaining player trust and delivering on marketing promises while managing project constraints.