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The extremely high level of simulated violence in certain recent video games has made some people uneasy. There is a concern that something is wrong with these violent games, but, since the violence is virtual rather than real, it is difficult to specify the nature of the wrongness. Since there is no proven causal connection between video-game violence and real violence, philosophical analysis can be particularly helpful in locating potential sources of wrongness in ultra-violent video games. To this end, this paper analyzes video game violence through the lens of utilitarian, Kantian, and post-modern perspectives. Through these analyses, several explanations of the wrongness in violent video games emerge.
Locating the wrongness in ultra-violent video games
David I. Waddington
Stanford University, Building 250, Stanford, CA 94305–2020, USA
Abstract. The extremely high level of simulated violence in certain recent video games has made some people
uneasy. There is a concern that something is wrong with these violent games, but, since the violence is virtual
rather than real, it is dicult to specify the nature of the wrongness. Since there is no proven causal connection
between video-game violence and real violence, philosophical analysis can be particularly helpful in locating
potential sources of wrongness in ultra-violent video games. To this end, this paper analyzes video game
violence through the lens of utilitarian, Kantian, and post-modern perspectives. Through these analyses, several
explanations of the wrongness in violent video games emerge.
Key words: Baudrillard, children, computer games, ethics, Kant, utilitarianism, video games, violence, wrong
‘‘What we were after now was the old surprise visit.
That was a real kick and good for smecks and
lashings of the ultra-violent.’’
– Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange
In a British study conducted in 2001, researchers
questioned schoolchildren about the activities they
engaged in on their computers. Among 8, 9, and
10 year olds, the #1 activity was playing video games,
with 88% of students participating in this activity.
Computer games also figured prominently for 11, 12,
and 13 year olds, with 69% of them using their
computers for video games. Notably, this report
probably does not capture the full extent of the video
game phenomenon; it does not account for the pop-
ular console platforms (e.g., Sony Playstation,
Nintendo Gamecube), which recorded $9.9 billion in
U.S. sales
alone, in 2004.
Video games have always contained an element of
violence. For example, in the old 1980s game Lode-
Runner, you played as an intrepid treasure thief. You
guided your little bright-green man-icon across the
screen, and if you were caught by the darker-green
man-icons (the guards) that were chasing you, you
‘‘died.’’ This was 1980s video-game violence.
Now, as we begin the new century, video games
have changed. The rapid advances in computing
technology have enabled game-makers to produce
better graphics, which make the games far more
realistic. A 1st-person 3-dimensional perspective is
now possible, whereas in the 1980s, one was usually
limited to a 3rd-person 2-dimensional perspective.
More than ever, it seems as though ‘‘you are there’’
when one plays a video game.
One of the most worrisome changes in video
games, however, is the dramatic increase in the
intensity and realism of violence. Some video games
are no longer merely violent – they are ultra-violent.
The best example (so far) of this new ultra-violence
can be found in the video game, Manhunt. In
Manhunt, you play as death-penalty convict James
Cash. Instead of being executed, as you expected, you
have been kidnapped by a snu-film maker. In order
to survive, you must kill people for this filmmaker.
The online game review service GameSpy describes
some of the available methods of killing:
Methods of disposal include garroting a hunter
with some razor wire (and subsequent decapitation
– yes, the head of your victim can be picked up and
used as a projectile), suocation with a regular
Anthony Burgess. A Clockwork Orange. W.W. Norton Press,
NY, 1962, p. 19.
Bruce Hayward, Carys Alty, Stephen Pearson, and Chris
Martin. Young People and ICT. U.K., 2002, http://www.
This figure includes both hardware (consoles) and software
NPD Group. The NPD Group Reports Annual 2004 U.S.
Video Game Industry Retail Sales. NPD Funworld. http://www.
Ethics and Information Technology (2007) 9:121–128 !Springer 2006
DOI 10.1007/s10676-006-9126-y
plastic bag, skull-crushing blows bestowed with a
baseball bat, neck-rending hacks and slashes with a
machete, and a good old house brick which can be
used for breaking faces.
It is hard to read this description without feeling
some concern. If these acts were real, they would be
unconscionable – one would be imprisoned forever,
at the least, for committing them. However, the acts
that are committed in Manhunt are virtual; no phys-
ical harm is actually being inflicted on anyone.
Yet, despite the fact that no one is physically
harmed by these ultra-violent video games, some
people still feel uneasy about them. Parents, in par-
ticular, are concerned about this issue. Surely, they
think, there must be something wrong with crushing
virtual heads with virtual baseball bats. Perhaps,
concerned parents think to themselves, these games
will make their children more callous or more violent.
Yet, their computer-savvy children eagerly reassure
them that the violence is ‘‘pretend,’’ ‘‘not real,’’ and
‘‘just a game.’’ Thus, the crucial question is raised: if
ultra-violent video games are wrong, where is the
Utilitarian considerations
In his excellent, insightful article, ‘‘Is it wrong to play
violent video games?,’’ Matt McCormick uses utili-
tarian and Kantian ethical frameworks to analyze
simulated evil acts. Although McCormick eventually
concludes that violent video games may negatively
aect one!s character, his analysis suggests that these
games cannot be deemed wrong according to Kantian
or Utilitarian frameworks.
However, as I will try to
demonstrate, McCormick!s arguments, in these cases,
have some weaknesses.
McCormick!s utilitarian analysis begins with an
account of utilitarianism. He notes that, for a par-
ticular type of act to be wrong under rule utilitari-
anism, the overall costs of that type of act must
outweigh the benefits. He thus concludes, ‘‘... any
argument against violent video games on these
grounds needs to show that (1) there actually is
an increase of risk, and (2) that increase of risk
outweighs the benefits.’’
McCormick is dubious about (1) – that violent
video games pose a significant risk to society. Since it
remains to be seen whether simulated bad acts cause
an increase in actual bad acts, we therefore cannot
assert that society is at increased risk. However, he
suggests that more research on the eects of violent
video games might be helpful in this regard.
McCormick thinks that (2) – that the risks of
violent video games outweigh the benefits – is even
harder to demonstrate. He rightly points out that
significant social costs are accepted when they are
associated with other long-established games. For
example, sports fans occasionally riot after their team
wins/loses, causing death and destruction. Yet,
despite the fact that this is a significant social cost, no
one suggests that football, soccer, basketball, or
hockey should be banned.
Clearly, the pleasure that
the millions of peaceful sports fans derive from their
sport outweighs the social costs (e.g., violence within
the game and fan riots) associated with it. Likewise,
although there may be a risk associated with violent
video games, it should be outweighed by the enor-
mous pleasure that is derived from them by the fans
of these games.
Although McCormick makes an excellent case,
violent video games may still be problematic from
a utilitarian standpoint. First, let!s consider
McCormick!s first proposition more carefully:
Proposition #1: Any argument against violent
video games on these grounds needs to show that
there is an actual increase of risk.
Most psychologists are not yet certain enough about
the eects of violent video games to say that playing
video games is definitely risky. However, some psy-
chologists argue that VVGs may be risky because
they may cause increased aggression. These
researchers cite numerous studies in which a corre-
lation has been demonstrated between playing violent
video games and aggression. This evidence of poten-
tial risk
should not be ignored, and should be
included in the utilitarian calculus. If one modifies
Proposition #1 to account for potential risk, a new
proposition results:
Bryn Williams. Manhunt (PS2). Gamespy, http://archive.
Matt McCormick. Is it wrong to play violent video games?
Ethics and Information Technology, 3(4): 277–287, 2001.
McCormick, p. 280.
McCormick, pp. 280–281.
A colleague of mine who is a specialist in operations research/
risk management has criticized this notion of potential risk. ‘‘A risk
of a risk is a risk,’’ he says. To see what he means, suppose (purely
for the sake of argument) that there is a 50% chance that ultra-
violent video games cause aggressive thoughts. Suppose, further,
that in 10% of those with aggressive thoughts, the aggressive
thoughts lead to actual aggressive behavior toward others. One
could multiply these probabilities together to generate a risk of 5%
that playing video games leads to violent acts. Thus, a risk (50%) of
a risk (10%) generates an overall risk (5%). Still, I think that this
notion of potential risk is helpful because it highlights the uncertain
status of the risks posed by violent video games.
Proposition #1a: Any argument against violent
video games on these grounds needs to show that
there is a significant potential for an increase of risk.
At this point, however, an important objection can
be raised. For any given activity, the potential risks
seem to be infinite. For example, if I go out walking,
I could get struck by lightening or hit by a car. Thus,
it is important to limit the definition of ‘‘potential
risk’’ to include only factors for which there is some
credible evidence of risk, but not conclusive
In the case of violent video games, there is abun-
dant scientific evidence which points in the direction
of an increase in risk. Psychologists Craig Anderson
and Brad Bushman recently conducted a meta-ana-
lytic review of the psychological literature on video
game violence. Their analysis, which aggregated the
results of 35 dierent studies, found that there was a
statistically significant positive correlation between
playing violent video games and aggressive behavior,
aggressive thoughts, and aggressive feelings.
analysis also revealed a statistically significant nega-
tive correlation between violent video games and
‘‘prosocial’’ behavior.
Anderson and Bushman
comment, ‘‘These results clearly support the
hypothesis that exposure to violent video games poses
a public-health threat to children and youths...’’
Other meta-analytic reviews, by Sherry and by Dill
and Dill, also show positive correlations between
violent video games and aggression.
Scientists are
not unanimous on this point, however – one meta-
analytic review concluded that, based on current
research, it was impossible to conclude whether or
not violent video games were correlated with
aggressive behavior.
Large numbers of correlations do not constitute
proof of a causal link between virtual acts of violence
and actual violent acts. However, if one considers the
hypothesis that violent video games cause aggression
from a Popperian point of view, the hypothesis has,
for the most part, held up under testing.
which show no correlation between violent video
games and aggression would constitute falsifying
evidence for this hypothesis, but according to the
meta-analytic reviews cited above, a scant amount of
this falsifying evidence has been collected. Since the
hypothesis that violent video games cause aggression
has not yet been falsified, despite significant testing,
and is better tested then the opposite hypothesis
(namely, that violent video games don!tcause
aggression), Popper would suggest that we should
prefer it as a basis for action.
The notion that vio-
lent video games cause aggression is not just a logical
possibility – it is a hypothesis that has been tested to
some extent. Although one has to move away from
Popper to reason inductively, it seems reasonable to
hazard, based on available evidence, that violent
video games may be risky.
Of course, arming Proposition #1a is not enough
to condemn virtual violence under the utilitarian
schema. One must also fulfill McCormick!s second
Proposition #2: Any argument against violent vi-
deo games on these grounds needs to show that the
risks outweigh the benefits.
Suppose that we make a similar modification to #2 as
we made to #1:
Proposition #2a: Any argument against violent
video games on these grounds needs to show that
there is a significant possibility that the risks out-
weigh the benefits.
Suppose that there was a proven causal connection
between simulated violent acts and actual acts of
violence. If this were the case, then violent video
games would impose a cost on society in the form of
increased violence. This costs of increased violence
would then be weighed against the benefits of video
games – namely the pleasure that players derive from
playing them. Although it is not certain that the costs
of ultra-violent video games would outweigh the
benefits, there is a significant possibility that they
would. Since it is possible that there is a causal con-
nection between simulated violent acts and actual
acts of violence, it is also a significant possibility that
the risks of ultra-violent video games outweigh the
benefits. Therefore, if we accept Proposition #2a, we
acquire a utilitarian ground on which to question the
value of violent video games.
Craig A. Anderson and Brad J. Bushman. Eects of Violent
Video Games on Aggressive Behavior, Aggressive Cognition,
Aggressive Aect, Physiological Arousal, and Prosocial Behavior:
A Meta-Analytic Review of the Scientific Literature. Psychological
Science, 12(5): 353–359, 2001, p. 358.
Anderson and Bushman, p. 358.
Anderson and Bushman, p. 358.
John L. Sherry. The Eects of Violent Video Games on
Aggression. Human Communication Research, 27(3): 409–431,
2001, p. 424.
Karen E. Dill and Jody C. Dill. Video Game Violence: A
Review of the Empirical Literature. Aggression and Violent
Behavior, 3(4): 407–428, 1998, p. 420.
Mark Griths, Violent Video Games and Aggression: A
Review of the Literature. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 4(2):
203–210, 1999, p. 211.
Karl Popper. The Problem of Induction. In David Miller,
editor, Popper Selections, pp. 101–117. Princeton University Press,
Princeton, 1985.
Popper, p. 114.
At this point, some readers might allege that, by
modifying McCormick!s grounds, I have put forward
a strange version of utilitarianism that involves
chances of costs and chances of benefits instead of
simple costs and benefits. However, this version of
utilitarianism is not so strange – my proposed cal-
culations are very similar to the expected value cal-
culations that economists might make. Consider the
following case, which involves an expected value
You are entered in a lottery. You have a 10%
chance of winning $1000, and a 90% of losing
Expected value ¼ ð10%#$1000 þ90%# ð%$200ÞÞ
Expected value ¼ ð$100 %$180Þ ¼ %$80
In this lottery, which involves a chance of costs and
achance of benefits, the expected value is )$80. Thus,
unless one is a desperate gambler, this is probably not
a good lottery to enter.
However, unlike the lottery example above, three
of the four values in the equation for the expected
value of violent video games are uncertain: the value
of the costs and benefits of violent video games, as
well as the % change of costs. Since people
undoubtedly gain pleasure from playing video games,
one can say that the % chance of benefits is 100%.
Expected value of violent video games
¼ ½ð%chance of benefitsð100%Þ
#benefits per individualÞ
% ð%chance of costs #costs per individualÞ(
Since it contains three uncertain variables, the
outcome of such an expected value calculation is
uncertain. If the costs are low or non-existent, it
might be favorable for society. If the costs are so high
as to exceed the benefits, it might have to be assessed
as unfavorable, and therefore wrong. Thus, after
thinking through this expected value calculation, a
utilitarian might err on the side of caution by sus-
pending judgment about violent video games until
more information about the costs of these games was
available. After all, although it may not be wrong to
engage in something that is only potentially wrong, it
could plausibly be deemed imprudent.
Kantian considerations
When analyzing violent video games according to a
Kantian ethical framework, it is appropriate to begin
with Kant!s categorical imperative. McCormick
quotes two dierent formulations of the categorical
1. Act only in accordance with that maxim through
which you can at the same time will that it be-
come a universal law.
2. So act that you use humanity, whether in your
own person or in the person of any other, always
at the same time as an end, never merely as a
As McCormick points out, casual violence against
other human beings obviously violates the first
statement of the categorical imperative.
when one plays a violent video game, one is not
doing violence against other humans in any direct
sense. When one plays a violent video game, one
attacks either another human player!s character, or
some character generated by the game itself (e.g., a
monster, a bad human). Thus, it seems as though
violent video games do not violate the categorical
However, it is also important to consider the
possibility that, when playing a violent video game,
one uses oneself as a mere means. In the second
formulation quoted above, Kant suggests that we
must never use ourselves as mere means. In The
Metaphysics of Morals, Kant elaborates further on
our duties to ourselves. According to Kant, we have
duties to ourselves as animals and as moral beings.
Kant writes of the vices contrary to the duties to
These [vices] adopt principles that are directly
contrary to his character as a moral being, that is,
to inner freedom, the innate dignity of a human
being, which is tantamount to saying that they
make it one!s basic principle to have no basic
principle and hence no character, that is, to throw
oneself away and make oneself an object of
Kant specifies lying, avarice, and false humility as
examples of vices that are contrary to our duties to
ourselves. However, any vice that is harmful to a
person!s character as a moral being would probably
suce. Thus, if a person acts cruelly when playing an
ultra-violent video game, then this would constitute a
Immanuel Kant
. Mary Gregor, translator. Groundwork of
the Metaphysics of Morals. In Mary Gregor, editor, Practical
Philosophy, pp. 37–108. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge,
1996, p. 73.
, p. 80.
McCormick, p. 282.
Immanuel Kant
. Mary Gregor, translator. The Metaphysics
of Morals. In Mary Gregor, editor, Practical Philosophy, pp. 353–
604. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1996, p. 545.
violation of that person!s duty to his/herself. Of
course, one could argue that it was not possible for
the act to be cruel, since it was directed at a simula-
tion, not a ‘‘real person.’’ If one accepts this argu-
one must look for other grounds on which to
question violent video games. This brings us to
Kant!s remarks on our duties to animals, to which
McCormick rightly draws our attention.
In Lectures on Ethics, Kant comments, ‘‘Since
animals are an analogue of humanity, we observe
duties to mankind when we observe them as ana-
logues to this, and thus cultivate our duties to
Not surprisingly, Kant thought that
our treatment of animals would have eects on our
treatment of humans. In this regard, he tells a lovely
anecdote about Leibniz:
Leibniz put the grub he had been observing back
on the tree with its leaf, lest he should be guilty of
doing any harm to it. It upsets a man to destroy
such a creature for no reason, and this tenderness is
subsequently transferred to man.
Kant notes that the opposite eect is possible – he
alleges that in England, butchers and surgeons
not allowed to serve on juries, because they are
‘‘inured to death.’’
If animals can be said to be an analogue of
humanity, perhaps video-game characters are as well.
After all, video-game characters are often represen-
tations of humans. If it is wrong to gouge out the eyes
of a cat because it inures us to cruelty (one among
many reasons why cruelty to animals is wrong), then
perhaps it is wrong to gouge out the eyes of a video-
game character for the same reason. McCormick,
however, takes a dim view of this sort of reasoning.
He remarks:
Whether or not such behavior makes one more
likely to violate one!s duties to others is one of the
few clearly empirical matters in Kant!s ethics and
could be settled with a careful study of what game
players and non-game players are prone to do.
My reasoning in the utilitarianism section applies
here as well: if we don!t understand the link between
violent video games and actual violence, perhaps it is
more prudent to err on the side of caution.
McCormick then gives the following analysis of
And even if it turns out that Kant is right and
engaging in some activities makes it more likely
that we will violate our duties to others, it does not
follow that that activity is therefore wrong. Notice
that Kant does not argue that no one should be a
butcher or a surgeon, even though it has a detri-
mental eect on the performance of their moral
I disagree with McCormick!s remarks here. The rea-
son that Kant tolerates butchers and surgeons is
because we need them – butchers and surgeons play
important roles within society. Kant notes that doc-
tors sometimes perform cruel experiments on animals
in the interest of medical research and he deems this
cruelty acceptable, because ‘‘it is employed for a good
However, Kant deems cruelty to animals,
for the sake of sport, to be unacceptable. The playing
of violent video games is far more analogous to
cruelty for sport than it is to medical research. One
could easily imagine a good society that did not
include violent video games, whereas the same cannot
be easily said of medical research.
To summarize: in this section, two Kantian
grounds for questioning video games have been
located. First, if playing violent video games involve
acts of cruelty, those acts violate our duties to our-
selves. Second, video game characters, like animals,
may be analogues of humanity. If we do not treat
human analogues with respect, it may make us less
likely to perform our duties toward other human
Simulation unease
According to the analysis above, violent video games
raise troubling questions under both utilitarian and
Kantian ethical frameworks. Thus, we have located
two potential justifications for our collective unease
about ultra-violent video games. However, just
because one can justify deeming something wrong or
imprudent doesn!t mean that one has located the
source of why it makes one feel uneasy. Consider the
case of animal abuse: we might say, ‘‘We should not
abuse animals because the abuse has bad eects on
the perpetrators.’’ Although this statement justifies
our deeming animal abuse wrong, it does not really
I don!t accept this argument. Although a virtual act of cruelty
is not necessarily a cruel act, I think that it is possible to commit a
virtual act of cruelty with cruel intentions. Insofar as this is the
case, a virtual act of cruelty is a cruel act.
Immanuel Kant
. Peter Heath, translator. Peter Heath and
J.B. Schneewind, editors, Lectures on Ethics. Cambridge University
Press, Cambridge, 1997, p. 212.
, pp. 212–213.
Surgeons are included with butchers here because surgeons
performed experiments on animals.
, p. 213.
McCormick, pp. 283–284.
McCormick, p. 284.
, p. 213.
locate the source of our unease about animal
Likewise, although the above applications
of utilitarian and Kantian ethical frameworks may
justify deeming ultra-violent video games wrong,
these analyses may not have located the real source
of our unease about these games.
In Book II of Plato!sRepublic, Adeimantus
advances a disturbing argument:
But they tell me that an unjust person, who has
secured for himself a reputation for justice, lives
the life of a god. Since, then, "opinion forcibly
overcomes truth!and "controls happiness,!as the
wise men say, I must surely turn entirely to it. I
should create a fac¸ ade of illusory virtue around me
to deceive those who come near, but keep behind it
the greedy and crafty fox of the wise Archilochus.
Adeimantus challenges Socrates to prove that virtue
is a good that should be valued for itself, rather than
merely for its reputational eects. Much of the rest of
the book is dedicated to the argument that justice is
to be valued for its own sake.
The problem which Plato has identified is that it
is hard to tell the dierence between a truly vir-
tuous individual and a good simulator of virtue.
For example, it is possible that Mother Teresa
wasn!t a virtuous person after all – perhaps she
was merely a simulator of virtue. Indeed, the sus-
picion that our models of virtue may not be vir-
tuous pervades our society; the press takes great
delight whenever a supposed pillar of the commu-
nity is toppled.
What is it that disturbs us so much about simu-
lated virtue? Certainly, one thing that disturbs us is
the fact that the perpetrators of this fraud are getting
away with it. The rewards of simulated virtue are
tremendous, and the postulated punishments are
possibly non-existent. Granted, it is comforting to
maintain that (a) non-virtuous people are unhappy,
or (b) that these people will burn in hell in the next
world. However, there is distressing lack of evidence
in support of either (a) or (b).
Ultimately, though, what may really drive us to
despair is the fact that there is no way to tell the
dierence between real and simulated virtue in oth-
ers. This is analogous to not being able to tell the
dierence between gold and dirt. Why bother col-
lecting gold or valuing gold when you can!t tell it
apart from dirt? If you can!t tell the dierence
between gold and dirt, then there is only one thing
that can happen to gold: it must be devalued – it
becomes as worthless as dirt. Likewise, when one
cannot tell the dierence between virtue and sim-
ulated virtue, then virtue, as a moral value, gets
In ‘‘The Precession of Simulacra,’’ Baudrillard
asserts that a fake holdup may arouse more outrage
than a real holdup.
Of course, it is understandable
why a fake holdup should provoke outrage; it wastes
the time of the police. However, suggests Baudrillard,
a fake holdup may well generate more outrage than a
real holdup.
This surplus of outrage does not seem
justified merely by the novelty of the fake holdup –
after all, in a fake holdup, no one is in any real danger
except the perpetrators of the act. By contrast, in a
real holdup, there is an intention to steal property
and a significant possibility that non-perpetrators will
be injured. Baudrillard attempts to explain the roots
of this surplus outrage – he notes that the real holdup
‘‘does nothing but disturb the order of things, the
right to property, whereas the [simulated holdup]
attacks the reality principle itself.’’
Simulated crime
blurs the dierence between crime and non-crime.
When one cannot distinguish between crime and
simulated crime, the idea of crime must be devalued.
The possibility of such devaluation threatens the
basis of the law itself, and Baudrillard seems to think
that it is this threat that fuels the outrage over the
fake holdup.
Unfortunately, Baudrillard!s example here is not
entirely convincing. Novelty seems sucient to
explain the amount of excess attention given a fake
holdup. People are much more interested in stories
I suspect that our source of unease in this case is the suering
of the animals.
Plato. G.M.A. Grube, translator. Republic. In John Cooper,
editor, Plato: Complete Works, pp. 971–1223. Hackett, Indianapolis,
1997, 365b.
Jean Baudrillard. Sheila Faria Glaser, translator. The
Precession of Simulacra. In Simulacra and Simulation, pp. 159–162.
University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, 1994, p. 20.
It is, of course, an empirical question whether a fake holdup
does, in fact, generate surplus outrage. In the case of a recent fake
robbery staged by art students in Rhode Island (‘‘Students filming
fake robbery confronted by police’’), the event generated a 908-
word news story. On the same day, in the same paper, a story about
a carjacking (‘‘City man changed in Tiverton carjacking’’’’) re-
ceived less prominent placement in the paper, and only 222 words
of coverage. Source: The Providence Journal, March 24, 2005. An
incident in Newcastle, England (‘‘Armed Shop Raid was a Sick
Prank’’) received 253 words of coverage from the local paper,
while, on the same day, an actual robbery at a post oce (‘‘Rob-
bery Terror’’) received only 65 words. ‘‘Robbery Terror,’’ however,
received more prominent placement in the paper. Source: The
Evening Chronicle [Newcastle], March 11, 2005. In these two
examples, fake robberies inspired at least as much interest as more
serious crimes committed on the same day. This is not sucient
evidence to support Baudrillard!s statement that fake crimes gen-
erate surplus outrage, but it does not refute Baudrillard!s claims
Baudrillard, p. 20.
about novel occurrences (e.g., staging a fake robbery)
than they are in stories about everyday events (e.g., a
robbery). However, the fact that the example is
problematic does not imply that the concern about
devaluation is invalid.
Consider what happens when a similar line of
reasoning about devaluation is applied to violent
video games. Suppose that the protagonist in a vio-
lent video game slashes a computer-generated char-
acter to death with a machete. If a murder is
committed in the real world, the individual is thrown
in jail. However, when one commits a violent act
within a computer game, the conventional wisdom is
that there is nothing wrong with it. Of course, as the
preceding account has suggested, the conventional
wisdom may incorrect. Nevertheless, the fact remains
that an act, which is uncomfortably similar to acts
which we would normally think of as wrong, is per-
mitted within the context of a computer game. As
video games increase in verisimilitude, and continue
to up the ante in terms of violence, it will become
increasingly dicult to dierentiate between real
transgressions (which everyone knows are wrong)
and simulated transgressions (which everyone knows
are OK). If one cannot dierentiate between real
transgressions and simulated transgressions, then one
has to devalue the idea of wrongness.
Essentially, I am arguing that wrongness can be
devalued in the same way that money can. If a large
supply of counterfeit money, which could not be
distinguished from real money, were to enter the
money supply, money would become less valuable.
Likewise, if simulated acts were possible that look
wrong, seem wrong, and thus cannot easily be dis-
tinguished from real wrong acts, wrongness becomes
less useful as a moral value. In other words, it
becomes devalued.
Several objections could be advanced against this
line of thinking. First, one could object that wrong-
ness and money are not analogous. There are clearly
tremendous dierences between people!s everyday
interactions with money and their interactions with
wrongness. However, money and wrongness are
analogous in one very important way: both wrong-
ness and money can be thought of as measuring
sticks. Money is a measure of exchange value, while
wrongness is a measure of moral value. Just as
counterfeit currency may erode the value of money as
a measure, so too may simulated wrong acts erode
the value of wrongness as a measure.
Another diculty is that this analogy seems to rely
on an event that hasn!t happened yet: the arising of a
close similarity between the real world and the sim-
ulated worlds within video games. It is hard to tell the
dierence between counterfeit money and real
money, but it is easy to dierentiate simulated wrong
acts from their real counterparts. Perhaps, then, the
devaluation concern means that we should be worried
about the ultra-realistic video games of the future,
but not the crude games of today.
The ultra-realistic games of the future are cer-
tainly more worrisome from a devaluation perspec-
tive, but contemporary games cannot be let othe
hook. When I played Manhunt in the course of my
research for this essay, I realized, intellectually, that I
was in a simulation, but the simulation felt uncom-
fortably real to me while I was playing it. Of course,
I also realized that my virtual acts were not the same
as real transgressions, but the acts certainly felt
transgressive to me while I was committing them.
The way in which even crude virtual worlds can feel
real to people has been examined by Sherry Turkle in
Life on the Screen. Turkle notes that some computer
users are reluctant to grant priority to the real lives
as opposed to their virtual lives in online role-playing
games. One of her subjects comments, ‘‘Real life is
just one more window ... and it!s not usually my best
Another player says of his virtual environ-
ment, ‘‘It!s where I live ... more than I do in my
dingy dorm room. There!s no place like home.’’
the virtual worlds of today!s ultra-violent video
games can feel like real worlds for gamers, then there
is reason to believe that a devaluation of wrongness
may be occurring.
A final diculty with this money/wrongness
devaluation analogy is that it is dicult to provide
empirical evidence in favor of it. In the case of
money, devaluation has happened before and is an
easy phenomenon to identify; money no longer buys
what it once did, or it stops functioning com-
The devaluation of wrongness would be
much harder to spot. As I asserted above, I would
predict that wrongness, like money, would become
less useful as a moral value as it became devalued.
However, unlike monetary devaluation, which,
when problematic, occurs rapidly, the devaluation
of wrongness is something that would probably
sneak up on us slowly. One can assert that video
games are devaluing wrongness, and one can pro-
vide a conceptual argument in favor of this
hypothesis (the money/wrongness analogy), but one
cannot look at the world and say, ‘‘Look, here is
Sherry Turkle. Life on the Screen. Simon and Schuster, NY,
1995, p. 13.
Turkle, p. 21.
For example, in 1923, one trillion German marks were worth
one dollar. The mark had, eectively, ceased functioning as cur-
rency. See George W. Goodman. Paper Money, Summit Books,
NY, 1981, p. 57.
definite evidence that video games are eroding the
idea of wrongness.’’
Clearly, several powerful objections can be raised
against the devaluation hypothesis. Yet, this
hypothesis does raise a novel possibility in the quest
to locate the wrongness in violent video games. Vio-
lent video games may be wrong because they threaten
to devalue (or may be already devaluing) the very
idea of wrongness. Perhaps it is this fact – that
wrongness itself is threatened – that explains the
unease people have about ultra-violent video games.
It is easy to find grounds on which to object to this
suggestion, however. When politicians speak against
violent video games, one doesn!t often hear, ‘‘We
must stop our children from playing violent video
games because these games threaten the very idea of
wrongness.’’ The idea that wrongness itself is threa-
tened is subtle; it is hard to understand it and to
communicate it to others. If so few people understand
the idea that wrongness itself is in danger, how can it
be that this is the root of our unease?
One does not have to possess full understanding of
a situation in order to appreciate the fact that
something dangerous is happening. Imagine that you
are a member of a herd of cattle, and your herd-
mates, Bessie and Flossie, have been hauled away in a
truck. Due to your extremely limited intellect, you
can!t formulate the proposition, ‘‘Bessie and Flossie
have been hauled away in a truck.’’ Still, you
understand that there has been some kind of a dis-
appearance, and you feel a sense of unease in your
bovine heart.
It is possible that the human herd, of which we are
all members, experiences an analogous phenomenon.
If the idea of wrongness is gradually disappearing, we
may notice that something important is disappearing,
even if, like cattle, we are too dumb to pinpoint the
exact nature of the disappearance. When we feel
uneasy and uncertain about how to discuss the
wrongness of violent video games, our unease may
stem from the slow, inexorable erosion of the idea of
wrongness itself.
On the other hand, however, our moral intuition
about ultra-violent video games may have innumer-
able other possible sources. Perhaps our fears stem
from the as-yet-uncertain negative eects that video
games may have on the individuals who play them.
Our fear might also stem simply from an innate
conservatism – video games are, after all, a relatively
new phenomenon, and society is sometimes fearful of
the new. Ultimately, the unease about violent video
games is too vague and unarticulated for us to pin-
point its source. Still, the possibility that our unease is
prompted by the devaluation of wrongness is an
intriguing and worrisome one.
This analysis has indicated that there are good utili-
tarian and Kantian reasons to be concerned about
ultra-violent video games. In addition, as I indicated
in the final section on simulation unease, there may
also be reasons to believe that violent video games are
undermining the idea of wrongness.
In ‘‘On Nihilism,’’ Baudrillard remarks, ‘‘If it is
nihilistic to be obsessed by the mode of disappearance
and no longer by the mode of production, then I am a
Ultra-violent video games are a phenom-
enon that may presage the beginning of a grand dis-
appearance. Perhaps each time someone wields the
virtual knife, spattering bright red into the fading
black pixels of the monitor, perhaps as the screams of
the most recent silicon victims echo from the speakers
of the computer, another event – less noticeable, but
more dangerous – is taking place. Perhaps, each time
someone plays an ultra-violent video game, the idea
of wrongness slips a little further into the mist.
Jean Baudrillard. Sheila Faria-Glaser, translator. On Nihil-
ism. In Simulacra and Simulation, pp. 159–162. University of
Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, 1994, p. 162.
... The consequentialist states that consequences of virtual child molestation are more harmful than consequences of virtual murder. In its more convincing version, the argument emphasizes the role of habituation effects that could result in the brutalization of gamers (McCormick, 2001;Waddington, 2007), rather than claiming that virtual crimes encourage the commission of real crimes and turn players into murderers or abusers. This line of thought has recently been reinforced by C. Thi Nguyen's considerations on the phenomenon of "value capture" (2000,200). ...
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The Gamer’s Dilemma consists of three intuitively plausible but conflicting assertions: (i) Virtual murder is morally permissible. (ii) Virtual child molestation is morally forbidden. (iii) There is no relevant moral difference between virtual murder and virtual child molestation in computer games. Numerous attempts to resolve (or dissolve) the Gamer’s Dilemma line the field of computer game ethics. Mostly, the phenomenon is approached using expressivist argumentation: Reprehensible virtual actions express something immoral in their performance but are not immoral by themselves. Consequentialists, on the other hand, claim that the immorality of virtual actions arises from their harmful consequences. I argue that both approaches have serious difficulties meeting the moral challenge posed by the Gamer’s Dilemma. They tend to confuse the morality of in-game actions either with the morality of their real-world counterparts or with the morality of games as objects. Following this critical analysis, I will develop a Kantian argument and defend it against two objections. So far, deontological responses to the Gamer’s Dilemma have been sought in vain. Yet, with Kant, its moral challenge can be met by looking at the gamer’s reasons. From this perspective, the Gamer’s Dilemma is based on a false assumption: the moral status of gaming acts does not derive from a normative equation with their real-world counterparts but only from their justifications.
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The field of videogame ethics has already achieved a differentiated view on many ethical questions in regards to videogames, their players and the industry. However, most of these approaches have neglected the benefits of a less abstract, more pragmatic view on videogame ethics. Thus, in this paper, I will introduce the concept of moral complexity to formulate a device that allows a pragmatic identification, categorisation, discussion, and design of moral content in videogames. Moral complexity is defined as (or by) the degree to which a game offers alternatives and/or commentary to violence and deceit to players and is exclusively referring to how the issue of morality is implemented in past and contemporary game design. It is a reductionist approach, which treats morality as a game design element and shall help to understand the experience of morality in a closed player/ game circuit. To introduce and explain the notion of moral complexity, this paper will begin with a brief overview of fundamental developments and perspectives in the field of videogame ethics. Further, moral complexity is introduced based on a rendering of Kantian metaphysics into virtual space. Then, elements of Aristotle’s ethics, Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of flow and Habermas’ principles of communicative action are defined to articulate the phenomenological aspect of experiencing moral complexity ingame. Based on these theoretical building blocks, a comprehensive definition of moral complexity is presented. To illustrate this construct, cases of videogames (Grand Theft Auto V, Spec Ops: The Line and Detroit: Become Human) are introduced to exemplify different degrees and manifestations of moral complexity in contemporary game design. Moreover, a discussion on issues shall forward a differentiated picture of the concept. In the end, a conclusion presents prospects and chances for the notion of moral complexity.
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Since the introduction of commercial video games in the 1970s, video game players have attracted the perhaps undeserving but negative stereotype of being unpopular and socially dysfunctional. However, with gamers increasing in numbers that now reach billions worldwide, the contents of gamer stereotypes may be in flux. The current study investigated the content of gamer stereotypes along the dimensions of physical/social attractiveness, warmth, competence, and morality as a function of genre violence level and gamer identity. Male and female participants (656 U.S. and 428 Indian) completed an online survey on the MTurk platform, rating social stereotypes of gamers in high‐violence and low‐violence genres on 22 adjective pairs and answering questions about gamer identity. Results revealed positive gamer stereotypes, especially in the low‐violence genres in both the United States and India. Low‐identifiers' stereotypes were less favourable in the high‐violence than in the low‐violence genres; this tendency diminished among high‐identifiers. This study suggests that, whereas once gamers were seen negatively, they are now seen remarkably positively. The implications of such positive views of those engaging in violent gaming are discussed.
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Dijital teknolojinin ipleri eğlence dünyasının tasarımı olan oyuna konumlandırılmıştır. Dijitalleşen oyunun hızla artan payı inovasyonun ticari değere dönüşümünü elverişli kılmıştır. Bu bölümde dijital oyun ekonomisi mercek altına alınarak pazarının büyüklüğü ve ihracat potansiyeli performans ve rekabet perspektifinden değerlendirilmiştir. Dijital oyun pazarının kısaca gelişimi incelenmiştir. Dijital oyunların değer zinciri değerlendirilirken Porter yaklaşımı ile bağ kurulmuştur. Küresel ticarette dijital oyun pazarı uluslararası işletmeler, sanal pazarlar çerçevesinde değerlendirilmiştir. Dijital oyun pazarına ilişkin uluslararasılaşma sürecinin getirdiği ticari başarı ve ihracat potansiyeli vurgulanmıştır. Link:
Video game content has evolved over the last six decades, from a basic focus on challenge and competition to include more serious and introspective narratives capable of encouraging critical contemplation within gamers. The “No Russian” mission from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 casts players as terrorists responsible for the murder of innocent bystanders, sparking debate around how players engage and react to wanton violence in modern video games. Through thematic analysis of 649 Reddit posts discussing the mission, 10 themes emerged representing complexity in player experiences. Those themes were grouped into categories representing (descending order), (1) rote gameplay experiences, (2) dark humor, (3) comparing the mission to other games and real-world events, and (4) self-reflective eudaimonic reactions to the mission. Although less common, the presence of eudaimonic media effects (in at least 15% of posts) holds promise for the use of video games as reflective spaces for violence prevention.
This study is primarily concerned with computer gaming as a form of activity rather than computer games as objects. This is not to say that these two things are completely independent of each other. Of course, computer games are needed in order to play (them).
The detailed action- and fiction-theoretical analysis of computer game actions provides the conceptual tool for an ethics of computer gaming appropriate to the phenomenon: Virtual and fictional actions contour the subject area of the following virtue-ethical and moral-theoretical considerations. The clarity of the object of research should not obscure the fact that the present project still faces elementary difficulties. Indeed, an obvious conclusion from the preceding analysis seems to be that conventional moral theories are not readily applicable to computer game actions because ethics were conceived for ordinary actions without fictive content—and play, as we have seen, is distinguished precisely by its relation to fiction.
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Are acts of violence performed in virtual environments ever morally wrong, even when no other persons are affected? While some such acts surely reflect deficient moral character, I focus on the moral rightness or wrongness of acts. Typically it’s thought that, on Kant’s moral theory, an act of virtual violence is morally wrong (i.e., violates the Categorical Imperative) only if the act mistreats another person. But I argue that, on Kant’s moral theory, some acts of virtual violence can be morally wrong, even when no other persons or their avatars are affected. First, I explain why many have thought that, in general on Kant’s moral theory, virtual acts affecting no other persons or their avatars can’t violate the Categorical Imperative. For there are real world acts that clearly do, but it seems that when we consider the same sorts of acts done alone in a virtual environment, they don’t violate the Categorical Imperative, because no others persons were involved. But then, how could any virtual acts like these, that affect no other persons or their avatars, violate the Categorical Imperative? I then argue that there indeed can be such cases of morally wrong virtual acts—some due to an actor’s having erroneous beliefs about morally relevant facts, and others due not to error, but to the actor’s intention leaving out morally relevant facts while immersed in a virtual environment. I conclude by considering some implications of my arguments for both our present technological context as well as the future.
Computerspiele sind seit einigen Jahren ein stabiles Massenphänomen. Zirka 34 Millionen Personen in Deutschland spielen regelmäßig Computerspiele. Nach Alter differenziert spielen in jedem Alterssegment (10–19 Jahre, 20–29 Jahre, ...) zwischen 4,4 bis 5,1 Millionen Personen regelmäßig. Einzig im umfangreichen Alterssegment derjenigen von 50 Jahren und älter werden 8 Millionen regelmäßig Spielende gezählt. Statistiken gehen von einem Anteil von 47 % Frauen und 53 % Männern aus (vgl. Game 2018).
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The popularity of video games, especially violent video games, has reached phenomenal proportions. The theoretical line of reasoning that hypothesizes a causal relationship between violent video-game play and aggression draws on the very large literature on media violence effects. Additionally, there are theoretical reasons to believe that video game effects should be stronger than movie or television violence effects. This paper outlines what is known about the relationship between violent video-game playing and aggression. The available literature on virtual reality effects on aggression is discussed as well. The preponderance of the evidence from the existing literature suggests that exposure to video-game violence increases aggressive behavior and other aggression-related phenomena. However, the paucity of empirical data, coupled with a variety of methodological problems and inconsistencies in these data, clearly demonstrate the need for additional research.
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Research on exposure to television and movie violence suggests that playing violent video games will increase aggressive behavior. A metaanalytic review of the video-game research literature reveals that violent video games increase aggressive behavior in children and young adults. Experimental and nonexperimental studies with males and females in laboratory and field settings support this conclusion. Analyses also reveal that exposure to violent video games increases physiological arousal and aggression-related thoughts and feelings. Playing violent video games also decreases prosocial behavior.
Violent content video games such as Mortal Kombat and Doom have become very popular among children and adolescents, causing great concern for parents, teachers, and policy makers. This study cumulates findings across existing empirical research on the effects of violent video games to estimate overall effect size and discern important trends and moderating variables. Results suggest there is a smaller effect of violent video games on aggression than has been found with television violence on aggression. This effect is positively associated with type of game violence and negatively related to time spent playing the games. Directions for future programmatic research on video games are outlined.
Many people have a strong intuition that there is something morallyobjectionable about playing violent video games, particularly withincreases in the number of people who are playing them and the games'alleged contribution to some highly publicized crimes. In this paper,I use the framework of utilitarian, deontological, and virtue ethicaltheories to analyze the possibility that there might be some philosophicalfoundation for these intuitions. I raise the broader question of whetheror not participating in authentic simulations of immoral acts in generalis wrong. I argue that neither the utilitarian, nor the Kantian hassubstantial objections to violent game playing, although they offersome important insights into playing games in general and what it ismorally to be a ``good sport.'' The Aristotelian, however, has a plausibleand intuitive way to protest participation in authentic simulations ofviolent acts in terms of character: engaging in simulated immoral actserodes one's character and makes it more difficult for one to live afulfilled eudaimonic life.
One of the main concerns that has constantly been raised against video games is that most of the games feature aggressive elements. This has led many people to assert that this may have a detrimental effect on individuals who play such games. Despite continuing controversy for over 15 years, there has been little in the way of systematic research. This article reviews the empirical studies in this area, including research methodologies such as the observation of free play, self-report methods, and experimental studies. The article argues that all the published studies on video game violence have methodological problems and that they only include possible short-term measures of aggressive consequences. The one consistent finding is that the majority of the studies on very young children—as opposed to those in their teens upwards—tend to show that children do become more aggressive after either playing or watching a violent video game. However, all of these come from the use of one particular research methodology (i.e., observation of children’s free play).
Manhunt (PS2) Gamespy
  • Bryn Williams
The NPD Group Reports Annual 2004 U.S. Video Game Industry Retail Sales. NPD Funworld
  • Npd Group
The Problem of Induction
  • Karl Popper
Sheila Faria-Glaser, translator. On Nihilism
  • Jean Baudrillard
Sheila Faria Glaser, translator. The Precession of Simulacra
  • Jean Baudrillard