Video Games & “Virtual” Sins
Chad Vance / Professor / William & Mary College - The Dilemma: We’ll start with two assumptions: Murder is morally wrong. Also, pedophilia (i.e., sexually molesting a child) is morally wrong.
In the real world, the verdict is the same: Both acts are wrong. Now imagine a VIDEO GAME where the gamer’s objectives involve molesting children. Very likely, you are morally opposed to such a game, and believe they should not be made or sold. If so, then consider the following argument:
1.Committing virtual pedophilia (e.g., in a video game) is morally wrong.
2.However, there are no morally relevant differences between committing a virtual act of pedophilia and committing a virtual act of murder.**
3.Therefore,committing virtual murder in a video game is also morally wrong.
[* Note: By ‘virtual murder it is meant an act of killing that would clearly be morally wrong were it committed in the real world. For instance, in Grand Theft Auto, players control criminal characters who drive around hitting and killing pedestrians. Contrast this with, say, those versions of Call of Duty where players control U.S. soldiers whom (we may presume) are killing enemy soldiers in a just war. Assume also that the person killed in the game stays dead—i.e., they do not “re-spawn”.]
[* Why morally equivalent? Well, in the real world, both actions are seriously morally wrong. And, in the virtual world, no one is actually harmed. You’re just manipulating pixels on a screen. Initially, there don’t seem to be any obvious moral differences.]
The conclusion here is that playing games like Grand Theft Auto is morally wrong! And yet, it is one of the best-selling game franchises of all time, with Grand Theft Auto V alone having sold over 100 million copies! (source) It seems that quite a few people must believe that committing virtual murder is morally permissible.