Splintering the gamer’s dilemma: moral intuitions, motivational assumptions, and action prototypes

  • Jens Kjeldgaard-ChristiansenEmail author
Original Paper


The gamer’s dilemma (Luck in Ethics Inf Technol 11(1):31–36, 2009) asks whether any ethical features distinguish virtual pedophilia, which is generally considered impermissible, from virtual murder, which is generally considered permissible. If not, this equivalence seems to force one of two conclusions: either both virtual pedophilia and virtual murder are permissible, or both virtual pedophilia and virtual murder are impermissible. In this article, I attempt, first, to explain the psychological basis of the dilemma. I argue that the two different action types picked out by “virtual pedophilia” and “virtual murder” set very different expectations for their token instantiations that systematically bias judgments of permissibility. In particular, the proscription of virtual pedophilia rests on intuitions about immoral desire, sexual violations, and a schematization of a powerful adult offending against an innocent child. I go on to argue that these differences between virtual pedophilia and virtual murder may be ethically relevant. Precisely because virtual pedophilia is normally aversive in a way that virtual murder is not, we plausibly expect virtual pedophilia to invite abnormal and immorally desirous forms of engagement.


Gamer’s dilemma Virtual ethics Media ethics Virtual pedophilia Virtual violence 



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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EnglishAarhus UniversityAarhus CDenmark

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