The effect of violent video games is among the most widely discussed topics in media studies, and for good reason. These games are immensely popular, but many seem morally objectionable. Critics attack them for a number of reasons ranging from their capacity to teach players weapons skills to their ability to directly cause violent actions. This essay shows that many of these criticisms are misguided. Theoretical and empirical arguments against violent video games often suffer from a number of significant shortcomings that make them ineffective. This essay argues that video games are defensible from the perspective of Kantian, Aristotelian, and utilitarian moral theories.
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A demarcation line would likewise be difficult because the standards of what is considered violent change over time. “Using today’s standards, “Pac-Man”, and other early videogames like “Space Invaders”, “Defender”, and “Asteroids” appear relatively non-threatening, however, in the early 1980s these games were characterized as violent.” Newman (2004) p. 66. Standards would have to be revisable and arbitrary, and these are not characteristics of deontological moral rules.
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Here “good” and “evil” only refer to the quality of the actions within the virtual world. Virtual murder is not evil, but it is in the context of the game, as judged by the other players or non-player characters. The good and evil actions in the game do not have any real moral meaning, but from an Aristotelian perspective they can still be meaningful forms of practice in cultivating a virtuous character.
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Schulzke, M. Defending the morality of violent video games. Ethics Inf Technol 12, 127–138 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10676-010-9222-x
- Computer game
- Video game
- Virtual world