Ethics and Information Technology

, Volume 13, Issue 4, pp 303–312 | Cite as

The incorrigible social meaning of video game imagery

  • Stephanie PatridgeEmail author


In this paper, I consider a particular amoralist challenge against those who would morally criticize our single-player video play, viz., “come on, it’s only a game!” The amoralist challenge with which I engage gains strength from two facts: the activities to which the amoralist lays claim are only those that do not involve interactions with other rational or sentient creatures, and the amoralist concedes that there may be extrinsic, consequentialist considerations that support legitimate moral criticisms. I argue that the amoralist is mistaken and that there are non-consequentialist resources for morally evaluating our single-player game play. On my view, some video games contain details that anyone who has a proper understanding of and is properly sensitive to features of a shared moral reality will see as having an incorrigible social meaning that targets groups of individuals, e.g., women and minorities. I offer arguments to support the claim that there are such incorrigible social meanings and that they constrain the imaginative world so that challenges like “it’s only a game” lose their credibility. I also argue that our responses to such meanings bear on evaluations of our character, and in light of this fact video game designers have a duty to understand and work against the meanings of such imagery.


Ethics Video games Applied ethics Race Gender Aesthetics Virtual pedophilia 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyOtterbein UniversityWestervilleUSA

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