Ethics and Information Technology 17 (4):285-293 (2015)

Christopher Bartel
Appalachian State University
Can a player be held morally responsible for the choices that she makes within a videogame? Do the moral choices that the player makes reflect in any way on the player’s actual moral sensibilities? Many videogames offer players the options to make numerous choices within the game, including moral choices. But the scope of these choices is quite limited. I attempt to analyze these issues by drawing on philosophical debates about the nature of free will. Many philosophers worry that, if our actions are predetermined, then we cannot be held morally responsible for them. However, Harry Frankfurt’s compatibilist account of free will suggests that an agent can be held morally responsible for actions that she wills, even if the agent is not free to act otherwise. Using Frankfurt’s analysis, I suggest that videogames represent deterministic worlds in which players lack the ability to freely choose what they do, and yet players can be held morally responsible for some of their actions, specifically those actions that the player wants to do. Finally, I offer some speculative comments on how these considerations might impact our understanding of the player’s moral psychology as it relates to the ethics of imagined fictional events.
Keywords Video Games  Free Will  Harry Frankfurt  Compatibilism
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s10676-015-9383-8
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 65,579
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person.Harry G. Frankfurt - 1971 - Journal of Philosophy 68 (1):5-20.
Is Incompatibilism Intuitive?Jason Turner, Eddy Nahmias, Stephen Morris & Thomas Nadelhoffer - 2006 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 73 (1):28-53.
The Puzzle of Imaginative Resistance.Tamar Szabo Gendler - 2000 - Journal of Philosophy 97 (2):55-81.

View all 22 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Value, Violence, and the Ethics of Gaming.Michael Goerger - 2017 - Ethics and Information Technology 19 (2):95-105.
The Amoralist Challenge to Gaming and the Gamer’s Moral Obligation.Sebastian Ostritsch - 2017 - Ethics and Information Technology 19 (2):117-128.
Free Will, the Self, and Video Game Actions.Andrew Kissel - 2020 - Ethics and Information Technology 23 (3):177-183.

View all 6 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Are Video Games Art?Aaron Smuts - 2005 - Contemporary Aesthetics 3.
Video Games and the Philosophy of Art.Aaron Smuts - 2005 - American Society for Aesthetics Newsletter.
Defending the Morality of Violent Video Games.Marcus Schulzke - 2010 - Ethics and Information Technology 12 (2):127-138.
Locating the Wrongness in Ultra-Violent Video Games.David I. Waddington - 2007 - Ethics and Information Technology 9 (2):121-128.


Added to PP index

Total views
197 ( #55,086 of 2,461,806 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
16 ( #47,681 of 2,461,806 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes