Resisting the Gamer’s Dilemma

Ethics and Information Technology 24 (3):1-13 (2022)
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Intuitively, many people seem to hold that engaging in acts of virtual murder in videogames is morally permissible, whereas engaging in acts of virtual child molestation is morally impermissible. The Gamer’s Dilemma (Luck in Ethics Inf Technol 11:31–36, 2009) challenges these intuitions by arguing that it is unclear whether there is a morally relevant difference between these two types of virtual actions. There are two main responses in the literature to this dilemma. First, attempts to resolve the dilemma by defending an account of the relevant moral differences between virtual murder and virtual child molestation. Second, attempts to dissolve the dilemma by undermining the intuitions that ground it. In this paper, we argue that a narrow version of the Gamer’s Dilemma seems to survive attempts to resolve or dissolve it away entirely, since neither approach seems to be able to solve the dilemma for all cases. We thus provide a contextually sensitive version of the dilemma that more accurately tracks onto the intuitions of gamers. However, we also argue that the intuitions that ground the narrow version of the Dilemma may not have a moral foundation, and we put forward alternative non-moral normative foundations that seem to better account for the remaining intuitive difference between the two types of virtual actions. We also respond to proposed solutions to the Gamer’s Dilemma in novel ways and set out areas for future empirical work in this area.

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Author Profiles

Paul Formosa
Macquarie University
Thomas Montefiore
Macquarie University