FANTASY MORALS

by EO

There is a distinct separation between the actions in a video game and one’s actions in the real world. As such, killing a person in a video game, no matter how graphic or disturbing the actual scene may be, there still is a conscious knowledge that one is only ‘killing’ pixels. One is aware of the fact that what is occurring on the screen does not include forever silencing a life, a person. People know of the separation created by the television screen between our world and the world on the screen. Indeed, any repercussions are felt in the game but not in this world, much like a murder in the ‘real world’ will not incur a loss in a game; a murder in a game will not punish you outside of that game.

 

Leading to the final point, the limitations of game worlds. As it stands now, with the current technology, the worlds in video games are limited. This naturally has a series of critical implications upon video game morality. Because of this limitation in the environment, the morals are intrinsically limited as well. As video games are a limited system, which has no direct connections with the more complex system that is the ‘real world’, we cannot hope to effectively apply our morals of right and wrong onto them.

It has been outlined why real world morals cannot be effectively applied to video games, which by extension means that video game systems or worlds have their very own set of morals. This is where the problem with ‘real world’ morals comes into play. When one applies real world morals, created and moulded after the logic and functionality of our system, onto a much more limited system the outcome is not only irrational but a vicious circle of sorts. Such an application leads to a different understanding of the game world, after our own morals, breaking the wall separating both worlds.

 

At the end of the day this is not a new problem, but rather an old discussion clad in a new shroud. Violence in video games has arguably the same effects as violence in literature, or indeed, paintings yet, there are fewer public debates with regards to paintings or books portraying battles, murders or executions.

 

The notion that violence in video games breeds killers, murderers and psychopaths comes up often as games become more popular and realistic. It is an age-old argument that can be traced back to the very first forms of media; be that paintings, literature, or music – it has always been there and might always be. The ‘argument’, or rather issue, is that of morals and their application as a framework onto artistic media as a final moral judgement. Here the focus is on video games, for two main reasons. First, one can argue it is the most modern form of artistic media, and thus carries a newfound importance and impact upon society. The second reason is what makes games what they are: the users’ ability to affect and indeed make conscious decisions within the game. It lacks that static state and finality found within literature or paintings, or even music. It is this flexibility that makes the morality argument all the more interesting when applied to video games. Simultaneously, it is also the one characteristic that allows people to perceive the argument as all the more logical.

 

A parameter that affects the manner in which morals may or may not apply is that of logics, and how logic in the ‘real’ world differs from the logic on-screen. One can, accurately enough, assume that people don’t roll into a tree and expect a gold coin to fall out or to eat a flower and gain the ability to throw flowers or indeed, that when one is hurt one can either crouch behind cover, or drink some red fluid, and injuries will magically disappear. The point is that the logic in the ‘game world’ differs from the logic in the ‘real world’. This does not necessarily mean that the morals differ in relation to the logic. Example: consider Super Mario. No one feels regret for murdering a koopa; one might argue that Super Mario is a far cry from reality and that there are indeed are more realistic games, Grand Theft Auto being prime example. Nevertheless, the key question is whether beating a prostitute to death with a crowbar in a police bathroom equates to killing the koopa in Super Mario. Indeed, the action is a lot more graphic in GTA, but in essence, the action remains the same, and in both situations, one wouldn’t feel any more remorse for beating said prostitute to death, than they would killing the koopa.