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Simulated Violence

There's a game called "Hatred" set to be released this June. Its goal is simple - kill as many people as possible:

This game has stirred quite the controversy and is now being called a "mass murder simulator" by the media. People who discuss the moral aspects of this game often bring up another game - Grand Theft Auto - and usually ends in the defense of GTA by citing that while the same scenario of mass-murdering civilians can be done in a GTA game, it isn't necessary for the game to progress.

I understand the difference between simulation and reality, but this whole controversy has bothered me. Considering games have come a long way from being nothing more than large blocks of moving pixels on screen a few decades ago to becoming highly-defined immersive experiences that could almost mirror reality, I had to come on here and ask this question:

Is indulging in and enjoying simulated violence / mass murder, rape, pedophilia, etc. immoral?


(it's been awhile)
That's why we have games, so that we can do things that we never could do in real life.
My answer is it depends, but in this case, almost certainly yes.

The mere intention of wanting to cause harm and suffering is immoral, whether that intention is directed at an actual living person or not. The standard apologetic for violence in games is that the targets are all imaginary. But the target is irrelevant to morality. The intention is the only thing that matters.

The other apologetic is that the harm is imaginary. But that's missing the point. The harm you can accomplish may be zero (because the targets don't exist)... but the harm you want to accomplish is not. If you're playing a game that lets you torture characters, while you're playing you are intentionally causing as much harm to those characters as you can. (And yes, the characters are not real, but as explained above, the target is irrelevant.)

Imagine a person who is completely paralysed. That person spends all of their time fantasizing about torturing and murdering everyone ze lays eyes on. Now obviously no one is going to be hurt - the person is incapable of carrying out zes fantasies, so they're just fantasies. They're just fantasies, but wouldn't you agree that person is immoral? (Or rather fantasizing that way is immoral.)

The whole point of that game seems to be to induce the player to create realistic victims in their mind, then degrade, torture, and murder them. There doesn't seem to be any other goal but to cause as much suffering as possible - and to encourage the player to imagine as much suffering as possible, and take pleasure in it. Seems pretty obviously immoral to me.

But of course, if you're not indulging in the fantasy, and not imagining the characters as people - that is, you're recognizing that they're just simulated puppets incapable of suffering - then there's no problem with morality. If you're just playing the game dispassionately, observing the physics and the game mechanics and so on, then you're not really fantasizing about causing suffering.

But let's be realistic; that's not how the game is intended to be played, and that's not how most people will likely play it. Most people who play the game will get "in" to the game, allow the fantasy to become real in their head, and indulge... which is immoral.
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