Does Virtual Morality Have An Effect On Us?
Updated April 11, 2019
One debate that is quite new and hasn't been touched on is the concept of virtual morality. In video games, online communities, and the internet in general, it can make you do actions that you would never do in flesh and blood. In this post, we will discuss virtual morality. Does it matter?
What Is Virtual Morality?
Virtual morality is essentially the moral choices we make in a virtual setting, such as a video game, an online community, or the Internet in general. The moral choices we make in these places tend to be much different in real life. There has been a debate as to whether the choices you make in a game or online say something about you, or if they're harmless fun.
Here are some examples.
Video Game Violence
In a video game, you may be shooting innocent people or running them over for fun. Perhaps the most overdone example, but one most will recognize, is Grand Theft Auto. In that game, you can go around and shoot innocent people for fun, kill cops, run people over, kill prostitutes, and so on. You can avoid killing the pedestrians and just play the story, which usually involves killing people who are out to kill you, but most are not going to play that game that way. Even if you try to avoid killing people in GTA, you are probably going to run over a few pedestrians as you try to escape from the cops.
As we'll discuss later, video game violence has been hotly debated. People wonder if being violent in a game can affect how you behave in the real world. Most can agree that playing a few minutes of GTA isn't going to make you run over everyone, but can it make you more aggressive?
The studies seem to be leaning towards that violent video games do not make you violent. Most sensible people seem to know the difference between real life and fictional violence. Some studies, such as one done by the APA, seem to link some aggression in people who play violent video games, but that all depends on the person. A person just may be frustrated at the game and could be more aggressive, and it can depend on one's age. A child may be more aggressive if they play GTA, but the games weren't meant for them, and it's up to the parents to decide if the child can handle such violent content.
As for what violent games say about you as a person, it's hard to say. People from all walks of life seem to play GTA, which is one of the hottest selling games of all time, and many of them may have different outlooks.
Moral Choices In Video Games
One popular type of game is a game where you can make certain moral decisions. Games that involve moral choices include games such as Mass Effect, Fable, Infamous, and many more. In these games, you can choose to be the hero, the anti-hero, the villain, or a neutral force.
Often, these games present moral decisions that can lead up to some debates, especially debates that may not happen otherwise. In the ending of Life is Strange, you can choose whether or not to save Chloe, your friend, and possible lover, or save an entire town from a storm. What is more important to you? The life of one person you know very well, or the lives of an entire town of people you don't know as well? If you had to make a choice, which one would you pick?
What choice you pick can say a lot about you. Someone who wants to be powerful in real life may pick the villain. Someone who is more empathetic may find it hard to harm people and want to pick the good route. There are some who will play the game multiple times and pick different routes to see what all the experiences are like.
In some games, there are consequences for your actions. In Persona 5, you can choose to date multiple women at a time. This may make you feel like you're some sexual dynamo, but at the end of the game, every woman finds out, and you end up losing it all. In other games, there may be no consequences for your actions. In Knights of the Old Republic, you can embrace the Dark Side and form your empire in the end.
Do the choices you make in the game say a lot about you? Someone can be completely loyal to their spouse but then want to play with different girls in a game. Does that reveal a hidden desire to cheat, or is it a person playing with the what-ifs of the world? It's hard to say, and as always, it could depend on the individual.
As some games become moral realistic, who knows what can happen? In a VR setting, when you're fully immersed in the game, will it be harder to make certain moral choices when the characters seem tangible? Will it be different than if the characters were just on your TV screen? These questions will be quite interesting to answer once we reach that level.
Trolling is another action in the virtual world some may take, and it's debatable as to what it says about you as a person. The definition of the word trolling has been muddied in these past few years, but the basic definition is that trolling is when you say something controversial on the Internet to get an emotional response out of someone.
What you say will depend on severity. Sometimes, you can troll someone by saying you dislike a show, and it causes people on the Internet to get mad at you. Other times, it can be something more severe, such as saying racist statements to get a rise out of people.
Is being a troll online an immoral action? Or is it just harmless fun? Or is it dependent on the situation? One may argue that trolling someone about their favorite show is just messing around with overly sensitive people. Others may argue that trolling can have some real-world consequences. You can hurt someone behind that computer screen, and this can be an immoral action.
The effects of trolling will depend on the person. Someone who is younger may be more sensitive to trolling, especially cyberbullying, which involves insulting, cyberstalking, and the harassment of a targeted person. There have been cases where a teenager may commit suicide because of the effects of cyberbullying. In this case, virtual morality does affect someone.
Of course, there is a difference between a game, where none of the people are real and trolling, where there are real people behind the computer screen. On the Internet, where the person you're talking to may not have a face, it's sometimes hard to distinguish the difference between the two. You may think the person behind the screen isn't who they say they are, or you may think that they can handle a joke. You really can't get to know the person, which is why trolling is so controversial.
With online trolling, the only thing we can say is to treat others the way you want to be treated. Sometimes, riling up people can seem fun, but you never know how it personally affects the one behind the computer screen.
Other Virtual Worlds
In online communities, you can live an entirely different identity altogether. Some people may create an avatar that is nothing like them. Their age, gender, or any other traits may be different than who they are. Is this a desire to become someone else? Is it just someone experimenting with another identity?
Morality in games and other virtual communities is quite intriguing. It's debatable as to whether or not the choices you make in a game or online say about you as a person. It could have something to say about your unconscious desires or your personality traits, or it could be you having fun. We ultimately believe that it's a case by case basis. With so many choices to make, it's interesting to see how many people make a choice. In some choice games when connected to an online server, it may tell how many people made a certain choice. Does it say something about our society as a whole?
Virtual morality is one thing, but your morality is another. If you're dealing with a moral crisis, there is no shame in seeking counseling. A counselor can help you make a choice you're most comfortable with and allow you to live a life that is productive and fruitful. A counselor can be the one who can be your moral compass when the choices get tough. They won't choose for you, but they can give you the information needed to make an informed decision.