The Scars Of Virtual Torture

Highlighting the inclusion of torture-as-gameplay in Grand Theft Auto V (seen above), Simon Parkin remarks on the inclusion of evil in video games:

[A] game creator does have a moral obligation to the player, who, having been asked to make choices, can be uniquely degraded by the experience. The game creator’s responsibility to the player is to, in Kurt Vonnegut’s phrase, not waste his or her time. But it is also, when it comes to solemn screen violence, to add meaning to its inclusion.

Questions about video-game violence will gain urgency. The video-game medium curves toward realism or, as the novelist Nicholson Baker put it in the magazine, a “visual glory hallelujah.” As the fidelity of our virtual worlds moves ever closer to that of our own, the moral duty of game makers arguably intensifies in kind. The guns in combat games are now brand-name weapons, the conflicts in them are often based on real wars, and each hair on a virtual soldier’s head has been numbered by some wearied 3-D modeller. The go-to argument that video games are analogous to innocuous playground games of cops-and-robbers grows weaker as verisimilitude increases.

Dreher responds:

Even if they never act on it in real life, engaging the emotions in hyperrealistic acts of evil — acting out rape and torture fantasies, for example — degrades the moral sense. I think it’s worthwhile to contemplate violence, evil, and its complexities, but there’s something about entering a video game in which you indulge these things at an extremely realistic level that strikes me as inhuman and even dangerous.