• The dramatization, i.e. enactment, of killing
within a fictional context, e.g. in video
games, films and plays
– Playing the killer
– Witnessing a killing
• Why worry?
– If simulated killing is wrong, obviously it is not
for the same reasons that killing is wrong
– Is any representation morally ok, e.g. rape?
– What are the real effects of simulated killing?
PLAYING THE KILLER
• Could simulated killing lead to real harm,
e.g. an increased risk of killing, aggressive
behaviour, becoming less responsive to
distress, approval of violence?
– This is an empirical claim
– Evidence: yes, in the short term, though perhaps
only in boys or people with violent personalities
(Young, Ethics in the Virtual World)
– No, in the long term (perhaps, for some people)
• Any real harm must be weighed against
real pleasure of playing the game
• Common morality: simulated killing is
widely considered normal development
• But is it ‘childish’?
– So what?
– Lower pleasure?
• Playing the killer is no violation of
one’s duty, but damaging one’s
rational will is
– Could cruel fictional actions encourage
real cruelty? The evidence doesn’t support
– Could we fail to develop our moral
• We become just by doing just acts
– But why think that simulating unjust acts will
develop an unjust character
• Would a virtuous person engage in simulated
– What is the right way, the right motive, the right
– Should we take pleasure from simulated killing?
Can we enjoy such pleasures virtuously, e.g. is it
within a narrative structure or the point of the
Game and reality
• The ‘mean’ is relative to the individual
– Someone who cannot keep the game and
reality separate should not play
• Evidence again: perhaps someone who
can draw both a conceptual and
emotional distinction is not at risk of
real psychological effects
Acting the killer
• Actors don’t imitate real-life killings,
but pretend to kill according to agreed
• Actors don’t feel genuine rage (etc.),
but at most, fictional counterparts
– To feel such emotions would blur the
boundary between the character’s
psychology and the actor’s
AN AUDIENCE’S PERSPECTIVE
• With fiction, we ‘make-believe’ that
what we see is real
– Is it wrong to make-believe a killing?
• Killing is sometimes right
– What can be wrong with engaging
fictionally with a morally right killing?
– But what about morally wrong killings?
• Utilitarianism: depends on
Morality in fiction
• A simulated immoral killing can be presented
as immoral, the killer as wretched
• Or it can be presented as moral – the
morality of the work of fiction disagrees with
– Is it wrong to imagine that what is immoral is
– What does the author intend?
• We need to be able to keep our ‘moral