Ethics and Information Technology
Has Ali dissolved the gamer’s dilemma?
© Springer Nature B.V. 2018
In this paper I will evaluate Ali’s dissolution of the gamer’s dilemma. To this end the dilemma will be summarized and Ali’s
dissolution formulated. I conclude that Ali has not dissolved the dilemma (at least not fully).
Keywords Gamer’s dilemma · Computer games · Virtual ethics
The aim of this paper is to evaluate Ali’s dissolution of the
gamer’s dilemma (Ali 2015). To this end the dilemma is
summarized and Ali’s dissolution formulated. I will argue
that Ali has not dissolved the dilemma, at least not fully—
that is, although he may have dissolved a particular version
of the dilemma, he has left another version of the dilemma
What is the gamer’s dilemma?
So, what is the gamer’s dilemma? It’s a problem that con-
cerns the moral permissibility (henceforth permissibility) of
two types of acts we might perform when playing computer
games (Luck 2009).
The ﬁrst type is virtual murder. Virtual murder occurs
when a player murders a character in a computer game. An
example of virtual murder would be a player driving over
and killing an innocent pedestrian in the game GTA 5 (in cir-
cumstances such, were the game world actual, this would be
actual murder). Other examples of popular games where is
clear that players can virtually murder some include: Skyrim;
Fallout 4; Red Dead Redemption.
Many consider virtual murder permissible. This is often
on the grounds that no one is actually murdered—it is just
a game. However, this defence also seems applicable to a
second type of act: virtual child molestation (also referred
to as virtual paedophilia).
Virtual child molestation occurs when someone playing
an adult character molests a child character in a computer
game. An example of virtual child molestation would be
someone playing the character Masaya Kimuraan (an adult
man) groping Manaka Kiryū (a school girl) on a subway
train in the game RapeLay (in circumstances such, were the
game world actual, this would be actual child molestation).
Many consider virtual child molestation to be impermis-
sible. However, it is hard to see what the relevant diﬀerence
is between virtual murder and virtual child molestation.
Why? Because defences of virtual murder (such as the ‘just
a game’ defence) also seem applicable to virtual child moles-
tation (for no one is actually murdered or molested in such
games). But, if there is no relevant diﬀerence, it’s diﬃcult
to see how child molestation can be impermissible if virtual
murder is permissible.
This diﬃculty can be presented as a paradox:
1. Virtual murder is permissible.
2. There is no relevant diﬀerence between virtual murder
and virtual paedophilia (in respect to permissibility)
3. Virtual child molestation is impermissible.
This paradox is a formulation of the gamer’s dilemma. It
is a paradox as each proposition is plausible (that is, seems
true), or at least isn’t obviously implausible, yet the set
seems inconsistent. So, to resolve the dilemma we must, like
any paradox, either show that at least one of the propositions
is false, or show that the set is not inconsistent.
* Morgan Luck
Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga, NSW 2650,