Resisting the Gamer’s Dilemma
Luck (2009) argues it is unclear that there is a moral distinction to be drawn between enacting murder and child molestation in video games. This is a moral dilemma, because virtual murder and virtual child molestation appear to differ intuitively in terms of moral permissibility. I will argue that this dilemma, which Luck has named the ‘Gamer’s Dilemma’, is not a moral dilemma at all. This is because the intuitions gamers are said to hold which preface the dilemma are not justified on moral grounds. Instead, I will argue that the normative force of taste-based conventions in video games can account for, and explain away, the prima facie moral force of these intuitions. Doing so, I argue, results in the Gamer’s Dilemma being dissolved as the intuitions that preface it are justified on non-moral grounds, and therefore cannot act as an intuitive mechanism in identifying the moral difference, if there is any at all, between virtual murder and virtual child molestation. To make my case, I provide two frameworks by which the Gamer’s Dilemma can be understood, one broad and one narrow. I evaluate attempts at solving a broad form of the Gamer’s Dilemma by identifying a moral distinction between virtual murder and virtual child molestation. I conclude that an approach building on Bartel (2012), Partridge (2013) and Levy (2002) concerning the eroticisation of inequality is a promising candidate resolution. I then turn to evaluating attempts at dissolving the Gamer’s Dilemma by rejecting or reformulating the intuitions that preface it, primarily from Ali (2015), Ramirez (2020) and Ӧhman (2020). I, on the whole, accept that a broad form of the Gamer’s Dilemma is dissolved, and with it the eroticisation of inequality as a candidate resolution. However, I contend, building on Luck (2018), that an amended Gamer’s Dilemma survives a dissolution if it is sufficiently narrowed. I then challenge the intuitively moral force of the intuitions in a narrowed Gamer’s Dilemma and argue that they can be accounted for, and explained away, on non-moral grounds via a consideration of the normativity of taste-based conventions in video games. I conclude by arguing that this dissolves what is left of the Gamer’s Dilemma and I consider some objections to my approach.