University of Hertfordshire

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Players, Characters, and the Gamer's Dilemma

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-143
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism
Publication statusPublished - 23 Apr 2019


Is there any difference between playing video games in which the player's character commits murder and video games in which the player's character commits pedophilic acts? Morgan Luck's “Gamer's Dilemma” has established this question as a puzzle concerning notions of permissibility and harm. We propose that a fruitful alternative way to approach the question is through an account of aesthetic engagement. We develop an alternative to the dominant account of the relationship between players and the actions of their characters, and argue that the ethical difference between so-called “virtual murder” and “virtual pedophilia” is to be understood in terms of the fiction-making resources available to players. We propose that the relevant considerations for potential players to navigate concern (1) attempting to make certain characters intelligible, and (2) using aspects of oneself as resources for homomorphic representation.

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