Virtual Morality

James Casico has a blog entry on a term new to me – Griefing – with a great example of it at play in the online gaming world.

To me, this is nothing new. It is about the human situation. Trust, betrayal, the weighing of doing the “right thing” versus personal reward. We’ve been struggling with this since we came out of the trees. Several Greek tragedies (and the Bible) have themes involving breaking trust. Think of Abraham’s willingness to kill his son, Judas’s betrayal of Jesus, or Atreus serving his brother Thyestes the flesh of his (Thyestes’s) own children in Agamemnon in which Cassandra’s vision shows:

“Look there, see what is hovering above the house
so small and young, imaged as in the shadow of dreams,
like children almost, killed by those most dear to them,
and their hands filled with their own flesh, as food to eat.:”

Judas's betrayal

This decision with “right” and “wrong” is part of our nature, part of what it means to be human, and it is up to each individual to decide how they will act in a given situation. What morals and ethics they will hold to and live by. What role “honor” plays in their life.

A different dynamic in online games versus the real life is the lack of consequence in the virtual world. You can be a jerk with no (or virtually no) consequence.

How we as a society, and how individual games/sims/organizations adapt to that challenge in the future is a very interesting question. As our lives become increasingly virtual, that line between game morality and the rest of life will thin and blur, and consistency of your personal honor will be all the more important.

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