It's Okay to Shoot a Character: Moral Disengagement in Violent Video Games

Authors

  • Tilo Hartmann,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Communication Science, Center for Advanced Media Research Amsterdam, VU-Free University Amsterdam, De Boelelaan 1081, 1081 HV Amsterdam, The Netherlands
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  • Peter Vorderer

    1. Department of Communication Science, Center for Advanced Media Research Amsterdam, VU-Free University Amsterdam, De Boelelaan 1081, 1081 HV Amsterdam, The Netherlands
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Tilo Hartmann; e-mail: t.hartmann@fsw.vu.nl

Abstract

What makes virtual violence enjoyable rather than aversive? Two 2×2 experiments tested the assumption that moral disengagement cues provided by a violent video game's narrative and game play lessen users' guilt and negative affect, which would otherwise undermine players' enjoyment of the game. Experiment 1 found that users' familiarity with the violent game reduced guilt and negative affect, and enhanced enjoyment, whereas opponents' nonhuman outer appearance and blameworthiness had no effect. Experiment 2 found that fighting for a just purpose, perceiving less mayhem, and framing the overall situation as “just a game” or “just an experiment” reduced guilt and negative affect, whereas the distorted portrayal of consequences did not. Effects on game enjoyment were mixed and suggest that moral disengagement cues may both foster and diminish game enjoyment.

Ancillary