[MUD-Dev] Who Killed Miss Norway?

Amanda Walker amanda at alfar.com
Sat May 10 17:38:38 New Zealand Standard Time 2003

On Thursday, May 8, 2003, at 05:27  PM, Ren Reynolds wrote:

> I guess I'd really like to deny most of the distinction here. A RP
> relationship is a RL relationship, at least in so much as the
> emotions that one feels in RP land are very much as real as in
> RL. What's more I'm not sure that the 'role' that I play in my
> work life is any less a fiction than the one that I might play in
> any given virtual environment.

I agree.

The roles may be fictional.  The people playing them are not, and
even the roles may not be "fictional" in the everyday sense.  Most
of us role-play every day.  When I show up for work in jeans and a
caffeine molecule T-shirt, I'm role-playing "engineer."  When I show
up in a suit and heels for a meeting, I'm role-playing "technical
presenter."  When I show up at the Kennedy Center in an evening
dress, I'm role-playing "yuppie classical music aficionado."  Very
different roles, one person.  None of the roles are fictional, but
neither are they complete.  They are simply roles suited to
particular situations.

Similarly, the roles I adopt in game-playing are fictional only in
the sense that the game itself is.  The effect my actions have on
other peoples' experience of the game, and vice versa, are quite
real, for all that they are expressed on a computer screen in front
of me.  I take actual time, make actual decisions, and communicate
with actual people during the course of a game session.  This, BTW,
is one of the things that makes MMO games hold my interest in ways
that single-player games, even with great graphics and good
storylines, do not.

> As a quick intro: My main area of research is the rights that we
> should accord to online instantiations of self i.e. avatars, e.g.
> player-characters; I come at this from a philosophical perspective
> and am currently looking at applying Kant's relationship between
> autonomy, freedom and the moral self and wondering to what degree
> my avatar is me, and to what degree it needs to be to be morally
> significant.  I also write about the ethics of games \ virtual
> environments, and wonder a lot about what cheating and whether it
> has moral content.

Given current technology, I'd say that the avatar is not an
instantiation of self.  It is, rather an instrument of action.
Actions I take in a game have every bit as much moral weight as
actions I take elsewhere--the moral weight of any action lies in its
consequences.  But I'm the moral agent, not my avatar, any more than
the clothes I'm wearing have autonomy and moral agency.  The point
of moral impact is the point where the action is initiated, via
whatever instruments that action is made.

Amanda Walker

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