philip lelyveld The world of entertainment technology


Ethics – When Does Virtual Reality Violence Get Too Real?

RRF2-noscale“Something that I’ve been thinking about lately is the ethics and the consciousness of violence in VR shooters,” Buckley said. “VR right now just doesn’t have enough power to create visuals that make you feel like what you’re doing in the game is real. It’s like you’re playing paint ball or like an advanced version of tag. But when things do start get more real for a game like Onward, or another first person shooter, there’s going to have to be a responsibility for people to consider.”

In Buckley’s mind, one way to address the issue as the fidelity of VR shooters improves would be to make the games more “casual” with a diminished focus on realism.

Video game purists have long turned up their nose at “violent video games create violent people” arguments, but it does seem that the debate should be given new light in the wake of such disruptive new hardware.

Arshya Vahabzadeh M.D. is the Chief Medical Officer at a VR startup called Brain Power and serves on the faculty at Harvard Medical School as a lecturer in psychiatry.

According to Dr. Vahabzadeh:

“Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is commonly caused by a directly witnessed real life event that is life threatening or violent in nature. Current clinical diagnosis of PTSD excludes exposures that occur through electronic media, including movies and pictures.

However, given the immersive and interactive nature of VR, and the increasing ability to stimulate a range of senses beyond sight and sound, including tactile and olfactory sensations, one has to wonder if at some point these experiences may result in the rewiring the the brains fear centers in a similar way to that seen in PTSD.

One could postulate that if a person felt the VR experience was real, that they genuinely felt they were at risk of harm, and that they did not have a way of voluntarily ending the experience, they could experience rewiring of fear circuitry of their brain in a manner similar to PTSD. They would then perhaps have a range of PTSD like symptoms. Clearly this is an area that will need further research as immersive technologies become more realistic and widely used, and potentially abused.”

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