The “Moral Disengagement in Violent Videogames” model

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How do violent videogames, as entertainment products, communicate violence in the context of warfare and in other settings? Also, why do users enjoy virtual violence? The present article introduces the Moral Disengagement in Violent Videogames model to tackle these important questions. The model resulted from empirical insights gained in (Media) Psychology and Communication Science. These disciplinary research findings are reviewed in the present article to substantiate the four core propositions of the model. First, the model refutes the view that users enjoy virtual violence primarily because they are constantly aware that "this game is not real." Instead, the model follows experimental findings suggesting that videogame users are inclined to automatically feel present in virtual environments and (despite better knowledge) may intuitively feel like actually enacting violence against social beings. Second, if users feel as if virtual characters have a mind of their own, they may also assign a moral status to them. Third, this finding implies that enacted unjustified transgressions against virtual characters may trigger discomfort in users. Fourth, most violent videogames are designed for entertainment purposes. Therefore, the games might frequently embed cues that effectively frame violence enacted against seemingly social beings as "okay." Therefore, users may become morally disengaged and enjoy the violence, rather than experiencing feelings of subjective discomfort, such as guilt. The article concludes with a brief discussion of the boundaries of the proposed model and alternative explanations.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2
JournalGame Studies. The International Journal of Computer Game Research.
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2017


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