Got into an argument yesterday with a friend who thought Grand Theft Auto should be banned. Unfortunately, his argument had some compelling points that I don't really have a good answer for. And he's something of a gamer himself; he played a fair amount of GTA before actually passing judgment.
The argument goes something like this:
Anti-gamer: "Suppose we had a perfectly realistic murder simulator, that people enjoyed using. Nobody actually gets killed, but the simulation is perfect - holodeck-like. Would it be okay to ban that?"
Gamer: "No - just because you enjoy killing someone in simulation doesn't mean you enjoy killing them in real life!"
Anti-gamer: "So you're saying as long as nobody gets hurt it's okay."
Anti-gamer: "Did you know there was a case in the UK recently where people were making fake child porn? No actual underage models are used; nobody's getting hurt. Is that okay?"
Gamer: "... I guess not ..."
Anti-gamer: "That's what the UK decided. So why is it not okay to have fake child porn but okay to have fake murder?"
Gamer: "Because the people who read fake child porn are creeps?"
Anti-gamer: "Why? They would never actually have sex with a child in real life. They only do it in simulation."
So now I feel trapped. Where do I go from here?
Maybe I can say, "Okay, enjoying simulated murder is wrong. Grand Theft Auto is okay because the simulation is so poor nobody would confuse it for the real thing. And besides, Grand Theft Auto is a really brilliant game; it's not just about gratuitous violence." But that opens us up to the slippery slope - I'm drawing the line on one side of GTA but now you have to ask - "What about God of War? What about Manhunt? What about the future when the violence is going to be even more realistic?" And if we're drawing lines, nothing stops my friend from drawing the line on the other side of GTA.
Or maybe I can say, "All right, people can have their fake child porn. I don't want to hang out with those people, I hope I never meet those people, but I'm not going to take away their right to enjoy something revolting that doesn't actually hurt anybody." But...that's just icky.
Or maybe I can say, "Sex is just different from violence. If you enjoy fake child porn, you clearly want the real thing. But you can enjoy fake murder all you want with no interest in the real stuff." Which seems like a typical American "sex is worse than violence" attitude - am I saying a simulation of murdering children would be less offensive than a simulation of having sex with them?
I need an answer but I don't really have one.