The ethics of the Simple life
Her name is Evangeline. She’s the famous female owner of a brothel in a town called Alphaville.
She’s been known to steal money from her clients because, if she doesn’t eat, she’s going to starve; and if she doesn’t find a way to relax after work, she’s going to become stressed out.
But there’s another thing that sets Evangeline apart from other people living their lives, trying to make it from day to day.
She’s a video game character.
There are thousands of others that are just like Evangeline. She lives in an Internet universe with 80,000 others as a character in the video game The Sims Online. These characters are known as “Sims,” and their real-life personas are humans who are sitting behind their computer screens, living life vicariously through 2-D people.
The game’s characters live and socialize in an electronic world. They make it through the day by performing real-life tasks like eating, taking out the trash and washing the dishes.
Sims are all kinds of people. They range from age 13 to adults, and there are Sim-doctors, Sim-celebrities and Sim-store clerks.
Recently, a seventeen-year-old was exposed for playing the virtual role of Evangeline. The boy, who has not been identified because of his age, ran an Internet brothel where his character’s prostitutes performed cyber-sex acts for other players.
Characters on the game cannot have actual sex, but they can get into hot tubs and exchange sexual dialogue through an instant-messaging feature. Sims gameplay makes it easy for users to engage in these kinds of virtual acts.
Though it’s widely known that some people use the Internet to fulfill their sexual desires, Evangeline’s true identity would lead one to wonder if there should be more constraints on the video game.
The game’s “T” rating means that it is supposedly suitable for teenagers — the target market.
The staff at Electronic Arts (EA) — the creators of The Sims and all 10 of its expansion packs — said that the users should have the power to decide who can play and what they can do because the game is privately owned.
However, in a country where 17-year-olds can’t legally go to strip clubs, this raises a question as to what the legalities of Internet gaming should be.
When teenagers are playing in the same virtual world as adults, it becomes difficult to decipher where fantasy ends and reality begins.
EA said that the company is practicing free speech by allowing this user to continue playing the game. The question is whether or not this practice should be legal, or even if it is ethical enough to allow free play for these games.
Even advocates of free speech feel that the ultimate censoring practices of EA lie in the established moral ideology of this country. The company shouldn’t be exempt just because it is privately-owned.
The staff at Electronic Arts may not list “parenting” as part of its job description, but it has a responsibility to follow the guidelines that are already set for other Internet programs.
If the underage Americans can’t legally visit a brothel in the real world, then they shouldn’t be able to visit one online, either.
Staff Writer Whitney Meers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org