Virtual Reality Ethics. Are They Important for Success?

What are your Virtual Reality Ethics? Do you have any? Do you need them? Are there things you should not do when working in VR? Stories you should not tell? Experiences you should not create?

While theatre, film, television, and books are all powerful storytelling mediums VR hits your brain and your soul on a deeper level. You remember these virtual experiences as real experiences. So, does VR need a different ethical standard?

An Age-old Question

Does the violence we see in modern movies and television create it in society? Or does art reflect what is going on around us? It’s a question that gets asked more and more as there are more daily violent attacks. I don’t know the answer to this. I think it is a question, we as artists, must all ask and answer for ourselves. Certainly drama, at it’s core, is about conflict. Conflict about two opposing viewpoints on the right way to live. There’s a fight to see which way wins. Conflict is inherent in drama as it is in life. But I wonder, in a movie, if we see a character pull a gun and shoot someone does that desensitize us to gun violence? And I don’t know the answer to this. Do you?

Guns Don’t Kill People

There’s many well documented cases of violent movies inspiring copycat real life crimes. When Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange came out, the movie was banned in Great Britain because of an increase in violent crimes there following its release. Does this mean filmmakers should be prohibited from making violent movies? I don’t think so. Studies have shown that children watching the Looney Tunes understand that the violence in them is not real.

I think the question is; where it the ethical line?

Remember, a virtual reality experience IS real

Your brain remembers it as real. You’ve had that experience. So I ask, what are your virtual reality ethics? Is it okay to take a virtual reality gun and shoot a virtual reality character in the face? Is it okay to create that experience if the viewer remembers it as real. There is a clear separation between seeing a movie that you know is a movie and participating in a virtual reality experience — that you remember as real. If you’ve killed enough people in virtual reality, will you still know it is wrong to do in reality?

Again, I don’t know the answer, I am just asking the question.

So. What are your Virtual Reality Ethics?

I think you need them. I think yours will be different than mine. Just like your art is different than mine. But perhaps as we all start discussing this issue and exploring the commonality of what we as a society think is right and wrong that we can make content for VR that both celebrates our conflicts, helping us to understand better ways to resolve them and also helps us create a future we’d want to live in, be a part of and leave for future generations.

A topic to be continued…

I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

Originally published at The VR Filmmaker.