Murder in Virtual Reality Should NOT Be Illegal | VU Dream

Originally published at on April 5, 2017.

Last week a controversial article made the rounds in several publications in the VR field.

Murder in virtual reality should be illegal” by Angela Buckingham made the case for limitations in virtual reality.

This is a very well-written article by a power, moral choice, self-deception, bravery and cowardice writer.

I’m here to offer a rebuttal to the argument. Additionally, provide an alternative perspective to the conversation.

Angela begins the article by describing a gruesome death scene that could be possible in a virtual world.

“You start by picking up the knife, or reaching for the neck of a broken-off bottle. Then comes the lunge and wrestle, the physical strain as your victim fights back, the desire to overpower him. You feel the density of his body against yours, the warmth of his blood. Now the victim is looking up at you, making eye contact in his final moments.”

Angela then states:

“But this new form of entertainment is dangerous. The impact of immersive virtual violence must be questioned, studied and controlled. Before it becomes possible to realistically simulate the experience of killing someone, murder in VR should be made illegal.”


In an immersive virtual environment, what will it be like to kill? Surely a terrifying, electrifying, even thrilling experience. But by embodying killers, we risk making violence more tantalising, training ourselves in cruelty and normalising aggression. The possibility of building fantasy worlds excites me as a filmmaker — but, as a human being, I think we must be wary. We must study the psychological impacts, consider the moral and legal implications, even establish a code of conduct. Virtual reality promises to expand the range of forms we can inhabit and what we can do with those bodies. But what we physically feel shapes our minds. Until we understand the consequences of how violence in virtual reality might change us, virtual murder should be illegal.

I completely agree with Angela about the potential dangers of virtual reality. The possibilities of a fantasy world containing anything desirable by the user can be dangerous. I don’t doubt the dangers or harms that Angela brings up in the article.

For the most I actually agree on most points. However, I fundamentally disagree with a few points Angela makes.

A decent chunk of the article is about the increase of gore in Hollywood films and video games. How that may or may not increase violence in users is stretching it.

Angela brings up the point that Adam Lanza, the man who committed a disgusting act of killing children in a school was an obsessive gamer.

This isn’t the first time I have heard this point. Whenever I do, I think it’s quite foolish and lazy to say the least. You can show me a thousand studies that say people playing violent video games become more violent and I wouldn’t change my mind.

There are many factors that go into a human being harming another human being. Studies don’t talk about Adam Lanza’s mental health issues, his mother’s neglect, and the pharmaceutical drugs he was on.

If you take a healthy human being and put him or her in front of a TV and kill people in a video game, nothing will happen. If someone is not a “healthy” human being there are underlying psychological issues that must be addressed prior.

Blaming video games or another form of media is the “bandaid” route. Blame something in a knee jerk reaction and ignore the real issue, evidently causing more harm in the future.

Aside from that, many factors will have to be researched and studied. Serious education and awareness is needed for future generations.

However, if we have learned anything from history it’s that government in efforts to make something illegal usually makes the issue worse. It stops research from happening and causes more harm.

Take a look at the War on Drugs. Researchers and scientists can hardly study illegal drugs because of the roadblocks in place. I understand this is not a fair comparison but I think it’s necessary. The War on Drugs has killed more people and has caused more despair to families and communities than drugs ever will.

Angela makes the claim of “ban now, study later.” Right, because that’s worked so well in previous times and instances.

Concept of “Legal” and “Illegal”

Above all the things mentioned in the article, I disagree with the legality argument. Many people don’t understand this because people don’t think about it.

When people say “there should be a law” and we turn to government, one could translate that to mean, “We can’t solve this problem peacefully. We have to have the government write a law, send out enforcers, and point guns at people to manipulate their behavior.”

Angela gave the description of someone murdering someone in virtual reality. An event that doesn’t happen in real life and doesn’t hurt anyone.

Now, I want to give you another description of something that will happen in reality if what Angela is talking is passed.

Body armor is strapped on tight. Assault rifles in hand, locked and ready to fire hundreds of rounds in an instant. Similar men in costumes are lining up for the breach. One of the men is carrying an iron pole and preparing to break down the door of someone’s private home. Another man in a face mask pulls the pin on a flashbang grenade and throws it through the doorway. All of the men enter the home with assault rifles pointed, ready to use the threat of force or even kill if necessary.

The armed assailants break open every room in the house with the same protocol. Upon breaching one of the rooms they find a man in virtual reality doing something unknown to them. He could be virtually murdering someone or doing something completely different. One of the Swat members rips the headset off his face revealing a terrified man’s face.

Wouldn’t you be afraid if you were taken out of VR with a man in real life pointing an assault rifle at your face? I would.

Making murder in virtual reality illegal is meeting violence with nonviolence. No victim no crime.

Every time you introduce force or coercion into a situation the standard of humanity is lowered. Above all, it doesn’t actually help the situation. Look at the Drug War. It doesn’t work, there are more people doing drugs than ever before and violence has increased.

Think about all the terrible things that people don’t do that are legal. A great example is smoking cigarettes, because people are taught with education “if you do this you will get health issues and die.”

More people need to stop and think about ideas that are being proposed. I welcome all discussions and would love to get more people involved in this conversation.

I don’t know what solution is the best. The point of this article is to create a conversation where many minds can come together and come up with peaceful solutions.


Check back on this page frequently for updates and additions.

We’ve seen a tremendous amount of disruptive change coming from the Virtual Reality Industry. It is surely certain that this kind of content will accelerate based on trends in the future.

You most likely have some other VR ideas that can change the world! Share them with us on social media!

Originally published at on April 5, 2017.