A VR Ethics Case Study
Image: "Broken Computer," cropped, by Kara 2 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
Rage rooms are all the rage, but sometimes you can’t find one that’s open (or, during pandemic times, any that are). VR Rage Room is a mod-friendly app intended to allow its users to blow off real steam in virtual rage rooms. The experience is intended to be both therapeutic and inexpensive.
The base VR Rage Room application contains a single traditional room with standard objects for destruction, including hammers, bats, and other items. The app also contains an associated store where users can purchase in-app merchandise, including different types of rooms, objects, and tools for destruction.
The app’s parent company, GoldCat, also allows users to upload their own rooms, objects to be destroyed, tools, and rage scenarios to sell on their site; the creators of new VR Rage Rooms make a 10% commission on all sales. These third-party applications allow for extensive customization and even let users create their own VR situations in which to act out their rage.
The app’s TOS prohibit only scenarios involving directing VR violence at humans. Users or creators who violate that proscription will be kicked off the site.
Before answering these questions, please review the Markkula Center’s Framework for Ethical Decision-Making.
- Who are the stakeholders involved in this case?
- What ethical issues do you identify in this scenario? Note that some of these may be beneficial, while others are harmful/problematic.
- Which ethical aspects are highlighted when you view the case through the ethical lenses of rights, justice, utilitarianism, virtue, and the common good?