Date of Award


Document Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name

Masters of Science (Research)



First Advisor

Paul Rothwell

Second Advisor

David Simpson


Since the turn of the century and the dawn of the digital age, online communities have witnessed significant growth in their importance. Significant numbers of virtual environments now exist, within which millions of individuals interact socially and economically, engaged fully in what is equivalent to a physical encounter, the only differences being the virtual representations through which they interact, and the physical security that this representation affords them. Though physically absent, individuals are fully engaged psychologically, and thus open to the same ethical dilemmas presented through reality. Application of real-world moral codes is encumbered by the existence of what 1 call the “Role-play Argumenf’, an ethical excuse that lends itself to increased complexity in questions of moral philosophy. Throughout this thesis, having outlined this argument, I consider it alongside various strands of ethics. From here, 1 progress to findings that emerged from my qualitative analysis, which was based on semi-structured interviews conducted with a group of online role- players and gamers. Through this analysis, 1 assess the attitudes of participants towards the Role-play Argument, further delineating the effects that such activity, and the conceptual muddle that surrounds it, has on ethics and behaviour in virtual worlds.

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