Right and Wrong
Ethics can be simply defined as the study of what is right and wrong. Sometimes, the decision between the two is not the most clear and can be difficult. An online environment may promote anonymity and privacy, but important settlements must be made regardless. In the short, graphic story “Anda’s Game” by Cory Doctorow, the theme of ethics is shown repeatedly when the main character, Anda, is faced with a decision between right and wrong. Anda is forced to think out every scenario of her resolution that could impact herself and others while also trying to remain ethical. When in an online setting, such as video games, the barrier between ethical decisions can be blurred due to a lack of trust of one’s online peers, online disinhibition, and social pressure.
As the internet has progressed into modern era, it has become increasingly tough to trust individuals online. Between scammers and hackers, it is hard to identify who actually has good intentions. For Anda’s case, a lack of trust with her online clan members, makes her question their intentions and her decision making. This is caused because without a true establishment of trust it can be hard to recognize truthful information.
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When Anda learns that the gamers she is killing online are poor people from Mexico, being paid little money to rack up in-game currency, she is immediately told something contradicting by her clan member that these gamers are ‘bots’ and cheaters who do not care about the game, “‘These people don’t care about the game. To them, it’s just a place to suck a buck out of. They’re not players, they’re leeches, here to suck all the fun out.’” (Doctorow). This effectively challenges her decision making by not allowing her to accurately obtain correct information to form an ethical decision between right and wrong. Without an underlying foundation of trust in a relationship between online companions, a level of uncertainty brings about much doubt in decision making.
It is well known that people communicate differently online rather than face-to-face. The feeling of anyonmoisity and the misleading signal of loosened social barriers is just a couple ways to describe online disinhibition. In the case of ethical decision making, it can cause huge implications for making the right moral conclusion. When Anda initially learns of the gamers in poverty that she has been slaying, she is basically being told the practice of gold farming, which is the technique to farm up in-game value to be sold for real money.
As previously noted, she is then told by others that gold farming by hiring poor minorities does not exist and their motives behind all of it is cheating. Online disinhibition is prohibiting Anda’s decision making by dissociative imagination, which morphs an online character into the idea that they belong to another world or dimension and do not translate back to the real world, “They split or ‘disassociate’ online fiction from offline fact.” (Suler). Without knowing fiction from fact, making an ethical decision becomes progressively strenuous in an online situation.
As seen throughout the essay thus far, making an ethical decision on the internet is not a walk in the park. Social pressure, in short is to adopt a type of behavior or make decisions based on the influences of one’s peers, continues to add to this predicament. Early on in the short story, Anda is obsessed with joining a clan named Fahrenheit and eventually does. When she tries to explain the situation of the Mexican gold farmers to her clanmate Lucy, she immediately opposes Anda’s argument and tries to sway her in a different direction, “‘So we burn them out. If we keep burning the factories down, they’ll shut them down and those kids’ll find something else to do for a living and the game will be better.
If no one does that, our work will just get cheaper and cheaper: the game will get less and less fun, too’” (Doctorow). Anda now has to deal with choosing between what she knows is the right thing to do or betraying her clan, which will bring her social consequences. According to Dr. B.J. Casey, teens are very quick and precise when it comes to decision making, “However, when they have to make decisions in the heat of the moment or in social situations, their decisions are often influenced by external factors like peers” (Scholastic). Anda’s ability to effectively abide in ethical decision making are softened when social pressure comes into play due to direct influences of peers and the idea of fitting in.
An ethical decision can be simply broken down by picking between right and wrong. In everyday life, decisions as it is are not always easy, but when online are even more grueling. The theme of ethics is on full display in the short story, “Anda’s Game,” because of the focus put onto the frustrating progress of making a tough decision. For the sake of Anda, her choice of right versus wrong was influenced by many outside factors that being in an online environment creates. Her inability to fully trust her peers, the idea of online inhibition, and social pressure all played as key elements to making Anda’s ethical decision all the more difficult.
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