Location of Repository

What I won’t do in pixels: Examining the limits of taboo violation in MMORPGs

By Monica T. Whitty, Garry Young and Lewis Goodings


This paper examined the emotional impact that engaging in or witnessing Symbolic Taboo Activities (STAs), as represented in MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role-playing game), such as killing, torture and rape, has on adults. We focused our study on two games: World of Warcraft and Sociolotron. The study employed Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA), which was chosen because of its emphasis on ‘lived experienced’ and how participants make sense of their experiences. Five participants, all over the age of 18 years, were interviewed via Instant Messenger, four of which were men. Most of our participants felt they could easily separate gamespace from the real world; however, when asked to examine specific actions in-depth, we found this was not the case for all STAs. Activities that did not have a sanctioned equivalence (e.g., rape) were found by most to be more difficult to separate, especially emotionally. However, this was not the case for all participants. The findings suggest that not all individuals can psychologically cope with engaging in and/or witnessing certain STAs in MMORPGs. The results, we believe are important for game designers, censoring bodies of video games and psychologists.Peer-reviewedPost-prin

Topics: Symbolic Taboo Activities, Videogames, World of warcraft, Sociolotron, Psychological harm, Violent video games
Publisher: Elsevier
Year: 2010
DOI identifier: 10.1016/j.chb.2010.08.004
OAI identifier: oai:lra.le.ac.uk:2381/9727

Suggested articles



  1. (2003). Cyber-flirting: Playing at love on the Internet. doi
  2. (2006). Cyberspace romance: The psychology of online relationships.
  3. (1994). Descartes’ error: Emotion, reason, and the human brain. doi
  4. (2008). Experimental study of the differential effects of playing versus watching violent video games on children’s aggressive behavior. doi
  5. (2010). Games without frontiers: On the moral and psychological implications of violating taboos within multi-player virtual spaces. doi
  6. (2008). Healers and Interrogators: Psychology and the United States Torture Regime. Psychoanalytic Dialogues, doi
  7. (2007). I wish I were a warrior: The role of wishful identification on the effects of violent video games on aggression in adolescent boys. doi
  8. (2005). Internet fantasy violence: A test of aggression in an online game. doi
  9. (1995). Life on the screen: Identity in the age of the Internet. doi
  10. (2004). Media Propaganda and Spectacle in the War on Iraq: a Critique of U.S. Broadcasting Networks. doi
  11. (2004). Neural correlates of internally generated disgust via autobiographical recall: A functional magnetic resonance imaging investigation. doi
  12. (2003). Real wrongs in virtual communities. doi
  13. (1993). Reevaluation of the impact of violent video games. doi
  14. (2004). Reflecting on the development of interpretative phenomenological analysis and its contribution to qualitative research in psychology,
  15. (2006). The demographics, motivations and derived experiences of users of massively-multiuser online graphical environments. doi
  16. (2007). The effects of technological advancement and violent content in video games on players' feelings of presence, involvement, physiological arousal, and aggression. doi
  17. (2009). The priming effects of avatars in virtual settings. doi
  18. (2003). This study was funded by a Nuffield Foundation grant. What I won’t do in pixels 33 7. References
  19. (2007). Torture and the ticking bomb. doi
  20. (2006). Using Instant Messaging for Internet-based interviews. doi
  21. (2010). Virtually Real Emotions and the Paradox of Fiction: Implications for the use of virtual environments in psychological research. doi
  22. (1979). What I won’t do in pixels 34
  23. (2008). What I won’t do in pixels 35 doi
  24. (2008). Who plays, how much, and why? Debunking the stereotypical gamer profile. doi

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.