With online interaction and gaming now a fact of daily life for a great many people, violence against women in computer games and in virtual (online) environments is becoming a pressing issue for both legal and ethical reasons.
This paper summarises two kinds of "virtual" violence. The first, which can be called "video game" violence, occurs in one-player games (such as Grand Theft Auto) where the player is interacting solely with computer-generated objects. In contrast, "virtual environments" (like Second Life) involve player interaction with other users, usually represented graphically by avatars.
The two different contexts provoke different concerns and anxieties in relation to questions of violence generally, and sexualised violence against women in particular. The first type (video game violence) prompts questions about the effects on the player and on society: will virtual violence will lead to "actual" violence; does it de-sensitise the player to violence; does it result in (or reflect) a generalised increase in sexualised hostility towards women? In virtual environments, the concern is with the impact upon the victim; is it abusive or harmful when an avatar is assaulted?