An article at Wired takes a look at two multiplayer survival games, DayZ and Rust, and at the behavior of players when their actions are freed from a civilized moral code. 'Violence wouldn't bother a psychopath, [Dr. Adam Perkins] says, but they might have another incentive to avoid violence: the consequences of getting caught. Most psychopaths are logical people, he says, and understand that actions bring consequences. The threat of repercussions — say, for example, prison — might keep them from acting out. Such disincentives do not exist in virtual worlds. Absent a sense of empathy, you're free to rob and kill at will. What we do with this reveals something about us.
Jon Ronson, author of The Psychopath Test, says imagining ourselves doing something horrible is a way to see ourselves in a new light. "One of the ways we keep ourselves moral is to imagine the terrible things we could do, but then don't do," Ronson says. "You stand on a train platform and think, 'I could push that person in front of the train.' That thought pops into your head, and it doesn't make you a lunatic. It makes you a good person, because what you're actually saying is, 'Oh my god, I’m capable of doing a terrible thing, but I would never actually do it.'" ... But we're still left with the big question: Are our actions in a virtual world tantamount to imagining those things we could do in real life but never would? Or are we merely behaving as we would in real life if there were no consequences for our actions?'