The gaming industry is growing at a higher rate than expected as even non-gamers resorted to gaming during the COVID-19 period. The expansion is expected to make the global gaming industry worth $321 billion by 2026, according to PwC’s Global Entertainment and Media Outlook 2022-26.
With this rise, new gaming technologies also came into development and appeared in the market. One product that has recently appeared in the market, in a very controversial manner, is a VR headset manufactured by a company named Oculus Rift. The VR headset that can kill gamers in real life if they die in the video game.
What exactly is it and how does it work?
The Creator Behind the Death VR Set
The founder of Oculus Rift, Palmer Luckey, apparently shared an image of this VR headset on his official Twitter handle and captioned it, “To commemorate the Sword Art Online Incident of November 6th, 2022, I made the OQPNVG, the first virtual reality device capable of killing the user – if you die in the game, you die in real life.”
This post caused a huge uproar on social media. Many users were petrified of this new VR headset as nobody would want to lose their lives over a game. Many people commented on the post saying that this VR headset should not be mass-produced and should not be sold as it endangered human lives.
One of them even said “You don’t need to create something terrifying just because you can create it.”
What is Sword Art that this VR headset is commemorated to?
On November 6th, 2022, the day of the SAO incident, numerous VRMMORPG gamers were trapped by a so-called mad scientist inside a death game that could only be escaped if completed.
If the gamers point dropped to zero, their brain would be hit by powerful microwaves, mostly killing the gamer. The same would happen if anyone in the real world tended to tamper with their NerveGear, the virtual reality head-mounted-display that transported the gamers’ minds and souls to Aincrad, the primary setting of Sword Art Online, as reported by a gaming magazine.
This type of scenario has been ubiquitous in the science-fiction world for a very long time now, but Sword Art Online exploded in popularity at a time to have a massive impact on the real world. The popular web novel was adapted into an anime series that aired just as the Oculus Rift went from internet forum curiosity to being a siren of the gaming industry which was endorsed by big-shots such as Gabe Newell, John Carmack, and Cliff Bleszinski.
The popularity of Sword Art Online led to massive enthusiasm for Oculus, especially in Japan. Which in turn, the existence of the Rift made Sword Art Online itself seem far more plausible.
Why could this VR headset play with the psychology of people just like other games in the near past?
Games such as Blue Whale, Fire Fairy, Mariam’s Game, and many such games have played with the lives of the people who have played them and have caused deaths as well.
When it comes to dangerous games, gamers are attracted to the thrill of it to explore something eventful in their mundane lives. They initially do not think of the consequences but the way the plots of the games are wired, they end up eventually getting inside the heads of the gamers, thus, successfully manipulating them.
Palmer, the creator of the killer VR set, also mentioned in an interview that he plans to create an anti-tamper mechanism that will tend to make the VR headset impossible to destroy or remove; as if creating a killer headset wasn’t enough.
Nevertheless, there is still a chance of failings that could occur and kill the gamer at the wrong time. Which is why tech and game experts believe that Palmer has not been able to use it himself while playing a game. This is also why he is convinced that, like Sword Art Online, the final trigger should be tied to a high-intelligence online agent that can verify whether the conditions for termination are correct or not.
Till now, the headset is just a piece of office and wants to be state-of-the art gaming technology. This step is indeed a thought-provoking message to all tech experts and creators to carefully tread into the unexplored water of game design because it could lead to matters of life and death.
Palmer indicates that as far as his knowledge sits, this is the first ever non-fiction example of a Virtual Reality device that can kill a gamer. However, he is sure this will not be the last, which is quite concerning as well as disturbing.
Games and gadgets like this, could very well meddle with the psyche of gamers and trigger their thrill seeking experiences.
Should games and gadgets such as these be allowed to be released at all and even if they do release, how will they be controlled?
Like the Blue Whale gone out of hand, will it also be out of control?