The dark side of VR

VR is the future – I am convinced of that. Books, movies, games – they can all give you a look into a different world, but it’s never you in there. It’s always someone else’s story and you’re just looking in from the outside. But in VR it is you in there. And that makes all the difference. VR will allow all of us to experience things that previously only a few could. We’ll stand on a stage and be cheered at by 10.000 people, we’ll be there to see how Caesar gets stabbed and we’ll finally be able to experience what it’s like to be a pet. Okay, it’s still different from reality, but it’s a big leap closer than anything you’ve ever seen on a screen or imagined in your head.

In the not so distant future we’ll spend our evenings experiencing the architectural wonders of the world, studying the intricacies of our galaxy or playing the lead role in the newest hit movie.

But you know – this is the idealistic view of what’s to come. There will be a dark side too. Be prepared.

I was never too worried about people playing violent video-games on a screen. If you play GTA, you shoot a lot of people with all sorts of guns, steal cars and use those cars to run over random people. It might soften you up to violence and bad behavior, but if you don’t do this all day, every day – then I’m not worried about you. Shooting someone on the screen using a controller is not the same experience as actually shooting someone. When you’re done with GTA, you might be able to name a whole bunch of guns and you might have gotten really good at aiming with a controller, but you still wouldn’t know how to fire a real gun. In VR is different. With the Vive it’s different. You still hold a controller, but what you see is a gun right there in your hand. The controller’s trigger is right where the gun’s trigger is. To hit your target you have to aim just like you would aim with a real gun. You stretch out your arm, line up your sights and when you shoot someone in the face, he’s your size and he’s right there. He’s still not real and you might be well aware of that fact, but the entire experience is now as close to actually shooting someone in the face as it’s ever been. And once you’ve done this a hundred times, a thousand times, you’ve not only trained a skill that you could apply in the real world with a real gun, you’ve lowered a barrier, you’ve reduced your natural resistance against shooting someone in the face.

Are we approaching a point where video game violence is suddenly no longer that much different from real violence? When do we cross the line from it being an equivalent of playing tag to actually training killers?

When I was 10 and started to wonder about girls, the craziest thing I could come up with was to browse the girl’s underwear section in mail order catalogs. Today 1/3 of 10 year olds have watched porn online, by age 14 over 80% say they regularly watch online porn and they have learnt more about fetishes and abusive and subjecting practices than I ever want to know. This is definitely not a good thing, but if VR porn catches on – and it will – then they won’t just be watching these things on a screen, they’ll be experiencing them first-hand in full scale high quality VR.

I’m sure it won’t be all ugly weird stuff, but still: Is it a good thing that people who haven’t found their soulmate will be able to experience a semi-realistic intimacy in VR, or will it keep generations of young men from leading normal relationships because they’ve all gotten used to doing weird shit with virtual porn queens before they were old enough to even work up the courage to talk to a real girl?

Is it a good thing that the poor and unfortunate will be able to live out their hopes and dreams in virtual worlds? Or will they become so disconnected from real life that they won’t even care about the repercussions of anything they do in the real world anymore? If life sucks, will you try and make it through your work-hours as fast as possible just so you can flee back into your virtual happy lie? I’m sure there will be more than enough people lining up to take your money in exchange for a few hours of virtual entertainment. Ever wanted to be a famous rock-star, play a big show and take some groupies backstage afterwards? Here, let me take those $60 of yours. Enjoy the ride…

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