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Games & Simulations for Historians

This isn’t my actual week to blog/respond and my post doesn’t really involve history but I had a thought about virtual reality gaming and felt compelled to share…

Earlier today, one of the presenters was discussing the idea or virtual reality gaming which generated a short discussion on the pros and cons of virtual reality.  One of the cons mentioned was the idea that players may become so involved in the game that they lose the ability to distinguish between the game and reality.  Somehow, this made me think of the X-Men’s Danger Room and while I know that mutant super heroes don’t exist, I’ll ask you to indulge me…

This won’t make sense without knowing what the Danger room is so long story short, the Danger Room is the training facility for the X-Men where they, well, train.  The Danger Room uses holograms to simulate a training environment a la virtual reality where the X-Men interact directly with these holograms as though they are real.

With me so far?  Good because it gets better…

It occurred to me that once a rational player steps into this virtual world (perhaps a holographic Danger Room of their own) they are consciously aware that they are entering a simulated or virtual environment.  This means the player knows that they have temporarily left the real world and are in a virtual environment which may share properties similar to the real world but is not.  That being the case, I find it difficult to immediately envision a scenario where a rational person might become “lost” in the game, losing the ability to distinguish between the real and game worlds upon exiting the virtual reality.  However, if a virtual reality developer is able to create a virtual environment that is so powerfully pervasive that is able to permeate the deepest layers of the player’s consciousness and affect the player’s perception, then the idea of a player becoming lost in a game becomes a real possibility and obviously a con to virtual reality gaming.  Losing the ability to “unplug” from a virtual world opens the player to a range of mental and physical dangers both in and outside of the virtual world (which we won’t get into) meaning serious thought would need to be given to ensure mechanisms are in place to prevent such an experience from occurring.  The Danger Room can either be not so or incredibly dangerous but I supposed that is the dilemma any new or emerging technology faces.

I won’t go on any further as this is all speculative at this point but if a rational player enters a virtual reality game environment, I would imagine they would be aware of this from the moment they enter until the moment they exit, regardless of how real the virtual environment might seem at any given time.  I guess, though, that the pros and cons of this technology will not necessarily be measurable until there is an actual Danger Room (or Holodeck for the Star Trek fans out there) to play with/in.  Until then, I await the second digital coming of Tupac Shakur in accordance with the gospel of All Eyez on Me.