Infinite Dendrogram, our current light novel club selection, begins with a current state of affairs in that world and the fictional chronicling of how VRMMO (Virtual Reality Massively Multiplayer Online) games and in particular, the titular VRMMO, developed:
July 15, 2043. On this date, the VRMMO Infinite Dendrogram was released around the world. It had been nearly half a century since man had first dreamt of a VRMMO…
The year 2043 is pretty far into the future, but that might be an accurate date for such a product. It’s sad in a way—we might be dreaming dreams of playing in “true” VR environments now, but this novel predicts it to still be 25 years away from reality! Those of you in college probably have the time to sink into such a game now—you don’t want to wait that long until a time when you’re too busy to play Infinite Dendogram or GGO. If prescient, VRMMOs would be made for my grandchildren, not me!
Indeed, although current virtual reality is helpful and entertaining, the VR of our dreams (as explained in this video, which also mentions Serial Experiments Lain among several other anime—thanks @stardf29 for pointing me to it!) is still a ways off. I recently used Oculus Drift for the first time, and was pretty amazed by what it can do. It felt immersive. I even got a touch of dizziness during one simulation in which I “fell” rapidly from the sky to earth. But the system still didn’t quite give me an experience where I felt that the VR world is every bit as real as real life.
Maybe it’s a good thing we’re not there yet. While some series, like Sword Art Online, just touch on the possible negatives (sometimes fantastical) of advanced VR, other works really get into the crux of it. Ready Player One is a recent example. Though subtly, and more in the film than in the book, RPO causes us to wonder if running away into a virtual world, even one where you can be physically active and socially fulfilled, is a bad thing. If you could be everything you want and avoid everything you don’t, why wouldn’t you grasp that with both hands? Why wouldn’t you spend every minute you could in that world?
The answer we’re always provided to that is that the real world is better because, well, it’s real. To be honest, that was a fine answer for me as a kid. It fits right in with the themes Spielberg indoctrinated me with as a child. But as I’ve aged and become more willing to question that which I grew up believing, I have to wonder, isn’t it okay to live for pleasure, to live for one’s self? I don’t think anyone is thinking that we’re greenlighting the drug-fueled society of Brave New World—we’re just taking the “good” and leaving behind the “bad.”
That’s said, if you’re a reader of this blog, you can imagine where I really come out on that issue, but I’m eager to hear your thoughts on it. Are we headed toward something that’s ultimately bad for us? Or will virtual reality lead to fulfillment in our lives?
Again, that world is still a while away, but it’s as good a time as any to think about it. In fact, the more we analyze now, the better we’ll be prepared when it actually comes. In that sense, maybe it’s better than truly immersive VR isn’t here yet—I think I’m perfectly fine waiting until about 2043. After all, VR may be ready for my grandchildren’s generation, but the it’ll actually be me who’ll probably spend more time playing it. I’ll be retired.
Let us know your thoughts on a VRMMO future in the comments below, and be sure to read volume one of Infinite Dendrogram and join us September 21st for our light novel club discussion!
featured art by シワスタカシ (reprinted w/permission)