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The Dangers of Virtual Reality

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I jerk the steering wheel to the left and narrowly avoid a beam of light. Alarm bells go off as an enemy spacecraft clips the wing of my starship. I don’t have much time. Checking my ammunition, I push the gas and –

“So, how do you like the game?” the salesman asks.

Disoriented, I take off my virtual reality headset. “It’s great. It feels so… real.”

“Well, virtual reality’s meant to do that. Really get you invested in the game.”

But that may be where the problem lies.

In our rapidly advancing world of technology, it is only a matter of time before VR is fully implemented in society. In fact, this is currently evident through our use of augmented reality (AR) phone applications such as Pokémon Go and SnapChat.

However, engaging in fully immersive video games may lead to physical and mental harm. In 2010, a South Korean couple’s internet game addiction led to their baby’s starvation, resulting in negligent homicide. In 2011, a young British player died from a blood clot caused from prolonged gaming on his Xbox. In 2015, a man in Taiwan died from a cardiac arrest caused by over-exhaustion after a three-day gaming binge.

In response to these cases, Internet gaming disorder was included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 2015. Some criteria to be met for this disorder include the “use of the internet gaming to escape” and the “loss of a significant opportunity or relationship” as a result of gaming. VR games puts one at risk for both criteria. According to Oculus VR, an American technology company, the goal of VR is to emulate “the sensation of presence,” or “the feeling as though you’re actually there [in the game].” Such in-depth immersion increases the chances of addiction and, consequently, reclusive behavior and deterioration of one’s physical health.

That is not to say that VR is always harmful. For example, cybertherapy allows patients to face their phobias in a virtual environment and receive help from therapists during the simulation. In more fiscal aspects, VR videos are often used to promote travel, such as in the case of Marriott International. Organizations such as Time have also produced VR documentaries that allow their audience to experience an event on a personal level – surely an advantageous educational tool.

However, there is clearly a need to proceed with caution when deciding what content to promote using VR. One careless slip may lead to an addiction pandemic with no vaccine to stop it.

 

References:

Carey, Benedict. “In Cybertherapy, Avatars Assist With Healing.” The New York Times. 22 Nov. 2010.

Griffiths, Mark. “Gaming to death: What turns a hobby into a health hazard?” CNN. 21 Jan. 2015.

Hunt, Katie, and Naomi Ng. “Man dies in Taiwan after 3-day online gaming binge.” CNN. 19 Jan. 2015.

Morrissey, Janet. “Virtual Reality Leads Marketers Down a Tricky Path.” The New York Times. 5 March 2017.

Salmon, Andrew. “Couple: Internet gaming addiction led to baby’s death.” CNN. 2 April 2010.

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The student news site of Bergen County Academies
The Dangers of Virtual Reality