There is an entire anime/manga genre that deals with MMORPGs (massive multiplayer online roleplaying games) in a total virtual reality. Examples are Sword Art Online, 1/2 Prince, and Moonlight Sculptor.
While the plot differs, they all have following features in common:
- virtual reality gear is external (helmet / capsule) and easy-to-use (plug'n'play) at home, comparable to personal computers concerning how widespread and easy to buy it is
- total override of conscious nerve control; while the VR is experienced the body remains in a coma-like state; only important signals like 'got to go to bathroom' or 'starving' or 'house is burning down around me' get forwarded to the user
- immersion is more or less realistic, but definitely includes visual and audio, to some lesser degree also taste, smell, touch; pain can also be simulated
- gaming seems to be the most important application of this technology in all those cases, in many of them it is even the only application.
Goal: I want to set up a world that does have VR MMORPGs, including all the handwavium necessary to get that kind of VR to work, but does it somewhat more realistic than the majority of said anime/manga genre
Question: Which aspects do I need to consider when applying a more real-world outlook on the technology? Other applications, legality, health/psychology issues -- what else? What are the main issues? EDIT: I would be very satisfied with a rounded outlook of where else this kind of VR technology can be applied; the rest can probably be deduced from that.
For all intents and purposes, assume a human society like ours, approximately same technology level as today with the exception of the VR tech and all the necessary technologies leading up to the end product.