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My world is basically the same as our own but with slightly more advanced cybernetics and virtual technology. Specifically, they have a technology to create true matrix level virtual worlds. The most popular of which is based on a fantasy RPG. Users connect their minds to the virtual reality and choose different classes for their avatars in this virtual world. As they play, they can unlock new skills, abilities, and ability levels. However, as amazing as this game is, it comes with side effects.

Since the game is so real you can suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from your gaming experience. You also feel the pain as if it were real. And most frightening of all is that the more you play, the higher is a risk of a coma or even a complete brain death, should your avatar experience death in the game. The chances of death in the game resulting in actual death increase with the time spent playing the game.

Yet despite this, over 1/3 of the world population spends one day a week playing the game. 1/5 of the population spends 3 days a week playing.

Assuming that these gamers are relatively sane why would they keep playing even knowing the risks?

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  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Nov 15 '17 at 3:16

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People risk themselves all the time

Drugs

Plenty of people have at least tried drugs, some of which can kill, most of which have dubious sources...and yet the thrill, peer pressure and community are enough to make them ignore the more sobering facts. Perhaps these things do kill...but thats something that happens to other people, right?

Much like with drugs perhaps the general consensus becomes that those who do die just didn't know their limits, that it stems from some fault with the person. It is easy, then, to consider yourself as much more sensible than that, the danger is negligible if you're doing it right.

Adrenaline junkies

Parachuting, Mountain climbing, base jumping...the list of things we do for 'fun' which could easily kill us is nearly endless. Perhaps it is the feeling that you're just too bubble wrapped in the real world. Your day to day life is so controlled that you couldn't risk it if you wanted to. Your game would be the perfect escape for this, to feel in control again. Sky diving, for example, why is it a bigger thrill than if you were inside a plane? You're just safer and in less control in a plane. Your game has taken away these safety measures and become the skydiving of games where all others games are like watching it all from a metal box.

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  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Nov 10 '17 at 4:24
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    $\begingroup$ ... or even something as mundane as driving habits. People drive recklessly not for any enjoyment or gratification, but simply because they learned the habit and think it's the norm. Maybe they even think it's how you're supposed to drive. $\endgroup$ – Hurkyl Nov 10 '17 at 16:14
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    $\begingroup$ The Isle of Man TT might be a good study for this, multiple racers die there every year (3 this year, 4, last, a total of 255 since 1907) yet if anything it's getting more popular. $\endgroup$ – plast1k Nov 10 '17 at 18:55
  • $\begingroup$ Another example would be the "Running of the Bulls" in Spain (and other places). Some people are just crazy. $\endgroup$ – James Hollis Nov 11 '17 at 2:16
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    $\begingroup$ VERY GOOD ANSWER. The idea that if you do it right, you're safe, and the people dying just didn't know their limits, is a fantastic answer $\endgroup$ – TheEnvironmentalist Nov 12 '17 at 23:40
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Some thoughts ...

  • Maybe the real world ... sucks. It could be some kind of dystopic future where automation has destroyed most people's jobs (see Spinrad's "Little Heroes") and there's little opportunity or hope for the populace. Why not check out?

  • Maybe the virtual world is really fun. You have a gorgeous girlfriend there. You're buff there. You have friends there. Your "analog life" is only there to fund your online life. You make the "Achilles' Choice" to live fast and hard, and accept the risks.

  • Maybe it's not just a game. You "telecommute" into the virtual office, for a company which only exists in the virtual world. Your contract does state that you have to unplug and exercise so your analog-body doesn't melt into goo.

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    $\begingroup$ "Maybe the real world sucks" Bam, setting of "Ready player one" described. Except that there you can't die from dying in the game. $\endgroup$ – Fabian Röling Nov 9 '17 at 11:56
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    $\begingroup$ The "die from dying in the game" part is present in "Sword art online", but there someone just suddenly traps everyone in the game, it isn't a conscious decision. $\endgroup$ – Fabian Röling Nov 9 '17 at 12:35
  • $\begingroup$ @Fabian Players didn't die directly from playing the game in Ready Player One, but people did die as a consequence of playing the game. $\endgroup$ – jamesdlin Nov 11 '17 at 2:34
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The game is very addictive and rewards are very high

Games are very addictive. They are often specifically designed to provide immediate gratification. Your game can be especially good at this. Considering the described level of technology, it is very much possible that the developers managed to hijack the brain reward system and gameplay stimulates an unusually high release of dopamine. This would result in addiction similar to sexual addiction. The game-set can also inject substances mimicking brain neurotransmitters triggering dopamine release. That would be similar to opioid drug addiction (opioid drugs are similar to endorphins in their structure).

The majority of people are very easy to hook up on something. Some people do not get addicted (even to opioids) and we do not know exactly why, but they are a minority you can disregard. So, you can just say that the game is easily available and is very addictive. Availablity is a big factor. People need a chance to put their hands on the game if you want 1/3 of the population to play it.

The rewards should be also quite high. Teenagers are happy to spend their time playing. Virtual perks and rewards are gratifying enough for them. However, adults need a bit more motivation. So, the game should offer something important enough that they skip their TV session (dining out/ fishing/ whatever) and play instead. Perhaps, something like a lottery with a giant prize could work to attract new users.

The initial gameplay should be easy, safe, and enjoyable. People need to invest time and effort into the game but do not feel like they are taking a risk. However, over time they become attached and their ability to assess the real risks will decline. People tend to underestimate risks that are not well-understood/defined and/or do not threaten them immediately and directly. If your game keeps people comfortable and is not perceived as threatening, people would most likely ignore the information about possible health risks in the end-game. And for some people, higher stakes will make the game even more enjoyable: The adrenalin rush!

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    $\begingroup$ "Virtual perks and rewards are gratifying enough for [teenagers]. However, adults need a bit more motivation." Makes me think of the SE "reputation" gamification system. What people here aren't willing to do for a few rep points... :-) $\endgroup$ – a CVn Nov 9 '17 at 8:56
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    $\begingroup$ @Michael Kjörling: But what percentage of participants here actually pay attention to that? $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Nov 10 '17 at 18:58
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Don't confuse sanity for behaving rationally. Sanity is defined by the norm, not what is logical or sensible.

Consider that people who honestly believe they are being visited by aliens are not considered to be fully sane, because few people share that belief and there is little evidence to support it. On the other hand, billions of people believe in a supernatural, undetectable and omnipotent being who manipulates their lives and the world around them, despite there being about as much evidence as there is for the aliens. Because such a belief is fairly common, it is considered sane despite being irrational.

Therefore, there is no reason why sane people would not be willing to take this kind of risk if it was a social norm to do so.

You might also compare it to gun ownership. Statistically, owning a gun in many countries only increases your risk of dying. But human beings don't think like that, they assume that the statistics are skewed by people of lower ability and that if they own a gun they will not have deadly accidents, will not one day feel suicidal and when drawing on an opponent will come out on top. Another example is gambling, where statistically most people lose money and the system is usually designed to ensure that even skilled players do so, but many people think they can beat the system anyway.

Similarly, many people, particularly men, would likely look at a dangerous but rewarding game and think they could do better.

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    $\begingroup$ it is considered sane despite being irrational +1 for putting yourself out there pal :) $\endgroup$ – Binary Worrier Nov 9 '17 at 11:54
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    $\begingroup$ "Consider that people who honestly believe they are being visited by aliens are not considered to be fully sane" - err, not where I live. "Not fully sane" to me is a mental health diagnosis. Some UFO buffs may have mental health problems, but I wouldn't see "believing in aliens" as conclusive evidence of that. $\endgroup$ – Martin Bonner Nov 10 '17 at 8:44
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the best answer is the combine of many factor, like real life suck, the game is very addictive and have high reward, etc.. However, there's another factor that i haven't seen mention here: They have nothing else to do.

If you have the technology to make such game, then i think you can also creat robot and A.I that will pretty much replace human in the workforce. You will have a huge population that clueless about what to do with their life at that point, people who dont have any goal to achieve everyday, any place to go at 8 AM, any thing to do after wake up.. these people will pretty much try anything that give them a sense of meaning, and thus, flock to your suicide game..

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    $\begingroup$ "You will have a huge population that clueless about what to do with their life at that point" not like it's that unrealistic ! $\endgroup$ – Asoub Nov 9 '17 at 12:48
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All your friends are there

Humans are irreversibly social creatures and absolutely terrible with calculating risk. If you give them an opportunity to easily interact with other people, in a comfortable setting, they'll do it.

Social platforms accrete users over time by slowly roping in non-users. The primary draw is "I'm on this cool thing, come and see", so they sign up. Eventually, the new thing stops being cool but provides enough convenient functionality and more importantly, good memories that people stay.

Facebook is like this. Twitter is like this. Eve Online is like this. World of Warcraft, to varying degrees, is like this. Every single successful social platform and MMORPG has followed this pattern.

If this game was built correctly, and it sounds like it was, then will offer something for practically everyone. Escapists get to leave reality for a while. Explorers get to find new cool things. Griefers, grief people. Achievers get shiny badges.

Everyone from casual gamers to the most hardcore will find their old friends, make new friends and go on adventures that aren't possible in real life.

It'll happen to someone else

News sources will not fail to report deaths resulting from dying in-game. Unless these become prevalent, say you have a 30% lifetime risk of dying while in this game, few will stop playing. If death is rare enough then players will rationalize playing by saying "Oh, other people die but that won't happen to me" and keep playing.

They will further rationalize, "I don't play that much" or "I don't do that kind of thing". Whether or not this actually reduces the overall risk, the rationalization will be enough to ignore the risks and keep playing.

Also, these deaths aren't gruesome, blood spattered murders. They're more akin to strokes. If they were gruesome deaths then the graphic nature might be enough to deter players.

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Inception theory

This issue is slightly addressed in the movie Inception. People come together to live in the dream world. As time is slower in the virtual world than actual world they can live longer in the virtual world even if they live shorter in the actual world.

One conversation in movie goes like this

-They come here everyday to sleep?

-No. They come to be woken up.The dream has become their reality.Who are you to say otherwise, huh?

So, people have accepted the virtuality as the reality. And go to actual work just for the sake of earning some money which is needed for sustaining their life. People have already given up their ambitions in real world as it would be comparatively difficult to achieve. Wherein, inside the game you can choose your avatar, their abilities, looks and life paths. You ask why? Why not?

Improved healthcare system

With improvement in the cybernetics scientists are able to find and isolate the cells causing cancer and heart failures. So average life expectancy of people is increased. Because of that population of earth is also increased and same is with competition in jobs. So rather than working through the tough competition against another human and robots people have started to engage themselves in the game. Now people even have started to get bored of this long life as they don't have many things to do. So they have accepted approach of YOLO (You only live once) in their life and live life to the extreme (even if it is in virtual world) they don't mind if their life is shortened by this. You ask why? YOLO.

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A real life example:

If you are older, you may remember the 70s. During this time TV in Europe was sponsored by the country, advertisement during movies and shows was completely unknown. Also game shows in general were hold to a highly ethical standard, just insulting or ridiculing participants was considered low and triggered enraged protests. I can also use always safely "he" because the idea that a woman would do this was unimaginable (you see the reason below).

In this era Tom Toelle, a German filmmaker, made the "Das Millionenspiel".

The movie can be watched here.

It was meant as a scathing remark for the direction TV may be going. It was presented as a pseudo-show where a participant is hunted by a team of killers for one week. If he survives, he gets 1 Million D-Mark (Which is enough for a lifetime of safety in this time). If he loses, he loses his life. His killers get for every hunted down member a bounty, so they have an good incentive to find and kill him. To prevent the candidates from simply hiding in a lone spot, the participant must occur at control points at a given time if he does not want to lose his prize. The killer team are allowed to get hints from persons who know the location and do not want that the candidate succeed from pure spite.

Also the moderator and all members behind the scenes are shown to be repugnant and remorseless assholes and are cheating/manipulating the hell out of the game.

If you find this story remarkably close to "The Prize of Peril" by Robert Sheckley, this is the reason the film was shown only one time because of copyright issues.

For maximum effect the film was shown without warning, used a well-known moderator (Dieter Thomas Heck) during the time and interspersed the film with mock-documentaries and advertisements.

The team was quite shocked that they did not only receive the storm of protest (which they anticipated and were glad to receive), but also serious applications of becoming the participant or the hunters(!!).

So, you do not need to fear that is unrealistic. People are prone to underestimate or even neglect personal risk, Russian men for example have a shortened lifetime of 14 (!) years compared to women because of all the unhealthy lifestyle (smoking, excessive drinking, risk activities). Even I don't have a car, but drive a motorcycle knowing well that my risk of dying in a crash increased approximately tenfold.

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There is a real strong tendency for businesses to encourage repeat business and regular consumer activity even to the point of encouraging addiction. And a lot of science fiction has already been written about neuro-electric addiction or "wire-heads". If the neural interfaces to these games jolts the pleasure centers of the brain, then it will be tough for people not to keep coming back for more. B F Skinners rats were well documented to keep pushing the pleasure lever, while ignoring the food lever, until they starved to death. A lesser stimulus might just keep people coming back for more, whenever they can.

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The game is still safer than real life.

Background risk:

We all experience a few micromorts(1 in 1000000 chance of death) of risk per day, if 2 billion people play the game for a day and 1000 players randomly die in the game and then die in real life the game remains safer than real life.

Going Scuba diving costs 5 micromorts per dive.

Base-jumping costs 430 micromorts per jump.

Traveling 6 miles by motorbike or 10 miles by bicycle costs about 1 micromort.

Those same people would have been out crossing roads, driving cars drinking real wine if they'd not been playing that day.

The game is good, the game is very good and most players in the game don't spend their time fighting dragons, they spend their time in virtual mansions and playing virtual golf or crafting virtual goods.

Even if you do die in the game it's not a certainty you'll die in real life, you might just wake up a few days later feeling crap.

The people who actually go out and seek out dragons to slay are the people who'd be base-jumping in real life if they weren't playing the game. And they're still safer doing their thrill-seeking in the game.

So even though every day hundreds or even thousands of people die playing the game, they're still safer than non players on those days.

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Lio has mentioned the extremes but the average person doesn't throw themselves out of a plane or climb Everest. There is a classification of risky activities that covers things "normal" people do.

Assumed risk activities

These are basic day to day activities to many people, simple common things with no great aura of danger around them.

Whether for fun, riding horses, swimming, indoor climbing, sailing, skiing, kayaking. Work related, climbing ladders, trees, buildings, and using heavy machinery and power tools. Or just the daily commute, cycling, riding a motorbike.

We call them assumed risk because they seem routine but any of them might kill you on any given day, they could easily leave you with serious injuries if you make a mistake. Yet we (those of us who do such things) don't consider them particularly risky when due precautions are taken, and occasionally have to be reminded that these activities are actually dangerous.

Whether the reason is fun, convenience, efficiency or otherwise, humans take risks. Perhaps the risk and reward are required to be equivalent, but consider the risk of death on the road compared to the benefit of spending an hour less commuting, yet this is the game I play every day.

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Your game is not so different from what we already have in our life here: alcohol, cigarettes, driving fast cars, doing bungee jumping are just some of the activities which are known to increase the chances of death for the person engaged in them, yet people keep doing them!

The answer to your question is pretty straightforward: adrenaline and/or endorphins. Once they get in your blood stream, you feel damn good. And you can't stop with them.

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I would imagine a feasible answer could be based on the perceived risk, not the true risk of playing the game.

The more you play the higher the chance of death. Ah ha, I say to my parents that warn me away from these games, I will only play one day a week. Perfectly safe. Risk of death is probably 1 in 10,000 safer than driving to work, playing a contact sport etc. No problem whatsoever.

Ok so I'll play 2 days this week because I want to help John from work finish that quest. Really, what's one extra day going to do. Sure I said this last week because I wanted to finish levelling toolsmithing, but so what.

Look I still have a solid 2 days a week where I don't even log onto the game. That's more than enough time for my brain to cool off or whatever, the adverts about it being dangerous are clearly way over the top, everyone else who does it is ok.

I'm fine. My name is Thargold the Grey, I sleep in the physical realm to make sure my body and mind are sound, but that world doesn't matter to me any more. I spend every waking moment in the kingdom of good, I'm so powerful here the heathens of evil couldn't kill me even if they wanted to. There's literally no risk at all.

Does anyone hear the sound of an army marching in the distance...?

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TL;DRI'd recommend reading up on addiction and PTSD. Also consider how the Game itself will be able to meet the needs of many different kinds of players, and how in doing so would make them dependent on it. Also look into the current day anti-gaming hysteria, as much of your own story could be a direct contrast to it. Also, think Facebook.

Yeah, sorry. This is longer than I meant it to be.

Intro: We could already be in this world, depending on who you ask. Gaming is commonly pointed to as being the cause of many of the modern social ills, from the "obesity epidemic" in modern countries to social anxiety, depression, suicide, or even violence which could lead to an increase in murder rates. Let's assume for the moment that it's true, what would make a gamer want to be a gamer?

Addiction is the commonly-named devil. In today's world, I think it's the only one ever given. It's a good descriptor as it is frequently used by gamers to describe videogames (eg, current-gen MOBA addiction) while being vague enough to allow one to envision it into being as threatening as an unhealthy love of chocolate or as benign as daily meth use. It's also a great way to demonize something without bothering to try and understand what drives the addiction to begin with.

So why would a gamer choose to play a game that can kill them? I could write a book on just this, but I'll cover what I consider hasn't been said yet.

Minimizing Cons: Many intelligent people will accept more danger than they realize, either through belief, relying on bad information, or due to our in-built preference for early gain over far-off consequences. I'll give a few examples below.

Perceived Danger is less than Actual Danger - The world is a messy place, filled with messy information. Some information is more correct, sure, but it's hard to say what is true. I see no reason to simplify this in a Sci-Fi world. The actual danger could be unknown, leaving many people guessing at what the cause of these new comas are.

For example: the comas are linked to both Game play as well as energy drink consumption, is this an odd correlation or could it be the cause? Well, my friend has over 10,000 hours of Game play and hasn't experienced any problems, so it can't be the Game. Yo, did you hear that the pro player who live-stream comaed just broke up with his girlfriend an hour before? Just don't play on a bad day man. Wireless signal density in the lower metropolitan area may be linked to genetic damage and may be an indicator for those at risk. It's a calcium deficiency. WHAT ABOUT THE VACCINES?!?

Truth be told, having a new epidemic creates a new marketable need. Think organic food and homeopathy; new products will spring up to offer solutions and answers on what the new problem might be. Some may be honest mistakes based on anecdotal evidence and may even offer some benefits, while others will outright lie or use it to drive their own agenda. As long as it doesn't immediately threaten all living humans, society will be happy to argue, sensationalize, and make money off of it. No rush, especially if altering the Game would have a large impact on society. And it would.

However there's also the possibility in which the actual danger is known but hidden, which leads us down the rabbit-hole. If the Game company has a good media and marketing group, they can coerce public opinion. Or maybe they can make the believers out to be the crazy ones, ostracizing the truth. Eg the conspiracy is the cover up.

Actual Danger also exists in the virtual tech - It could be that the tech the new Internet runs on itself may cause the problem, the Game just increases the risk. This is like the difference between smoking a pack a day and a pack and a half a day. It's there, but if you know about the risks it may not seem as much of a problem.

The Benefits: Due to having a third of the population playing the Game, it will be a primary force in the story's culture, especially if that third was isolated in a specific area (say, the developed world). As the Game is Culture, many will play it just to be part of the in crowd. The Game's influence in Economy will be large, and could be similar to how Entropia Universe combines real money with virtual property, Second Life focuses on social groups and custom content, or be based on making transferable wealth through inter-game cryptocurrencies. Likewise checking the current top PC games shows that games focusing on quick slices of action (or rounds), creativity and world-building seem the most popular, especially when mechanics are fairly simple to start. However, games like Eve Online show that adding optional depth can lead to die-hard fans. All of this is based on the merits and technology behind the game, little to do with any dependency. Instead it fulfills the needs of the player to create, be noticed, hone their technique, and to encounter novel experiences. Basically fits with the Bartle Taxonomy of Player Types.

To bring in the population and keep them playing, all you need is intertia and a low barrier to entry. Imagine if all you had to do to view Facebook was close your eyes. If the Game is tightly integrated with the virtual world, so that falling into it is as easy as changing a filter on your virtual HUD (think Augmented Virtuality sitting on top of plain old Augmented Reality), then habit will take players where they need to go. And the more virtual reality becomes the norm, the less likely you'd have to do real things, like drive to work.

Important to note is that even in a relatively prosperous and safe nation, it may still be safer to go into a game that may kill you. Not only is it easier to go get drunk at a virtual pub than it is to go to a real life club, worry about fights, being hit by cars, passing out in the cold, muggings, ending up stranded with no cash, etc. But the likelihood of dying is probably low in many areas. And even if you die, so what you'll probably be fine in the morning.

As for pain and PTSD; well we already live in a world where people are starting to feel disconnected in real life, while gaming and online relationships can create long-term friendships. Deep friendships are also built on shared painful experiences, such as war. As the disconnect with the real world grows, virtual pain (not "real" but real enough) could make the virtual seem more like reality, while giving you a chance to become something else and find others that can actually know you.

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If the risk of dying ingame is not as high as in Dark Souls and not loads of people you knew would die everyday, people would play it. Why wouldn't they? If the chance of dying is lower than the chance of dying from lung cancer from smoking for 20 years people will definitely do it, especially if it is not always the case you die in real life when you die ingame.

People will think "It won't hit me." as they do with cigarettes.

To summarize with everything other people said:

  • Fun to play
  • maybe addictive
  • adrenalin rush (a lot of people are into that. e.g. Bungee Jumping.)
  • escape from reality
  • feeling of accomplishment as you might be more successful in the ingame social world than your real life one
  • relatively low risk of dying, even if just perceived as low
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The biggest problem with Lio Elbammalf's answer is that drug users and adrenaline junkies are still a rather small group of people. While I am sure a lot of people drive their car too fast or have smoked a joint at least once in their life, I highly doubt a third of the population would go to such extremes. As such, we need more ways to achieve what we want.

Provide Extrernal Incentives

One of the biggest influences on our behaviour is the way our society works is what our peers think about us. Perhaps in your world a high level or otherwise powerful character is considered a much of a feat as an expensive car and a good job is in our real word. You could even go a step further of actively discriminating against people who don't play. You want your kid to go to a good school? Well, you better have a good enough reputation in the game.

Even though people who don't play the game are the majority, the real wealth and power are among the players, and people know that! Make sure that the destinction between players and non-players is as unfair as possible, so that even "sane" people who would know not to risk their life would feel tempted.

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As alluded too in other examples: Addiction, adrenaline, community

TL;DR: There is a much advertised "opioid epidemic" going on in the US right now. What's causing it? People get prescribed pills for pain/anxiety/etc... then get hooked. Then progressively get worse... Add to that a neural enhanced adrenaline/dopamine enhanced experience... And then include your online "family"...

Addiction

People are, in vast numbers, getting addicted to opiods. What starts out as a prescription to alleviate pain - bad back, accident, torn muscles, etc... turn into something that can't be given up easily.

What would start this? Much like prescription drugs are "gateway" drugs into other stuff... Farmville turns into clash of clans...

Make these online games start out simple and "everyone uses this to relax after a long day".

First you answer a few questions on Stack Overflow... next thing you know you're spending all day answering questions, get demoted at work, lose your job and yet you can't stop answering questions! WHY SE WHY!!!

These addictions start out as "safe" doctor prescribed answers to pain, anxiety, stress, issues like bi-polar, etc...

Adrenaline

While it doesn't have to be exactly adrenaline... this game - when added to being "prescribed" as a relaxant - affects your brain.

Life is boring. Works is boring. This game? OMG!!! exciting!

Online gaming has some connections: At first, the "safe" n00bie levels are exciting. Exploring. Learning. Getting some levels. But at some point... it gets "normal". What's left? Higher level areas. PVP optional areas. PVP ONLY areas. Hardmode versions.

Make a game like World of Warcraft or Eve that starts out with "safe n00b zones"... which progressively gets more complicated, more expansive and more... risky.

Plug the game directly into the nervous system - Matrix Style - and you've got an adrenaline, dopamine delivery system that people... just... can't... put... down.

Community

Now you've got an addictive game... how do you make sure it STAYS addictive?

Why has WoW been going strong as a leader for 15 years now? while other games have fallen to the wayside like abandoned dung heaps in the history bin?

Community. "Online Family".

I, personally, met my fiance on WoW. We've got life long friends through the game. People we've met and some we've never met. People that have been more influential in our lives than actual family.

You go through the n00b levels together. Explore the expansions. Live through massive boss fights and overcome obstacles. Together.

We are talking some Combat Unit level cohesion and comradery. Life long bonds that can't be broke easily.

again... pair these three things together to make something addictive, exciting and an important part of one's life.

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Maybe the people accept that death is inevitable and feel that death and risk of death should be faced with acceptance not with rejection? Instead of human life being sacred being interpreted as "stay alive and keep others alive", it would be interpreted as living a good life that ends in a good death. Instead of focussing on the length of life, they'd focus on the quality of life.

Improved medical technology could mean people no longer worry about dying too soon. They would instead worry about living too long. Outstaying their welcome and staying alive beyond their own time. The music has become just noise with infantile lyrics about sex sung by someone who doesn't know how to sing. Politics is all about who shouts lies and insults loudest.

The society accepts that death is a personal matter and that society has no right to stop people from making informed choices about their own life and death. Euthanasia and assisted suicide would presumably also be legal.

This is actually rational and sane viewpoint. The obstacles are on the part of religious dogma. So you'd have to change religion from what it is currently, probably. You can do this indirectly by increasing the secularization and liberalization of society so that religion becomes more marginalized. Or you can directly alter the religions. The religions might simply have reconsidered what sanctity of life means. Or pre-determinism might have become dominant and the religious might simply believe that whether you die or not does not really depend on this game. It is a fixed part of Gods plan.

So the one third playing the game would simply be the people who are ready to die and have decided to die epic, fighting monsters in a vibrant world of wonder as cool and powerful heroes. Sure beats jumping off a balcony or overdosing on pills. Probably beats growing old and infirm and passively waiting for death to finally come too.

As long as it is your own choice this is entirely rational and even good choice. Your family and friends might be upset about you wanting to leave them behind, but there would be no real reason for society or law to object, if the religious issue has been dealt with.

I think that in a society where death is accepted as inevitable and people want to end their lives with a good death, one third of population being ready to die is plausible, if the world is otherwise either safe or very stressful. It could of course be both. Some dystopias in fiction definitely combine "death is the only escape" with being good at keeping people alive.

Additionally, if good death if not only acceptable, but desired, then it would also be acceptable for people to risk dying even before they are particularly ready to die. After all, if death is an accepted part of life, then risk of death should also be accepted as natural part of life.

Risk of death in the game would be accepted as necessary for making it feel real. Indeed, the game would probably default to suppressing the knowledge that character death does not always result in player death while playing. Players simply could not remember that while playing. Instead they would play in certain knowledge that "death means death".

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    $\begingroup$ The second paragraph is uncomfortably close to current events... I like this premise but I fear a death-centric society may face population issues in time. $\endgroup$ – Orgmo Nov 9 '17 at 13:37
  • $\begingroup$ @Orgmo Why? Whether people accept death and look forward to it or fear it does not really change fertility or mortality. Everyone will die. So I don't see what population issue there might be. $\endgroup$ – Ville Niemi Nov 9 '17 at 14:06
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    $\begingroup$ @Orgmo Your comment made me think. The game might actually be a good way to moderate mental health issues related to self-harm. The in-game analytics would probably pin point any suicidal or self-destructive tendencies easily, so a state with good mental health care system could use that to flag an intervention. The interventions might even be in the built into the game itself. $\endgroup$ – Ville Niemi Nov 9 '17 at 14:16
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Time to learn something

My whole premise revolves around the game speed. While these games would offer completely unique experiences we can integrate them into the real world fairly easily.

This is a game/simulation so when people log in time can move at a different speed. This gives the player the feeling of a longer life and can learn more things. Whether what they learn are "soft skills" (how to manage/organize group events), a new language (I use Spanish more online than in my personal life), or facts (do you remember runescape willow trees?).

Runescape willow tree

In a normal lifetime these skills take awhile to develop. In a simulation with accelerated speed (2x speed? 10x speed?) people who want to learn these skills put in a fraction of the amount of time. This would be especially important for slow developing adults (some forms of autism need more time to learn soft skills) or business skills like managing.

Services

A number of services are time intensive, being able to manipulate time would be a very nice ability to have for things like Therapy. Therapy costs as much as it does right now due to high demand and limited time in the day. If we make a 10x simulation a therapist can spend 6 real minutes with someone for 60 minutes of therapy.

Other services would be things like reading. Ever want to read that whole book in a single night so you don't have to for a class/course? a 10x simulation would take care of that in no time.


TLDR: given we can change the cycle time and the human brain can keep up with it, anyone who wants to learn anything would choose to log in and learn in accelerated speed.

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"should your avatar experience death in the game". There it is. Perhaps most of the people playing this game do it in a way that's unlikely to actually get them killed in-game. Sure, the crazy people that head into dungeons are at risk, but there are thrill-seekers everywhere. Maybe there are a lot of people who enjoy playing the crafter side of the game, playing as merchants and whatnot. Perhaps there are techniques that people can use to make it really unlikely that they will die - hitting the logout button or the escape scroll when things get risky.

The real question is, why would they build a game like this? What's the point? For the game designers, it should be easy to build a game where instead of experiencing "dying" (with the associated possibility of traumatic damage to the player), you experience "teleported to purgatory" (with no such possibility). It should be trivial to identify the sorts of effects that can bring about player death, and simply edit them out of the code. Why don't they do this?

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  • $\begingroup$ Cause theyre lazy. Thats not a joke. Try digging through 10000 lines of code to eliminate the case of dying. Also, consider that then you'd have to add a purgatory. If it takes too long the game will be offline for weeks and youd get in trouble and fired for costing the company money. Better to just tell yer boss "its not possible to fix. Just stick a warning in." $\endgroup$ – The Great Duck Nov 10 '17 at 21:09
  • $\begingroup$ I don't buy it. You don't need to take the game offline to make this happen. You add a straightforward purgatory, test it a bit, and then hit the switch. Anyway, you don't need to dig through 10,000 lines of code. Coding tools are real good at finding stuff like that these days, and it's not a bugfix so much as a patch. You don't need to know exactly where the code that makes it happen is. you just need to kludge an answer in place so that section never gets triggered. $\endgroup$ – Ben Barden Nov 10 '17 at 22:01
  • $\begingroup$ youd be surprised how many lines of code go into major projects like that.Furthermore, you would need to remove the code that causes death. If a person were to hack the game or there was a glitch then people might die.Also most games dont just have one death condition. There is at least 3 or 4 and it wont be that simple to edit out. Finally this is assuming that delinquent line can be narrowed down.If the game can simulate the feeling of drowning for instance so well that you die from it then is it the death boolean triggering a game over killing you or is it the simulated drowning? $\endgroup$ – The Great Duck Nov 11 '17 at 23:19
  • $\begingroup$ after all the feeling might be what kills you, not the game over. i.e. psychosomatic death $\endgroup$ – The Great Duck Nov 11 '17 at 23:19
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Don't think about gaming, think about gambling.

Gambling is pretty common, and lots of people do it in some form. They (consciously or otherwise) take a risk. Some do it because of the reward, but actually mostly it's just because risk taking is a rush in it's own right.

I played EVE for a long time - it's a game where there's a lot of risk. Fully outfitted ships are a significant amount of in-game currency, and a lot of effort to replace. But fitting 'top tier' gives you a significant edge in combat.

So people do it anyway, and there's a really huge adrenaline rush off victory - of facing that fear you're going to lose, and triumphing. And that rush correlates with how much you've got on the line - nothing really focuses your mind like knowing you're commanding a squadron of other players, and all of them have worked hard to bring 'good quality' ships to the fight. And if you screw up, and it's a total wipe - then you're talking hundreds of man hours of 'work' to get back to where you were.

But you take that fleet into combat, give your opponents a pasting - and blow up their stuff - and you walk away exultant.

The same rationale applies to people who play games in 'hardcore' mode - the ones where there's no savegames or rollbacks, and losing a character is 'game over'. It's more exciting and 'real' because there's a 'real loss'.

So I can well imagine how that might extend to voluntary risk taking of potentially fatal risks - imagine being able to overdrive your character in game. When 'overdriving' you perform much better, so you're way less likely to lose... but if you do lose, then you're at risk of death.

People would do that. They'd win, based on taking a risk; getting a reward (being able to dominate the game). And that goes double if there's some positive incentive to 'maintaining position' - in EVE, holding star systems directly correlates to getting good loot/items, and thus allows you to rebuild your 'high risk' stake more easily. (It's still effort, but it's not 10x the effort).

Of course, you could make it 'real world' profitable too, and have in game currency possible to 'cash out' too.

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Expanding on Daniels answer:

Smoking is a very close equivalent to your game. It gives momentary satisfaction, and has little immediate side-effects, but the longer you do it the more serious your health risk becomes and thousands of people literally die from it every year.

And yet, most smokers don't quit, and most of those who try to quit, fail.

The simple answer is: Addiction. Your game is simply addictive. Games can be addictive, and something that directly interfaces with your brain has a shortcut - just have level ups directly trigger the pleasure/reward center in the brain and boom, that's exactly what the most addictive drugs are doing.

Even though everyone knows the health dangers of smoking, one of the curious abilities our brain has is called rationalisation -- basically, your monkey brain makes a decision and then your "smart" brain comes up with justifications. You fell in love with that women because she's witty and beautiful, not because your hormones decided it was time to get down to business. You hate that guy because he is a corrupt criminal, not because he intimidates you and triggers your flight response. And smoking is bad the doctors say, but what do they know and your aunt smoked for all her life and she died 98 years old.

So the game? Yeah, there are rumours of people dying, but firstly they are probably exaggerated, and secondly it only affects weak people. And also I can stop whenever I want, I just like it. Also I read on the Internet that you feel a tingling sensation behind your eyes when it's becoming too much, so when that happens, I'll just quit...

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Power. Fame. Money.

Think about this: today, good videogame players are stars, earn a lot of money in sponsorships, play sold-out tournaments, have millions of fans. They even call games eSports! This is happening now, so there is no need to go very far in the future.

DOTA tournament Seattle

Also, without the intention of entering politics, let me ask you a question: why would people invade a country so that other people who stay at home can obtain the assets of the invaded country (oil, mining, whatever)? ? It is very likely that you will be killed or seriously injured, and you will not gain anything. Even returning home alive could be a horrible experience due to PTSD and survivor's guilt. And again: this has been happening for centuries, nothing new.

Do you want to talk about health? It has been proven that playing games has some benefits, but the disadvantages are really huge for veteran players and, in general, for people who live online: the most common are joint pain, obesity, epilepsy and acceleration of vision loss. From the psychological side: alienation, confusion, loss of contact with reality and in some extreme cases, suicides

Economic Angle? People already spend thousands of dollars on games that are more limited than those that cost 50-60 dollars. I mean THOUSANDS. People who spend 10, 20 or 30K are not the norm, but they do exist. I mean ... university education, a home, a business, a future wasted... What do you think will happen to some of them if they realize what they did?

Personally, I know a woman under heavy medication after she discovered that her son spent more than $3000 on games stealing their credit cards.

A well-known case is Clash Royale: they are in a nothing disguised path to take the players to a level of abuse like never before seen. They even have their so-called "reactions" used to mock and abuse other players, and "offers" of 20 or 30 dollars for POSSIBILITIES (nothing real, only the possibility of achieving something slightly better). And Clash Royale has more than 100 million users completely willing to be abused. This is just an example of the level of abuse any regular Joe is willing to take for just a few minutes of fun. Remember how outrageous The Truman Show was? Well... same thing was done thousands of times already and just became old.

Bottom line is: most people don't care about the bad sides, immersion is escaping, that's all it is. And you never die in virtual life.

In short...

So, question is... what would be so complex in your scenario? It sounds more like more of the same. You can add some huge benefit as well and the reasoning would be more like "why NOT do it?": you have the chances of benefits, entertainment, escaping from real life, a sense of community and belonging... and nobody will shoot you with a rocket launcher

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1. Early adaptation

Maybe the entry-level age is very low. I could imagine that once this technology exists, schools might start using it for educational purposes: better to have a chemistry experiment explode in your child's face in the virtual reality than in the real world. Also, history would suddenly become interactive and more interesting, math equations and geometry could be represented in 3D, etc. the applications are limitless.

Maybe this game is the next logical step.

2. Not much else to do

If this is the world of our future, maybe climate change and pollution have progressed to the level where it would be no longer healthy to spend our free time outdoors, and this virtual reality would provide the only way to "connect with nature" the way it used to be.

3. It may be lucrative

Very good players may get revenue from streaming their game - and those who "watch" not only watch it but experience it almost as if they were playing it. There could be other monetary possibilities in such a game, like the aforementioned virtual gambling establishments.

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Yet despite this, over 1/3 of the world population spends one day a week playing the game. 1/5 of the population spends 3 days a week playing.

Actually, I would like to suggest that this ratio should probably be amended a bit. Unless the log-in log-out process to the VR environment is really cumbersome, or that the equipment is expensive and is usually shared, the figure seems to imply relatively tiny amount of users was playing it everyday, despite being insanely popular. In real world, over 1/3 population spend one day a week playing the game already mean almost entire developed world and significant amount of developing world users are using the VR product, yet for something this much popular, less than half of those people use it every days, it seems rather unlikely.

As for why people do it despite the risk, just look at why so many people in the world are smoking and drinking alcohols which obviously increase death risk. For a VR world that would be this popular, it probably also have some attractive elements that would attract people into playing it. And then again, from experiences like smoking and drinking, the ratio of more active users or daily active user given in the question seems dis-proportionally low.

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  • $\begingroup$ I read the 1/3 spends one day a week playing not as log in once a week, but that they play a combined 24 hours. That is over half of a full time job. That amounts to an average of about 3.5 hours a day for these people.. If you assume people still need to sleep about 8 hours a day that leaves 16 hours awake each day. 3.5/16 = 21.875%. These people spend over 20% of their waking hours playing. This doesn't at all imply a tiny number of daily users, rather it implies a necessity log in almost daily to reach those numbers at all. (unless 1/3 of the population has no work/school etc.) $\endgroup$ – Mr.Mindor Nov 10 '17 at 16:31
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Due to governmental regulation of population numbers, children are no longer naturally conceived/raised, but rather cultivated and developed institutionally. Birth control is implanted at birth and gametes are harvested as part of regular mandatory care to maintain a controlled population level.

Since people no longer raise their own children, one of the major incentives for reduced risk-taking (the strong innate desire to take care of your children, even at the expense of your own enjoyment) is gone.

Further, some of the more cynical folks quietly speculate that the Genomic Planning Commission actually favors the genes for addiction, thrill-seeking and risk-taking behavior, both to provide another outlet for controlling population levels and to help keep people distracted and docile in the 'real world', to reduce peace-keeping costs. One wild conspiracy theory even suggests that the increased difficulty spike of the recent expansion pack was actually designed that way as a response to the recent inadvertent over-production event.

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I can easily see a world where most of life's hard issues are taken care of. There's very little toil, everything is perfectly well-balanced, the world is tame and sterile... and hugely stifling.

People go to these inner-dimensions to find a world with untamed lands waiting to be conquered. They go there to discover and claim something new. They go to feel involved and alive, because the world they leave behind is all so perfectly crafted that it's become dull.

The real world's civilization has an underlying affliction. Crime is gone, conflict is gone, but so has compassion, so has greatness. All answers have been solved, there is no more mystery, there is no more drive, there is only apathy and a slow lingering death without the ability to leave even a single mark on this "perfect" world.

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This isn't even hypothetical. People are getting killed daily in traffic as a consequence of immersing themselves in their smartphone. Why would they do that? The risk is well-known. The reward is small.

"It would not happen to me" is the main reason. Denial. Denial actually drives so much of human behavior that it isn't funny. I don't see that you'd need any special explanation for your scenario. It certainly does not make less sense than a whole lot of things happening all the time.

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Because the risk is very small, and on top of the incredible adventures the game offers, there is an incredible reward to claim.

Events that are very unlikely almost always happen to other people: why would it happen to you if you're careful? Besides, the game is very fun, and you have a chance of getting something that will change your life : winning the game and making your character virtually un-killable, become very wealthy, something like that.

For some, it's a game. For others, it's a necessity to win because of the reward.

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Playing causes adiction, like nicotine. The game owners and the goverment know it, but the economic benefits are too great to simply lose them.

People think that they really like to play, but in reality they suffer when they are not playing.

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protected by James Nov 13 '17 at 18:31

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