SLOAN COLUMN: A game that will really blow your mind
Years ago, the legendary singer/songwriter John Prine penned a song titled “Common Sense.” The chorus of the song goes like this: “It don’t make much sense that common sense don’t make no sense no more.”
After I read an article about billionaire entrepreneur Palmer Luckey last week, Prine’s words about the lack of simple reasoning in this world never seemed truer. It was so ludicrous, so insane that I had to verify it on several other sites to ensure it was legitimate. Sadly, it was. To my amazement, Mr. Luckey and his latest invention far surpass descriptions like “nuts” or “crazy.” He and his latest gaming gizmo are mind-numbingly, and, more importantly, dangerously absurd.
Luckey, who invented the insanely popular Oculus VR headset in 2012 and then sold it to Facebook owner Mark Zuckerberg for $2 billion in 2014 (at the ripe old age of 21), announced in a blog post on Nov. 6 that he has built a new version of the virtual reality game. In this new version, the headset has been modified to explode when the wearer loses in a video game, killing the user in real life, too.
Yes, you read that correctly. Luckey has invented a game that will literally kill the user if he or she is a loser in his virtual reality game world. The thought of someone even creating such a game seems so outlandish, so ludicrous, it might seem like something out of a novel by George Orwell or Aldus Huxley, but it’s not. It’s maddeningly and murderously real.
In a post, titled “If you die in the game, you die in real life,” Luckey said he was inspired to create the deadly gaming device by a fictional VR headset called “NerveGear” featured in an anime television series called Sword Art Online.
“The idea of tying your real life to your virtual avatar has always fascinated me – you instantly raise the stakes to the maximum level and force people to fundamentally rethink how they interact with the virtual world and the players inside it... only the threat of serious consequences can make a game feel real to you and every other person in the game,” Luckey wrote.
This immediately makes me think of two things. First, methinks Mr. Luckey has genuinely lost touch with reality. It also makes me think that while Mr. Luckey certainly lives up to his surname in regards to his abundant wealth, a just as appropriate surname might be Mr. Un-Luckey, because he seems to have a severe deficit in terms of working brains cells.
This is his explanation of how the game works: “I used three of the explosive charge modules I usually use for a different project, tying them to a narrow-band photosensor that can detect when the screen flashes red at a specific frequency, making game-over integration on the part of the developer very easy. When an appropriate game-over screen is displayed, the charges fire, instantly destroying the brain of the user.”
Mr. Luckey concluded the blog post by stating that his new lethal headset is “just a piece of office art – for now.”
Please, please, please - take note of those last two words – for now.
For the life of me, I can’t see how Mr. Luckey and his company could market such a death trap. Think of the liability issues. Then again, consider a pack of cigarettes. It has a warning label that states the product can possibly cause lung cancer or death. How many people still smoke? How many people have died? How many cigarette manufacturers have been held accountable? See my point? Mr. Luckey slaps a warning label on the side of the package and he and his company legally sidestep any possible murder charges. That, my friends is the sad reality of our society.
And before you say no one would buy such a game and put their lives at risk, pause for a moment and remember it wasn’t that long ago people were killing themselves by eating laundry detergent pods. Doesn’t seem so far-fetched now, does it? There are people out there who really would buy Luckey’s game, play it and have their minds quite literally blown away.
I first thought of Mr. Luckey as being either stupid or ignorant. He is neither. He’s a smart man, at least from a technical sense. He is well aware of how his virtual reality game works and its very real mortal risk. It appears to me that he is far less interested in human life than he is his profit margins. He has far more cents than sense.
While he his still very young, Mr. Luckey is financially set for life. He could easily live to a ripe old age and never, ever have a single worry in regards to money. That is, of course, as long as he doesn’t play his own game.
Contact Editor Bob Sloan at editor@florence newsjournal.com.