Ever since the days of Descartes, and even longer still, humankind has been asking itself—what is reality?
It’s a question that’s becoming ever more relevant in our increasing technologically advanced world, especially when we consider the rise of video games.
Last month, Chinese internet giant Tencent announced it would begin limiting the amount of time youngsters are able to play its wildly popular mobile game King of Glory.
Users under 12 are now restricted to an hour of play each day, while those aged between 12 and 18 will be forced to log out agter two hours per day.
Tencent made the move in response to criticism over the growing number of young Chinese seemingly hooked on the title, which ranked as the highest grossing mobile game in the world in May with more than 160 million people playing it every month.
In April, it was even reported that a 17-year-old in Guangdong province suffered a type of stroke after playing the game for 40 hours straight.
Examples such as this show the dangers of immersion. Sometimes, it is a wonderful thing—if we’re immersed in our work or a favorite hobby then our minds are alert, our focus narrows and time itself seems to fly. But immersion also has a dark side.
Virtual reality is making gaming more immersion than ever, and as graphic processing power improves exponentially, we may well soon reach a point where the artificial becomes indecipherable from the real.
British writers Rob Grant and Doug Naylor tackled just this subject in their best-selling 1990 book Better Than Life—a genuinely entertaining and thought-provoking novel that based on, of all things, the science fiction sitcom Red Dwarf.
英国作家罗伯·格兰特（Rob Grant）和道格·内勒（Doug Naylor）在1990年出版的畅销书《虚拟天堂》就是一本以虚拟现实为题材的小说——《虚拟天堂》的故事背景取自科幻片《红矮星号》（Red Dwarf），小说内容风趣又发人深思。
In it, the characters play a “total immersion” virtual reality video game—the eponymousBetter Than Life—that forces them to forget that they are playing. Because their conscious mind only perceives the reality of the game, all signals from their real body are ignored.
Unless cared for in the real world, those playing this game will die of a lack of food and water. If the virtual reality headset is forcibly removed, it results in instant death from shock. The only way to exit the game is to figure out that you’re playing, develop the desire to leave and then command an exit.
It has been mooted that the more advanced our technology becomes, the more likely it is that we are, all of us, living in a simulation.
After all, how can we be truly sure that life is not just one giant Matrix-style computer program, and that you are anything more than a brain in a jar?
Or, to take it a step further, what if we are all nothing more than lines of code? What if nothing we thought of as physical existed, all experiences were manufactured and everything you thought was tangible was just a feverish electronic dream?
We may never know. Perhaps we don’t need to. But as our everyday lives become ever more virtual, it’s certainly worth a thought.