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Former Warcraft player Ryan van Cleave explained to in 2011 that “living inside World of Warcraft seemed preferable to the drudgery of everyday life” when he had played 60 hours a week.
Groups like WOWaholics Anonymous have been created to help former players like van Cleave who became too invested in the game.
As the futurist Ray Kurzweil predicted, somewhat hyperbolically, in 2003, “By the 2030s, virtual reality will be totally realistic and compelling and we will spend most of our time in virtual environments ...
We will all become virtual humans.” In theory, such escapism is nothing new—as critics of increased TV, Internet, and smartphone usage will tell you—but as VR technology continues to blossom, the worlds that they generate will become increasingly realistic, as Kurzweil explained, creating a greater potential for overuse.
Early doomsday predictions aside, can virtual escapism can ever be used for good?
Although these are extreme examples, they share a common root with lesser forms of negative escapism, according to psychologist Andrew Evans.
“Another definition of unhealthy escapism—escapism gone too far—is the effects it has on the essential fabric of living,” he wrote in , “the individual in the context of family, friends, and social commitments.” Evans connects his definition to Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which ranks love and a sense of belonging just after basic physiological and safety needs.
Despite mass media interest from publications like , the technology wasn’t there—or it was too expensive—and the audience was a tad too niche.
Save for some fruits of its early research, purchased in sum by Sun Microsystems, VPL’s sole legacy has been its popularization of the term “virtual reality.”Thirty years have passed since then, and the landscape has finally shifted in virtual reality’s favor.