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If you plan to watch the new series of Black Mirror, then watch before you read on, as this is inspired by it. It's the idea of Charlie Brooker, the writer, but I wanted to expand on the idea as it opens so many questions, moral and otherwise.
The episode explores what happens when two friends take part in a virtual reality version of a game based on the old Street Fighter game. You choose your character to fight and the game gives you total immersion, including feeling what the fighters feel. You compete with a mix of boxing and martial arts with a few specials moves thrown in.
The two male friends live different lives after being very close in previous years. One is still free and easy, dates beautiful woman and has a single life. The second friend married their mutual friend and lives the married life. They have seen little of each other recently but reconnect at the married man's birthday party. This is where they share the first game where they connect.
When they play for the first time, they choose a female and male fighter. At first they play the game and fight, but after they do, things go very differently. They break a fighting clinch and it becomes a very passionate one. The game allows the male and female characters to have full-feeling sex, remembering that it's two males feeling the results.
At first, the men struggle to understand what's happening, but soon they start to become addicted. The married man wants to stop but can't, even as his wife wonders about his lack of interest in her. So, the first question is, as there was no actual physical contact, is this infidelity?
Yes, the married man was experiencing numerous sexual acts over a period of time, but they didn't make contact. They even decided to meet up and see if there was any sexual attraction. They kissed, felt nothing, decided they weren't suddenly gay and carried on playing. Realising the affect it was having on the marriage, the married man tried and again struggled to stop.
The games characters bore little resemblance to the men playing them, beyond one being female. They were both highly trained, highly toned, perfect-looking people. Does this make it more of a game or more of an extreme kind of affair?
It does also ask if this sort of technology would be beneficial if it became available. Could a disabled person, for example, explore the life of an able-bodied person? It is something sometimes explored in science fiction series where they have artificial suits in which a new world can be explored and enjoyed.
At the end of the show, the wife finds out what is going on and the program ends with an agreement reached to keep all parties interested and able to do what they need to do.
So, if this technology existed would you use it, and how? You could, for example, enjoy sex with a range of people from a list maybe; possibly, you could maintain a relationship while still at a distance.
One of the aspects to consider is the man enjoying sex as a woman. He says he can't really explain the feeling he gets but describes it as the best feeling. Would you want, as a man, to feel the sexual experience as a woman? As a woman, would you want to experience sex as a man?
It's a wonderful episode with a heap of questions to consider. Maybe one day, the technology will exist for us to explore the answers ourselves.