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When Trapped Inside a Virtual World -- The Metaphysical Philosophy of Overlord

Updated: Jul 13

Skull with a star on the fore head.


Ms. Tamara Moskal's Synopsis


Overlord is an anime that explores the concept of a player trapped in a game's virtual world and becoming a character in that reality. In the era of fast technological advances, such imprisonment in a virtual dimension might become a threat, as we can't trust our senses to determine what is real.
A virtual, interactive world is desirable for escapists but can be deceitful and manipulative. What is real is a philosophical question, as, theoretically, we might exist in a simulation and experience our dreams as reality. When engaging in virtual reality, we must be cautious of becoming mentally trapped in a virtual realm.

A Dark Lord's Unexpected Journey


Imagine you're immersed in a massive virtual world, free to roam and forge your fictional destiny. But a dark cloud looms over that game, in the form of a permanent shutdown. Maintaining these servers without a steady stream of income can be brutal, so, like in the real world, they have to go eventually.


One anime that brilliantly explores this concept is Overlord. Here, the virtual world of Yggdrasil suffers this fate, its servers going dark forever. But for Suzuki Satoru, a dedicated player logged in at that fateful moment, things take a bizarre turn. He finds himself trapped – not as his usual character, but as his character, the Dark Lord Ainz Ooal Gown.


Suzuki wasn't just any player though. No, he commanded the fearsome reputation of an undead overlord, a high-tier creature of immense power with dominion over countless undead. Thrust into a world he once viewed in a screen, the former salaryman worker must navigate this new reality.



Will he use his newfound power to conquer, or will he forge a different path in this uncertain landscape? Either way, all of his goals, along with his kingdom will crumble if his virtual minions will know that they work for a forgettable salaryman from another world.


He is therefore alone not only in that world, at the top of his empire, but also in his own mind.


The False Prophet


Imagine traveling to a remote island nation, only for the sole airport connecting it to the outside world to vanish. You're stranded, unable to return to your usual life. This, in essence, is the predicament of that young man trapped within that game, unable to return to his office job.


Except, unlike our hypothetical island, the virtual world around him isn't necessarily obscure. It's vibrant, full of life, and completely oblivious to the truth of his situation. They are within their own shared planet, comprised of many nations. He exists as a prisoner within his powerful avatar – a celestial undead lord, a being of unparalleled wisdom (or so his followers believe).


The key to survival, then, becomes maintaining the charade. He must conceal his ordinary, game-playing reality from his devoted in-game followers. But the risk of exposure is ever-present. One slip-up, one reveal of his true nature, and his carefully constructed persona crumbles. He'll stand exposed as nothing more than a regular guy caught in a digital world, merely controlling a persona of his own making.


Let us fast-forward from this anime series, to a future powered by VR technology. This anime's premise becomes frighteningly plausible. As what? As a glitch in this innovative technology, capable of immersing your mentality in an interactive digital realm. And suddenly, you're trapped within a virtual reality, unable to escape.


The question, then, becomes: Will you find a way to break free from this digital prison, or will your true identity be exposed, revealing the ordinary person beneath the VR facade?



Navigating a Deceptive Digital Dominion


Imagine an elaborate, meticulously crafted fantasy world. Its inhabitants, seeing other worlds only in their own dreams, live and breathe within this simulated reality. It is a prison. A prison of great freedom, in fact, but a prison nonetheless...


Much like someone in our world claiming we're all characters in a simulation, such a revelation in this virtual world wouldn't be readily accepted. It's a frightening idea, where you know the truth, and where it's your ulterior motive to hide it from everyone else. People seeking a digital escape from the real world could find themselves trapped, yearning for the familiar shores of their original lives.


While the specifics of how such a scenario might unfold are unknown, the potential dangers lurk as technology evolves. VR, once a fantastical idea of "being inside another reality," might become far more uncanny than that. Already, for example, this mind-connecting technology has revealed a new feature in human perception, known as the phantom touch. Do you really think your senses are trustworthy? No. Not when they cooperate with hallucinations, and not when they make you feel you're being touched by virtual beings, within digital worlds, that aren't exactly there...


Mark Zuckerberg's vision with Meta might represent a future where VR becomes integrated into daily life, not just for entertainment. We wouldn't be forced to wear VR headsets, but their prevalence could mirror the necessity of smartphones today. Dependence on these "metaverses" could create new risks like the one presented in the Overlord series.


In the far future, ordinary office workers with zero leadership experience, might be forced to serve in roles they were never prepared for, just because of a technical difficulty. The constant struggle to maintain facades of a different status, just to enjoy the power said status gives us... That is no ordinary feat, is it?


And that's how deceptive and untrustworthy virtual worlds can really be, and even today, when it's easy to hide behind carefully-planned profiles of great and desired people. Humans do really want to be deceived, no? To hear the "truths" they want to hear...


This, is the essence of interactive fiction, as interactive worlds in general. It's the ability to inhabit, for a time, fantastical personas. We often have to give people the benefit of the doubt just to benefit from them, and vice versa... It's escapism at its finest, but also one capable of great manipulation, and shattering of human hearts, hopes and dreams.


But the line between playful deception and potentially perilous entrapment in a digital realm, and in deception as well, remains a fascinating question to ponder, as technology continues its relentless march forward.


Are Virtual Nightmares Our Future?


The question of whether we exist in a simulation remains a philosophical enigma. Concrete evidence is elusive, leaving the theory both intriguing and unproven. However, on a pure consciousness level, the potential for mental entrapment in non-physical realities is unnerving.


Consider the mysteries of dreaming. Current theories about dreams suggest that they help with emotional processing, memory reinforcement, performance, and creativity. As we sleep, our minds craft elaborate scenarios that feel undeniably real while we experience them. Why do we dream? Beyond the realm of theory, much is to the imagination.


Now, apply this concept to the future of VR technology. Could virtual realities become so immersive that our minds struggle to differentiate between real and simulated experiences? You know, just like in many of our dreams? Does that mean VR technology is capable of bringing dreams to reality, similarly to the concept of manifestation in the Silent Hill horror seires?



The anime we've been discussing explores this very concept. While the protagonist finds himself trapped within a fabricated world, the potential for a similar scenario arising from advanced VR technology becomes eerily plausible.


Perhaps the true danger lies not just in physical entrapment, but in the potential for our own minds to become prisoners within meticulously crafted digital realities. These "electronic dreams" could become indistinguishable from waking life, blurring the lines between reality and mere simulation.


Why do you think people still crave video games? To simulate a different reality, is a philosophical explanation to that.


Conclusion


As technology evolves at an ever-increasing pace, the lines between escapism and potentially hazardous digital entrapment become increasingly blurred. The story of the "false prophet" trapped in a digital dimension serves as a cautionary tale, encouraging us to consider the potential consequences before diving with a full heart, into the captivating, yet potentially perilous, realm of virtual reality.


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Tomasio A. Rubinshtein, Philosocom's Founder & Writer

I am a philosopher from Israel, author of several books in 2 languages, and Quora's Top Writer of the year 2018. I'm also a semi-hermit who has decided to dedicate his life to writing and sharing my articles across the globe. Several podcasts on me, as well as a radio interview, have been made since my career as a writer. More information about me can be found here.

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