Worldbuilding: Virtual Samurai

If we ever get actual Sword Art Online style VR up and running, I expect three things: First, a massive jump in the proportion of people who take historical martial arts very seriously indeed. Second, someone’s going to try to recreate the Battle of Sekigahara. Third, there will finally be a Pennsic War in which the archers have their day. Mwah-ha-hah….

One of the problems with any realistic martial arts training is there’s a limit to what moves you can use without someone actually dying. Blows to the throat, naked steel, and just about any use of archery that’s not on an unliving target. All of these can end up with a person in the hospital – or the morgue.

Which is exactly the point. All of these skills were designed to keep their practitioner alive in extreme circumstances, often by making someone else very dead. But it leaves the learner with a conundrum: how can you know what you learn, what you teach, really works?

You can’t. Unless you end up in a situation no one sane wants to be in – fighting for your life.

Actual VR, on the level of SAO or Gundam Build Divers, would change all that. If you could simulate the reactions and weaknesses of a real human body… you could, indeed, train with lethal intensity.

And people would. A surprising number, I suspect. Most would be driven by the urge to compete, like any sport. But there would also be those who’d had or anticipated having encounters with violence, who’d appreciate a hardheaded look at, what am I actually capable of? How can I improve?

I think it’d lower anxiety rates, too. If you’re reasonably confident that if you get into a bad spot you’ll have some idea of what to do besides die, you can go about your day with less free-floating stress.

It might also be great stress treatment on a general basis. The human nervous system is not meant for grinding, day to day “I have to get the project done by X month or I’m fired”. It’s meant to dump adrenaline into your system to survive a life-or-death short battle with a lion, then flop over if you survived. With real VR, you could get through the workday, go home, have that fight – and let your nerves actually relax.

I could see psychiatrists writing X number of to-the-VR-death battles a month as a prescription. It could lower stress-related deaths dramatically, and help mental health more than antidepressants.

Archery would also push VR to its limits. Simulating all the factors that go into a shot – wind, fletching, humidity, grip, probably a dozen more I don’t know about – would take both raw computing power and knowledgeable programmers to get the calculations right. But oh, the possibilities. Who wouldn’t want to try hunting a virtual zombie tiger through an ancient Chinese forest with a compound bow? Just once?

Granted, you’d probably try it and swear off anything else that crazy for life. Nightmares might or might not be optional. Still. I’d like to try. Once.

And then, oh wow, historical recreation; either real events like Gettysburg and Sekigahara, or the more improvised fun of SCA wars. There’s always going to be a group of people who want to do it all for real. But the prospect of adding actual artillery and archery? So tempting.

How would you see VR used in your world? Would someone try to recreate Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu?

21 thoughts on “Worldbuilding: Virtual Samurai

  1. It would not surprise me at all if someone did! All the fun you could have with VR! People say that the games in SAO are bad games, but that would not stop people from playing them.

    People play bad games because they are guilty pleasures.

    I know that _I_ would jump at the chance to play SAO, ALO, or even GGO if given the chance.

    Hunt Zombie tigers though? No. That Genre is very much not for me.

    …Hunting _dinosaurs_ on the other hand? Yes.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. If it’s that realistic it might give PTSD.

    Meanwhile I’m contemplating how strength is a bad superpower for crime fighting because you would prefer less lethal means of capture.

    Liked by 4 people

      1. MOST superpowers would be useful in other jobs. The interesting thing is that restraints have very few uses out of crimefighting and crime. There’s moving prisoners and the insane, but that’s merely after the fight.


      2. The IDEAL power would be bubbles of time stopping, so you didn’t have to worry about medical problems, but while, true, it beats the heck out of energy attacks, grappling is harder than telekinesis, or some kind of projected restraints.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. If it was an SAO-style game, people would be avoiding learning actual sword fighting skills, since that has nothing to do with SAO.

    More seriously, it would be tricky to make a fun game with any level of realism.
    Games are designed to be accessible, with someone who plays a few hours a week being able to enjoy it.
    If you demand “a lifetime to master” then they can’t really get into it.

    On the other hand, you also want them to have some depth, so a person that does pay attention and work at it can get exceptional results.

    The way current games do it is by over leveling.
    A character might grind their way up to 5 levels above the monsters then crush them no matter how unskilled, while a skilled player might be able to challenge them at lower level.

    The problem with that applied to real fighting is that if you miss, it doesn’t matter how overleveled you are.
    Is the game controlling your body?
    Does the game give you a larger hit area?
    Would it be satisfying to prance around, swinging your sword in their general direction and win by ridiculously high stats?

    But if you require them to get solid hits, then it goes back to that “lifetime to master” again.

    Then you also want variety.
    Having everyone use the “best build” gets tedious.

    But in real life, weapons are tools designed for a specific scenario.
    A bow is a different tool than a spear is a different tool than a dagger.
    And most weapons are either extremely niche, or never really performed that well at all and never went into mass use.

    Having the bow-user, spear user, and dagger user all getting approximately the same results at the same level would be challenging.

    I also think it would require changes in game design.
    I don’t care how high your stats are, a rhino charging you would freak people out, at least the first few times.

    A dragon wouldn’t be better.

    And being torn apart by a swarm of rats would never be acceptable.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a beautiful game worth making for the small subset of people who like playing it. I wouldn’t t never play Microsoft Flight Simulator myself, but I can absolutely get how it would be some people’s preferred escape from reality.

        A realistic fight simulator would work in much the same way.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I should point out that the idea that SAO “doesn’t have realistic fighting” is based on the visuals we get from the anime, while canon makes a point (it’s actually used for _multiple_ plot points) about explicitly noting that it _is_ realistic and that taking advantage of knowing that is one way to do better than the average player.

      And this comes in several different forms, too:
      1) Kayaba was noted to have been a stickler for getting the world realistic in areas like physics. Yes, there’s unobtainium (ie: we can’t actually be that physically strong, but if we _were_ that physically strong we can calculate what feats we would be capable of and the game limits us realistically in that way), but even that can be used for training.
      2) While we think of the system-assist as unrealistic because of what we saw on-screen, the text in canon notes that Kayaba was a stickler for actually getting that stuff realistic as well (and for those who caught on, being able to take advantage of that both to use RL experience to do better in game, and to use game experience to learn in RL).
      3) The system-assist is not a total-puppeting of the “lose control entirely” variety (outside the cooldown), as it’s noted that if you’re good enough at the technique to perform it without the system-assist, and then combine your own active participation with the system-assist (beyond the basic “start position to activate”), you get even better results than if you just relied on the system-assist on its own (which, again, makes it actually really useful for training. just keep trying to match the motion on your own while using the system-assist, and you get the sort of customized training RL teachers wish they could provide).

      Now, yes, you’re correct that most people playing the game would use it as a crutch and not learn from it, but that’s not because of the _game’s_ limitations, that’s because of human nature. The game, canonically, should have been a _great_ training tool.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. SAO had no real archery in it, and no actual artilerry. what if taht trend were to be kept?

    I would have the VR serve as a selectively empowering environment, so that if Kirito were to end up meet a modern/youkai/reincarnated Himura Kensih, or any other heroic badass with great martial skill IRL, maybe even ichigo kurosaki, i would have the VR empower Kirito, klein and other dedicated gamers, but feel like it depowers the real martial artist, because himura in the VR cant pull many of his tricks, the system doesnt have chi compomnent so some special moves end up being regular attacks and lack that extra something that makes them extraordinary, be it speed, stregnth or both (so no steel or wall cutting sword moves) , and Sword Skills, or a version of them in the form of Game Skill, will take priority and be made to just be better.

    So Kurosaki Ichifo in SAO , will have his experiance from fighting hollows, but none of his rietsu or spiritoal powers, or even Zangetsu or hollow mask. and what swordsmanship and karate he knows from IRL, would be diminished in effectiveness.

    So I would have the URL badass and the VR badass meet, interact in the VR environment where the later is the clear superior, and then meet in real life, wher eits the other way.

    If we use SAO as an example, I would have Ichigo NOT be a clearer, because as much as he want sto get out, and clear SAO, he has no patiance to grind and levelup to a high level, and then look better equipment before going after field and floor bosses, and without that slow, frustrating grind, he cant really challange these bosses.

    to have his hard earned instincts from fighting hollows prove counterproductive in a VR where the expactation is to relly on sword Skills instead, and having no Zangetsu and not even Rietsu (both to augment his strength and durability, as well as pull the special movement techniques, from roof jumping to floating on air, to shunpo on which he grew to rely, just no longer there. Not even the abuiluty to sense teh rietsu of his close friends, and enemies… Where even his training with sword and karate goes against some of the moves and ‘ Sword Skills’ that the game is designed around, as his instincts tell to cut in a way that would have been deadly in real life, and do little damage in the VR, instead of going to do a Sword Skill.

    Have him be a gruff midlevel who protects the low levels… maybe have him meet Kirito only a bit, or perhaps only have them hear of each other, and maybe have mutual friends but never meet each other in the game…

    Only for the RL part, after SAO is cleared to lead to them encountering one another.
    where Kirito is a screwny kid, still recovering from a prolongued coma, while Ichigo is a Soul Reaper of great power. or if its during the arc where ichigo is powerless, it could be a social role, where the bigger, scarier looking ichigo could provide a social help, to the shy and awkward kirito.

    Hell, maybe make it so Ukitake was told about that VR game SAO, and decided to try it, for just a little bit, to feel some relief from the chronic pains he always had. just take a day of and see about experiancing a few hours pain free in that VR…
    And when Kayaba comes with his ultimatum, well, its just a gigai, so it probably wont REALLY kill the shinigami captain, but he doesnt want to leave all those people there.

    I think the most fitting role for him would be something similar to what Thinker was in canon SAO, not a Clearer, but someone who organized a lot of scared people, into a guild that would keep order and protect the low levels, and support the high level players… kinda like his actual job in the Gotei.

    I see it best to have him organize things early, and on the first floor boss, end up joining (because he is already dead, and has nothing to fear, and while he isnt powerful here, having been busy with organizing things and not leveling or gearing up, he wont sit back while those innocents, most of whom are young adults and even some kids, risk their lives) and go sacrifice himself to save Diabel, who ends up NOT dying against illfang.

    instead, its that whie haired kindly man, juushirou, who organized so much, built infrastructure to keep safe those who were tooscared to go out, even helping make an orphanage for the little kids who got trapped , literally stopped riots in the first weeks and prevanted panic. How would THAT effect the SAO survivors?

    Liked by 2 people

  5. So I have a VR setup. One of my favorite games, there is no descisions, is more of a playable movie/tv episode. And I get a lightsaber! And to chop robots. And I get to do some fun VR stuff. And it can be stress reducing, but it make reality feel, unreal if you use it too much. Very strange sensation.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. My husband already uses video games for stress relief. I’ll pass on the theory that the adrenaline rush is part of why it works– he just explains it’s much nicer to slaughter demonic monsters of pure evil, than to throw things at your co-workers or customers.


    I’d want to use the VR to learn how to be less clumsy– the feedback and calculations might be able to catch why exactly someone trips over their own feet, and if you can (accurately) quantify a problem you’re on the way to fixing it.

    Liked by 5 people

  7. Hopefully they’ll find a way around the inner ear problem. I get SIM sick after 45 minutes of mine craft no matter what I do with the FOV. But I imagine though there will always be ppl who can’t VR just like there are ppl who cant do roller coasters or watch stuff without CC.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I see the stealth reference you made to Assassin of Aincrad. While you made use of the training idea in general from experiencing the sort of conditions that might be found during adventures in Waking to Another Sky, Glaux Bryonia did a great job of showing what an individual nerd might do with the idea of “learning a difficult ‘real world war type’ sword style in the game, where there’s no real consequences from failure but it’s realistic enough to test even stuff like killing techniques guilt free (and then Kayaba interrupt…)”.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I was surprised that no one has mentioned SAO/SAO styled games would be highly popular with the physically disabled crowed, or the newly disabled crowed. If you just lost a leg, being able to run and cartwheel without issue would be a huge draw— especially if you could feel the wind and grass and it came across as real. Honestly if I found myself in that situation I’d spend the time enjoying having a fully functioning body and likely mostly ignoring the storyline.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s