A prevalent motif that has recently surfaced in hundreds of literary works is the concept that dying in a computer game or simulation may result in your death in real life. Palmer Luckey, a co-founder of Oculus, has now made the idea a reality.

On his own blog, Luckey describes a new VR headgear he has created that employs three implanted explosive charges that may “instantly destroy the user’s brain.” These explosive charges are placed above the user’s forehead. According to Luckey, the deadly explosion is easily set off during a “Game Over” screen because it is activated by “a narrow-band photosensor that can identify when the screen flashes red at a precise frequency.”

To be sure, Luckey claims that his lethal headset—which appears to be a modified Meta Quest Pro in images—is “at this time… merely a piece of office art, a thought-provoking reminder of untapped options in game creation.” While at the same time asserting that “the concept of tying your real life to your virtual avatar has always fascinated me—you instantly raise the stakes to the maximum level and force people to fundamentally rethink how they interact with the virtual world and the players inside it,” Luckey also states that “tying your real life to your virtual avatar has never been easy.”

Luckey connects this interest to Sword Art Online (SAO), a body of Japanese literature about a virtual reality MMORPG of the same name (and its derivative anime, video games, etc.). In that story, on November 6, 2022, hundreds of SAO players are imprisoned in their NerveGear headsets and threatened with death if they lose the game by a secret microwave generator (or if they try to remove or tamper with the headset).

When the first Oculus Rift Development Kit debuted on Kickstarter in 2012, the anime Sword Art Online had just begun to show. This contributed to what Luckey says “huge otaku enthusiasm for Oculus, especially in Japan, which rapidly became our 2nd largest market.” When asked when he would make the NerveGear [headset] real, he claims that “literally thousands” of fans have been in touch with him regarding Sword Art Online over the course of the year.