Black Mirror Striking Vipers | A Different Take on Virtual Reality.

Friday 26 July 2019

I have had a running battle with myself over this subject because I was worried about the backlash but I have decided I want to approach the subject anyways. We are all aware of how far Black Mirror pushes things so the Striking Vipers episode shouldn't come as a surprise. This is one of the latest episodes from Season 5 of Black Mirror and is one of 3 so far (we want more!) for me it stands as the strongest out of the three and stands out a lot more especially because it focuses on virtual reality which has become more and more popular in the gaming world over recent years so I was interested to see where they took the episode with VR. I wasn't sure what to expect when James and I first put it on but I knew it would cause an uproar and I'm all about that.

The VR devices used in the game are very similar to the ones in San Junipero (as well as a few other episodes) which is one of my favourite episodes from Black Mirror, both devices fit on the temple of the users head and take users to a virtual world. The is a very big difference with both because San Junipero is used as an escape where a lot of users choose to store their consciousness when they have passed on so life never really ends for them. The device in Striking Vipers X is used a lot like a VR except people use their conscious to control the character, Striking Vipers X is a fighting game so players will need to learn how to control the character but soon find out it does much more than fighting. Both devices were created by TCRK who is a neural research and technology company, they are specialists in neural technology that gets featured in a number of episodes of Black Mirror.

Striking Vipers storyline is about a guy named Danny and his girlfriend Theo, they like to spice things up in their relationship by pretending to be strangers and then go home to make love. Recently Danny was given the latest version of the game Striking Vipers (they used to play it together in years ago) as a birthday gift by one of his mates and they both end up playing it together, the purpose of this game is to fight one another but the two friends soon learn that they are able to become sexually physical with one another which makes them both unsure of whether or not they're attracted to one another or just the game characters they play as.

Danny plays as a male character whereas his friend Karl plays as a female character, they are able to explore a different kind of sex through virtual reality and start to have a sexual VR affair with one another online, this obviously doesn't end well and Danny is unsure about what he feels towards Karl yet Karl is sure of how he eventually feels. They fight and end up not talking to one another for a while. Another year passes by and it's Danny's birthday again, his partner Theo takes it upon herself to invite Karl to his birthday meal as she knows they haven't seen or spoke to one another in a while.

Obviously, this was awkward because of what has gone on in Striking Vipers, Karl decides to tell Danny that he has never been able to recreate what they both have in the game so they decide to have sex in the game again and then later meet up to kiss and see what they feel for one another. Now, this bit of the show obviously is the scene where Danny is finally confronting and exploring his sexuality and he was finally willing to see what the outcome would be. The friends find out that they feel nothing from the kiss and Karl wants to continue to make sure it's nothing, Danny was not ok with this and they end up fighting.

What I find interesting about this is that Danny knows his feelings finally and he settles on just being sexually attracted to Karls video game character but Karl can't seem to separate the two and wants to see if the passion between them is more than the video game and the kiss. They eventually fight and get arrested and with this Danny's partner shows up and demands to know what happened, she does in the end and oddly she is ok with it. I personally don't know how I would feel, not because my partner is having sex with a man and I thought he was straight but because he is having sex with someone else in general.

Seeing how far they push Virtual Reality in Black Mirror and how realistic it can be, I would feel devasted that my partner had a sexual desire with someone else other than me and they would rather sleep with them in this VR world instead of me. I felt so bad for Theo because whilst Danny was having sex with Karl in the game he wasn't sleeping with her and they had planned a baby but a baby was never going to happen if all he wanted to do was sleep with Karl's character. It wasn't till towards the end of the show I realised how open to the idea of sharing her partner she was but she would only allow it to happen one night a year, Danny was allowed to play Striking Vipers X with Karl and have sex with him and she was allowed to go to a bar and meet a stranger to sleep with.

In a way, the show changed the dynamic of their relationship and it worked for them, The VR world opened the possibility of something new and exciting for them, I'm not one to judge what others find work for them in a relationship but I did find it interesting how jealousy never came into play especially now Theo benefits from the one night a year. Some may say this episode pushed things too far with Virtual Reality but me personally? I think it showed a whole new side of the VR world and different kinds of relationships that can be formed. 

What were your thoughts on this episode of Black Mirror?


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