Culture of the Karalian Empire
The Culture of the Karalian Empire.
Privacy and individuality are championed in the Karalian Empire. With it however comes a strict code of etiquette when it comes to behavior in public. As part of the Code of Trust, all Vaikan citizens are expected to be considerate when expressing emotions in public. It is considered extremely rude to show public displays of affection or to laugh or cry in front of strangers. The process extends to engaging in activities that are considered to evoke emotions. When eating food, it must be done in private. If this is unavoidable, a bib must be worn to cover the mouth. Thrilling experiences like VR theaters are also given secluded areas where emotions can safely be expressed in response to the images.
The Karalian Empire is also very accepting to individuals with quirky or odd personalities, odd behaviors as well as various forms of sexuality. As part of the Code of Trust however, it is expected to keep one's quirks to themselves in the public space. It is considered rude to ask about these quirks to someone not on a first-name basis.
Because labor laws in the Karalian Empire are extremely lax, the average citizen often works very long hours. This leaves little time for not only leisure activities that require major time investment, but also little time to raise a family. Adding to the fact that the only way new Vaikan are born is through cloning, ties of familial attachment to others became almost non-existent. However, the latent feelings of a desire to have family and friends still existed in the Vaikan psyche, and with it being considered against proper etiquette to express emotions in public, a new form of entertainment had to be formed.
VR companions are an artificial intelligence that provides emotional support to those in need. VR companions primarily take form as either animals to serve as pets or as virtual spouses. They are able to adapt to the circumstances of the owner and provide exactly the support that's needed for the individual. Their ability to adapt to many different personalities essentially made them perfect companions. In many households, VR companions are treated on equal levels as family members, and some even casually refer to the king's VR companion Mira as a queen. However, VR companions are still virtual. They are not considered citizens and are programmed to do exactly what the owner wants it to so long as it does not breach the Ethical Laws of Artificial Intelligence.
On the topic of raising virtual families, in the KE, it is legal to marry VR beings and have have VR families. They don't even have to be Vaikan-shaped. By a technicality in the law, you can actually marry any sort of object. In terms of tax laws however, everyone, even minors are recognized as independent. While it's possible to have VR families just for fun, for them to actually be considered citizens with legal rights, they need to be registered. The consequence of legally marrying even an inanimate object means that said object is recognized as an individual, and thus, that object is expected to pay taxes.
Families of "real" Vaikan do get some extra tax breaks though. Often, this is done through adoption. Some real Vaikan kids who were sent away get put in orphanages where they can be readopted or simply raised by the orphanage's AI systems. VR beings though, if they aren't liked, they get deleted.
Many families who are hesitant about raising a real child often do a trial run first to see if they like it. They get a virtual kid, then later convert it into a real one if they like it. Otherwise, they'll delete it. This is very reinforcing of the Vaikan mindset that fleshy beings are considered more real, but that's being challenged as of late. Some believe one shouldn't casually delete an AI.
The consequence has been a general disconnect and attachment to objects among many - coupled with suppressing emotions enforcing that further. However, familial love and attachment is seen in an entirely different light, a life style that is recognized as livable, but with far more consequences to one's psyche.
What's remarkable is that VR companions have been extrapolated upon in terms of technology. Their artificial intelligence systems have been repurposed to be compatible with entire virtual reality simulations. They became entities that could cause these simulations to dynamically change in response to the user's input. As such, a VR could be passively watched like a film or it could be actively interacted with like a video game. The quality and level of detail varies between VR's, but the most realistic tend to be in public venues because of how expensive they are to create. Cheaper ones are much more portable and can be used at home. In either case, combining virtual companions with virtual environments provided the full, definitive experience for the user.
While these simulations started off being used for military training excercises, they also provide fully immersive virtual worlds to live within. They function through the transmission of waves to induce a dream-like state while additional sensors attached ot one's body allow for one to feel as if they were in the world. Remarkably, this setup is highly adaptive to multiple species which made it very popular in other nations such as the UESS. The advent of instantaneous communication across the Galactic Senate only made these VR worlds more successful as not only could multiple species enjoy them, but also be connected with one another.
These virtual worlds come in many different styles. The majority of them are fantasy, fictional worlds designed in a way to clearly indicate that it is not a real world. Color palettes tend to be bright and vivid with larger-than-life elements. Ancient mythology and mythical creatures are commonly seen in many VR's as well as science fiction-themed settings with impossible, physics-breaking technology.
Many Dukes place heavy regulations on realistic VR's because of a dangerous side effect known as VR madness. There is a possible risk of an individual becoming so stooped into a VR that they lose track of what is real and what isn't. Upon returning to the real world, said individual might still believe they are in a VR and will begin to do reckless things, being consumed in a mindset of hostile nihilism and solipism. While not required at the top level, many Duke-run areas require an instantaneous way to leave a VR at any time to reduce the risk of VR madness.
Shortly following the Battle of Domum Regimen however, demand for historical-themed VR's came into play. In spite of the regulations, many pioneers opted to recreate many historical Eteno events and activities with painstaking detail to market to the new audience. These historical VR's helped with diplomatic efforts between the two nations leading to a major economic boom.
Virtual reality and virtual companions have lead to many subcultures in the Karalian Empire. As many citizens are apathetic about politics, popular culture and artistic achievements took center stage as one of the most important aspects of their lives. Some of these VR's have become so important to individuals that Dukes have had staged battles with one another over differing opinions on fictional works and over the best designed VR companions. These popular culture wars have similar levels of zeal as ancient religious battles of the past.
It's pretty common for multiple people to interact in the same VR, though the individual ones still far outnumber them. VR companions have very much become a substitute for true interpersonal interaction for many. To be able to hold normal conversations with others and not stumble around awkwardly is considered resume-worthy skill. The companions are specifically tailor made and adaptive to helping a Vaikan with his or her troubles in day to day work, but with other people, this isn't necessarily the case making it more difficult to talk to them.
The immersiveness of the VR varies. The majority of them are definitively not real because of their cartoonish/fantasy styles, but all the sensations are there. For the most realistic VR's though, the best way to tell them apart from reality is to go to the particle level. The "atoms" of a VR world are much more optimized to run better for the sake of processing power than they are in the real world. Imperfections and inconsistencies are also handled differently in VR. The average person may not be able to spot them, but a physicist with a keen eye can tell the difference.
Citizens of the Karalian Empire generally do not see these VR's as just fictional getaways, but also ways of life. To many, these fictional worlds are just as real as the real world itself. Overall, the VR landscape has gone wild being put to a lot of uses in many places. The government has heavily struggled with enforcing regulations in regards to them just because of how broad it has become. As a result, many ethical questions still go unanswered, but that hasn't stopped people from trying to figure things out.
There is a subculture of people who believe that these VR's are stifling true social interaction (and to a great extent it is) that prefer old style entertainment and sports without VR, but for the mass public, this is certainly the case.
Dark Zone entertainment
In the Dark Zones, one may find the edgiest, most grotesque VR's there possibly could be. Pleasure simulators themed around sadism and taboo topics, VR's that promote defamation/racism, snuff films, as well as VR's that can actually kill the user upon performing certain actions. Say for example, a death match in a fantasy world, except if one were to die in the VR, the VR would actually kill the person by frying their brain with radiation.