2

In-universe and in commentary here in the Matrix (err, The Real World), people often say something to the effect of "Well, SAO players wouldn't be interested in jumping back into a VMMO that quick", for example in this answer that says

During this period of time, I would assume that it's unlikely for any SAO survivor to play another VRMMO when they had just been through a life and death experience.

I think there are a few reasons why some people would be unaffected, or even happy to jump back into the game:

Feel neutral/unaffected

  1. Their experience in the game wasn't bad. Some people just chilled out and were probably "bored to death", but didn't otherwise have a terrible experience.

Good Experience and wants more

  1. In episode 1, Kirito mentions that he was very excited about the game while playing the beta, was happy to be back, and felt at home in the game. He, and many players, are substantially more powerful in the game world than in the real world. This can give anything between a buzz and an addictive high that players would want more of.
  2. Not all the players live close enough to meet up IRL like the main cast, so some players might want to meet up with people they spent 2 years of their life with. Aside from Don Ruffles, the players all know the real faces and mannerisms of the people they played with, and would thus be closer than people could be from message boards and current MMORPGs.

Why is it therefore assumed that most players would feel that the NerveGear, or even the AmuShpere, are anethma?

2

It is not impossible that some of the SAO prisoners might still be interested in gaming right after escaping the game, but remember that they had absolutely no choice in whether or not they could play the game and, moreover, would die in real life if they died in the game. This alone already produces the potential for players to be wary about using NerveGear or the AmuSphere again right away. (Rationally, they might know that people such as Suguha were able to play other games safely, but it is possible for that belief to coexist with a personal distaste for the gaming equipment.)

I will try to address some of the specific scenarios you brought up.

Their experience in the game wasn't bad. Some people just chilled out and were probably "bored to death", but didn't otherwise have a terrible experience.

I have played a couple roguelikes here and there, which have a permadeath mechanism. One of them, Unreal World, which is a survival simulation game, tends to get boring after I have a stable food and shelter situation. Trying out dangerous, exciting things is out of the question if I want to survive, since I might get killed.

In real life, when I get bored, I can just quit the game. But if I were trapped in Unreal World the way Kirito is trapped in SAO, I would end up boring myself to death, having nothing to do other than sit in my house and occasionally fish. I would be incredibly unhappy. If I were rescued from that situation, I would probably be more interested in catching up on all of other things I wasn't able to do while trapped in a simulation of Iron Age Finland. It's not hard to imagine other players feeling this way.

He, and many players, are substantially more powerful in the game world than in the real world. This can give anything between a buzz and an addictive high that players would want more of.

I can do a lot of things in video games that I can't do in real life, such as killing dangerous monsters with my bare hands. I take these risks because it's understood that I will probably end up dying rather than beating the game and because I can always start over. It's exciting. If I were trapped in the game, however, I would be a lot less interested in doing these things when my actual life would literally be on the line in these fights. Between that and literally being imprisoned in the game, that someone enjoyed SAO doesn't mean that he won't be leery of VMMO games after coming out.

Keep in mind that in addition to dealing with the psychological trauma of being imprisoned in SAO, players also have to deal with the physical and social effects of having been away and lying in hospital beds for two years. Kirito is very weak after he gets out of SAO, and he and his friends also have to attend special schools. This is all very time-consuming. After coming out, the majority of players probably wouldn't have the time or the motivation for serious gaming.

0

Your points seem to consider only the SAO game itself, and not the looming threat of death that was hanging over the players at all times. While the game world was fantastic, and people were much more powerful than in real life, being forced to play and having their real brains fried on death in-game really tilts the scales in the other direction.

Through the course of that arc, we've seen countless people die facing monsters and bosses, and others taking their own lives due to many of their close friends dying. Even the people not on the front lines needed to make a living, which either meant trade jobs, or dungeon farming. Assuming the dungeons they targeted were risk-free enough due to level advantage, it would still become a very monotonous and routine life. This could have significant mental effects since they were trapped for over 2 years, forced out from their real lives where they had various obligations and people to go back to.

Kirito's comments in the first episode are before it becomes a death game, so they have to be seen in that light. As for point 2, there would be a number of ways to contact the players IRL without needing a VR game (it isn't unrealistic to assume video calling software like Skype have much better features then), but yes the 'physical meeting' can only be replicated inside a virtual environment. Another thing to consider, though it doesn't really help the argument directly, SAO was released only in Japan, and we see that all the survivors are brought together by the Government for the post-game treatment, and those still in school are all transferred to the same special school.

So yeah, the trauma was sufficient to argue that no player would be happy to get back into the game after what they went through. Kirito himself dives back into ALO solely because of Asuna, and he is shown hesitating before picking the NerveGear back up.

They may eventually come to terms with it and play other games, but SAO had affected their lives very significantly.

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