I'm pretty sure that in my lifetime virtual reality systems will become commonplace. They may not be at a level that's indistinguishable from reality but they will be good enough that people will spend a lot of time in them.
Seeing how obsessive people get today with MMORPG's like World of Warcraft, or even environments like SecondLife that aren't even based on a "game", it's pretty certain that a significant part of the population will just check out if given halfway convincing virtual reality.
There has always been a contingent of the population ready to check out in various ways. And while some people are naturally prone to some form of addiction I think this will affect vast numbers of people who would otherwise be considered normal as far as their addictive qualities.
I read an interesting article that speculates – theology aside – that the reason we've never encountered alien races is because after reaching a sufficient point in development, technological cultures will delve inward on themselves and focus on entertainment and gratification rather than self-improvement and exploration.
What should be our response as Christians to this eventuality? Will there be missionary groups sent to reach the lost souls trapped in this man-made "Purgatory". Would we be called to spend time in the virtual world to interact with these people. How would we prevent these missionaries from going native and being consumed themselves. (i.e. "in the virtual world but not of the virtual world".) If we refused to participate would we be seen in the same light as the world now views the Mennonite groups who eschew modern-day technology?
I'm not trying to imply that VR is inherently evil or that spending time in it would be much different than other forms of entertainment Christians currently partake in.1 But somehow this seems like something that would be more pervasive in its potential to absorb people rather than just a part-time dalliance. But maybe I'm just being a fundamentalist Luddite who can't accept the inevitable.
That raises a different issue about the amount of time that we already spend on frivolities.↩