Octalysis, Suicide, and Ready Player One

I'm about 75% of the way through Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, which is a fantastic read, whether you're interested in gamification, 80's culture, cyberpunk, or just outright enjoyable storytelling.  Quick background: the year is 2044 and Earth is a shambles.  Most people spend a huge portion of their time in the OASIS, a virtual reality simulation that has essentially replaced Internet.  For many people, OASIS has almost replaced reality.

The crux of the story is a competition: be the first to solve a series of puzzles and unlock the hidden gates and you'll inherit the billions of dollars estate left by OASIS creator James Halliday.  A megacorporation which wants to own the OASIS has an army of players (referred to as "Sixers") using all manner of nefarious methods to win the contest and claim OASIS for itself.  They'll even murder the real-life contestants to stay ahead. 

The traditional players, many of whom grew up in the virtual environment, are referred to as "gunters."  Though they all enter the contest with a primary goal of winning the money (CD4: Ownership) they quickly develop an even higher purpose: protect the prize from the Sixers and keep the OASIS free.  (CD1: Epic Meaning.)  It's the old story of "don't sell out to The Man" magnified a million times, and with the twist that The Man is willing to cheat, steal and kill to win.

What fascinated me at this point in the book is the depth to which the main character (and he's not alone) has become immersed in his Epic Meaning attachment.  In fact, by the 75% mark (damn you, Amazon, for not having page numbers) Parzival's motivation seems to have dropped CD4 almost entirely.  How can you tell?  In a moment of doubt he realizes it's possible that the Sixers could win.  He methodically plans his suicide in case that's how the contest ends.

Sure, it's fiction, but it's certainly not a fiction-only scenario.  It's a very believable portrayal of the sense that "my epic calling was so profound that I simply can't exist without it."  Using Octalysis as a framework, the significant thing here is that the investment in Epic Meaning is so great that loss of it overcomes Avoidance of death, which is generally a very strong motivator.

There are some obvious non-fiction applications here.  Suicide prevention comes to mind immediately.  A suicidal person is clearly "missing" a natural occurrence of our CD8; avoidance of death is almost always reflexive in human beings.  This makes me wonder if a suicide hotline or a therapist could benefit from understanding Octalysis.  Whether it's a crisis situation or something a bit more relaxed, Octalysis might help understand the person more thoroughly and quickly.  As in Ready Player One did the patient lose a core motivator that was so strong, nothing else seems to matter?  Does she totally lack CD1 motivators?  (Is having some kind of CD1 motivation a prerequisite for wanting to live?)  Is it possible to mitigate the suicidal tendencies by bolstering a range of other motivators? 

I expect that counselors and hot line volunteers do quite a bit along that last line naturally, but here I'm differentiating by considering a conscious application of Octalysis and potentially implementing specific Game Techniques.  I'd love to see that in action; it would certainly be one of the best uses of Octalysis I can imagine.