How to Disconnect from Sword Art Online

Sword Art Online is one of the more popular anime airing this season. Produced by Aniplex, the story focuses on a boy named Kirito, a beta tester for a new virtual reality MMORPG called Sword Art Online. Only 10,000 copies of the game were released on launch day and those lucky enough to get one got to try out the new virtual reality headgear.

Things were going well at first with players exploring a new virtual world, but some players soon find out that they can’t log out. A short while later, the creator of the game explains that all players are now locked into Sword Art Online and can’t log out until they reach the 100th floor of the game and defeat the final boss. If they die in game, the virtual reality headgear will fry their brains. Any attempts to disconnect or remove the headgear will also cause it to fry their brains. Hundreds have already died when their family and friends tried to forcefully remove their headgear. What started out as an exciting new game has turned into a terrifying dungeon.

While the obvious way to return to the real world is for a player to finish the game, there are ways that someone in the real world could save them too. Below is a list of ways that a person in the real world could save a loved one from Sword Art Online.

1. Take the Game Company to Court

The lead programmer for Sword Art Online may have created most of the stuff involved with the game, but it is all owned by the company that produced it. They are therefore liable for damages caused to the 10,000 players and their families. A court could order them to shut down the game and disable the virtual reality headgear. The threat to the company executives of being sentenced to death for mass murder (Japan practices capital punishment) would be a very good reason for them to comply with the authorities.

2. Fry the Headgear

The virtual reality headgear is obviously electronic and is prone to all of the vulnerabilities of every other electronic device, including electromagnetic pulses. A sufficiently strong EM pulse would be able to render the electronics in the headgear worthless before it’s able to activate the head-frying mechanism. Despite what Hollywood would have you think, EM pulses are also relatively easy to produce and not some mysterious thing found in futuristic devices and nuclear explosions.

3. Cut the Power

In the anime, the headgear is described as using microwaves to fry a person’s brain, meaning that it requires power. Some players have already died when people in the real world pulled the power plug so we can guess that the headgear has some internal batteries with enough juice to power to emit microwaves. Now what if you yanked out the batteries and pulled out the power cord out at the same time? Just like how a microwave oven takes several seconds to heat anything up, it would take several seconds to fry a person’s brain. This would be enough time to remove both power sources. The location of the batteries would be known from examining the headgear of the recently deceased.

These are just a few ways that you can rescue a player from the world of Sword Art Online. If you have other ways that someone could remove a microwave strapped to their head, feel free to share in the comments.


  1. Anon says

    – Hack the headgear. Test with the owned by the dead.
    – Put the player into a Faraday cage. Microwaves will stay out.
    Start with the body of the player, and finish with the head (between head and the headgear) but it have to be faster than take of the headgear.

  2. Roi says

    You know what,, sometimes things arent that simple as you say.
    1). If you sue the company, i’m sure the company would take those gamers as a hostage in threat to just fry their head one by one. or just mass kill the gamers
    2). What if there was a threat sensor to the headgear?
    3). Most of the headgear is basically battery.
    the moment you try vandalise it, it would go off and kill the host.

    therefore your arguement is invalid outsmarted my modern technology

    • says

      1) A large portion of the company would have to be in on the plan to hold the players hostage. That begs the question of why they are doing it.

      2) That would have to be some very advanced technology to be able to detect what kind of devices are around it. No such technology exists today.

      3) It would depend on the design and what failsafes are built in. I am hoping the anime will show it before it ends.

      • Chuap says

        It clearly says 2022 the nervegear was made -.-
        You do know that technology has grown from a brick phone to a touchscreen smartphone in around 8-9 years. So it is possible for such technology to exist in 2022 :)

        • Ataraxia says

          The EMP was one of the idea. Another way was to over volt to fry everything. Yes it is risky, but the user is already in risk of being killed. A few burn marks, and some few bald patches would be worth it as payment for one’s life.

  3. Ayasuna says

    IF you had bothered to read the light novels, you would know that none of the methods, except maybe the second, would be effective.

  4. molten2metal says

    I’ve read the SAO novels to volume 8 earlier this year and three of your methods were mentioned. The risk is too high to try these uncertain methods. (1 is ridiculous, 2 is possible according to novel but risk is too high).

  5. allan says

    1. If you took the company to court, they would be forced to switch off the server. The players minds are stuck in that server, meaning there would be no way to get their minds from the shut down server, and once a brain is severed from conscious, it cannot be restarted so the victim would be in a coma forever or just dead. Also, the game company may also not actually know how to deactivate the nerve gear safely, seeing as it was created by the guy who trapped them in the game who was operating independently.

    2. I am sure the guy who created the nerve gear had thought of and created an EMP shielding device strong enough to withstand at least as much energy as the human brain itself. after all he went through all the trouble of making the nerve gear and a virtual world in which to trap a human’s mind. the shielding device would be child’s play compared to that.

    3. As to taking the batteries out, it is likely only possible to remove them after removing the headset from the head. simple; make the battery casing indestructible on one side, or even more simple make the battery casing touch and movement sensitive, having the opening side closest to the victim’s head.

    OP you hadn’t thought these possibilities through enough, but I would give you 2 out of 10 just because you gave us something to ridicule.

    • says

      I am open to other suggestions.
      In reply to your comments:

      1. It is conceivable that the company cannot shut down the servers for whatever reason (hacking, theft, etc.) but I went on the assumption that the company is still in control.

      2. A shielding device that powerful would cost tremendous amounts of money and weigh a few hundred kilos. The human brain can withstand a very powerful EM pulse as exhibited by survivors of nuclear bombs.

      3. I will give you this one. As I don’t know how the headgear is designed, the batteries may be inaccessible from the outside.

      • AeM says

        (Disclaimer: I’m up to episode 8 and am unfamiliar with the content of the light novels)

        I’ve been enjoying SAO as well, and I’ve been considering the issue you’re raising from the other perspective. Why /hasn’t/ there been any influence from the outside world (excluding the news clips played in ep 1)? As you point out, there’s “so many ways” such influence could/should be manifesting.

        I think we need to accept that the players are functionally being held hostage. “If you turn off the servers or any breach is detected, all of the players will be killed.” Additionally, I think you’d need the servers to be distributed (to limit the risk of natural disaster destroying the world) and constantly validating the behavior of each of the other servers.

        There’s been no talk of the idea of lag, when the impact of it would have such fatal results, that (speculatively) I’ve been assuming lag doesn’t exist in the future. (I appreciate the irony of saying we need to assume lag doesn’t exist, but that we can’t assume the company has power over what’s occurring. Occam Razor is overrated anyway!). But the no lag idea is needed to limit the major counter-argument of the server-validation scheme.

        Similarly I was considering that you’d need to make the helmets as tamper-proof as possible. A couple minutes of google-searching tells me that if you fully encapsulate something in a millimeter of copper, that’s enough to protect from an EMP. Similarly, shock or heat sensors could tell you if someone’s trying to get through the shell. Maybe you could sell it to The Company (TM) that you’re doing this to protect your headset’s technology (from EM damage/design theft) so they don’t think anything suspicious is occurring. (I base this on some-post-from-some-guy-on-some-forum, if, as you say, the idea that EMP shielding is not possible/plausible, then I’ll agree that EMP to free the players is a good idea (As you see below, I’m not arguing that there’s no way to free the players, I’m just what hurdles there would be to set up such a trap)).

        I hadn’t considered your corpse-riding idea. Would a microwave strong enough to kill a player by damaging their brain also destroy the technology within the helmet? Would the helmet HAVE to be designed such that the technology is out of the way of the burst, or risk the components shielding the wearer? I don’t know.

        One thing that I’ve been having a hard time reconciling is the inability of people to inject packets directly to (and intercept packets back from) the user. This should allow the outside world to send (for example) an audio clip to the user “Jimmy, this is the [officious group] and we just want to let you know that we’re doing everything we can to save you. Please, stay safe until that time!” that no one other than the targeted user would be able to perceive.

        You could even do something like monitor a user to identify how information is set to and from the server, then do something like the camera trick you always see on thief/spy shows where they loop the feed. Alternatively, you could learn what the “keep alive” packets are, and take the person off the system and have their life support bed continually feed the “keep alive” signal. (The “life support system” idea could be protected against by a time delayed encryption system though. After a week, a new key is used. The old keep alive is still being sent. The new key doesn’t recognize the instruction. Zap. (I think there’s probably a way to circumvent THAT too, but the time and effort is probably better spent finding out how to send the “log out” message))

        My final thought on how/why it is that they haven’t been saved yet is the idea of some Inception style time dilation. Really X years haven’t passed. 20 minutes have passed.

        Strengths of this theory: explains why they haven’t been freed yet by the outside world; fits with the “your body’s in a dream lockdown state” motif; explains the lack of deaths from external causes (infected bed sores, natural disaster, any number of maladies that may plague a person who hasn’t moved for X years, or other fatal illnesses)

        Weaknesses: Such a thing could reasonably have been experienced/known of by the beta players; it means the news clips from ep 1 would have had to have been fabricated (which calls other “truths” into question); no evidence to support the theory other than that it helps solve the question of why the outside world hasn’t done anything.

        • Bleak says

          Sorry, but (SPOILER PLEASE DO NOT READ FURTHER IF YOU HAVE NOT READ TROUGH ALL LIGHT NOVEL AND DONT WANT TO HAVE IT RUINED) the time has been passing becouse in the light novel the game shuts down for 2 hours without them waking up just everything freezing and they are transported to hospitals so they can get nutrision drops and be maintained or else they would die from hunger in their beds in a short while. Along with a few other things i dont remember in detail BUT this is the anime disscussion from what i remember reading and such details have not been given in the previous 12 and presuming the 13th that is to come out today. I realize this is quite a new post tough from since this conversation started a while back ermm…. i think that if the guy is the genious who invented virtual reality technology like the show makes him out to be he must have made the helmet tamper proof and i believe that legally unless the family gives consent(which i doubt they would) the government isnt allowed to even attemp to touch the person if the person holding them Hostage says it will kill them no matter what they do. You could possibly go with the idea that the helmet and its technologys would be destroyed along with the persons mind.
          FINALLY suing the company will not help as it was mentioned in the show that the game is run solely by an AI that Kayaba has control over. The company is unrelated the best they could do is attempt a hacking approach if possible.

  6. PPL.R.AW3SOME says

    assuming the mind exists. (head) strapped to the boom, trying to test a ways to remove the headgear and few ppl already died for it. and STILL trying to remove the damn headgear. wonderful @_@ just wonderful. when will you learn to just clear the god damn game? i bet you will be one of those who commits suicide on the sao.

    god damn it we humans aren’t weak! fight till last breath

    • says

      The headgear from someone already deceased could be used for testing. I doubt anyone would want to risk an untested method on someone still alive.

  7. matt says

    In the anime they said they had fail safes that would kill people if they cut off the power or had a power surge or something. They also said that the nerve gear uses a battery to produce the microwaves and stuff. The only thing that is listed that might work is the suing thing. However the gaming companies could claim they had no idea this was implanted in the game system and are afraid that if the servers are shut down that everyone in the game would die. That would clear them of liability and keep the servers up. After all if a employee hacks a company system and steals customer info the employee is liable not the company. The company is only liable if they know the crime is being committed and does nothing to try and stop it.

  8. matt says

    Basically all the arguments made on how the nervegear could have been removed safely have already been stated to have a fail safe within the first few episodes. They said that the argument 2-3 would result in fried brain matter and that argument 1 didn’t apply because no one knew who to blame because everyone was pointing fingers at each other making it impossible for anyone to get full blame. Do you homework before writing a article slandering a series that people love.

    • Anon says

      1) We could care less if you love the anime.

      2) We have the right to criticize any art form or think logically.

      3) Suggesting that it’s not possible to save any of them because “the writer said so” is retarded, because the writer may not have explored every possibility or scenario, in which case a loophole is created.

  9. says

    I would like to point out that I am not slandering this series as I am also enjoying Sword Art Online. This article was meant to bring about discussion about possible methods to rescue someone trapped in the game.

  10. Rith says

    well….SAO is a online game after all…just off the network for a while and they will be forced to go off…right?

    also, its only when you try to take off the head gear then it will use the micro something to damage the brain….so just off the computer or disconnect it from the computer…when it is no longer connected to the SAO system the micro stuff should not work..

    • rahul says

      man the sao system has a own program in the head gear as well so even if you plug out the net server or the computer it will still fry you brain as u are trying an unauthorized log out

  11. Alyss says

    Maybe you should take this down, it’s obviously not very popular.
    The ways listed might work, but after all those deaths, I doubt anyone would be willing to risk it and find out. It was obviously a very well thought out plan, so it’s not likely that there would be many loopholes anyway

  12. says

    As a huge nerd and technical designer..
    Im going to say that all three options are actually possible to design against with todays technology.

    1. The ficiton regarding nervgear mentions local storage.
    It’s thus likely that to prevent lag and temporary disconnections there’s a buffer or “delayed” disconnection from server and client.

    Even if the client would disconnect entirely (for example if master servers went down) they’d probably still be stuck in the local VR (login screen / local area / map area without input from server – basicly creating a desolate prison with no interaction from someone else. Death is probably preferable to such an extended solitude without master server. Most likely why the servers would never be shut down voluntarily. The investigators probably consider stimulus from other people in that game a preference to a permanent virtual solitude driving you nuts.
    It’s also possible that prolonged disconnection will trigger the execution sequence, or if your ingame character gets killed while you’re disconnected – you get killed as soon as the nervgear syncs back up to the masterserver. “Anti disconnection to avoid death”-measures.

    2. An EM pulse will destroy delicate electronics, however there are ways to protect against it. EM pulse protection such as hardened circuits, redundant pathways.
    Even if they’d be able to destroy the electronics it’s possible there’s enough failsafes and redundancy , heck even a dead mans switch (physical) that if there’s no electronic machinery feedback would likely trigger the energy expulsion either in form of Microwave or simple electric shock to “fry” the brain sufficiently to pose real danger.

    Hence, it’s probably too risky to use step nr 2.

    3. This is exactly why you dont try to defuse bombs that are designed properly. But instead opt to evacuate / blow it up in a controlled fashion.

    There could be so many redundant pathways for electricity making it impossible to cut all power at once. The batteries themselves could have the “fry” mechanism built into them in tamper proof package, virtually making them an unservicable part just requiring replacement if one of several of the batteries go “low”.
    Physical switch circuitry to prevent EM pulses (as mentioned earlier) and other failsafes will make the death toll way too high before they figure out “all” the steps to detach a person (even if they study nervgear from already dead players ).


  13. SquidVader says

    The inventor of sao has high unhackable security, to cut the power, so it is impossible, its basically like trying to stop a bomb with armour around itself and one fail mistake can cost the person’s life, your explanation is way too simple to be the actual answer to a super genius’s creation’s downfall.

  14. rahul says

    first things first ….
    >in reality if you even keep a person in a sleeping state for long he will have deadly bed sogs …… skin burning up due to body heat ….. usually happens in comma .
    >the soa is a virtual world working on strings of program so can we easily hacked into ….Eg : A group of hacker had even hacked into the us servers which was thought to be impossible
    > EMP is much like a magnet and it would we easy to detect such threats as every electrical machine dose produce a small magnetic pulse
    according to the best way would be to hack into the server and then bring back the log out button simple :-p

  15. Fredrick says

    Very nice read, I really did like SAO, But when Sachi died, i had to figure out if there was any sort of way out of it.

    Im still in denial, Nobody really died…


    From a overly attached Sachi-fan.

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