Set Inside A Game YKTTW Discussion

Set Inside A Game
A game is used as the show's entire setting or part of it
Tropeworthy? Up For Grabs
(permanent link) added: 2012-07-26 00:46:31 sponsor: PsychoFreaX edited by: StarSword (last reply: 2012-11-17 11:09:06)

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Finally got the possibility to overwrite the original. It's Up for Grabs, but I'll still be keeping an eye out for any progress -- Nazetrime

A quite popular setting, especially in recent years, has been to have the work Set Inside A Game, be it a Video Game or a Tabletop Game. In both cases, the Role-Playing Game (frequently a MMORPG in the case of video game) variant is quite popular, but other genres can be depicted. The characters may be Player Characters that are basically the in-game avatars of real people (e.g Deep-Immersion Gaming when it's a video game), Non Player Characters (no individual controller, yet personnalities of their own) or Player Characters that have a life of their own when they are not being played with (e.g Pixelface).

This trope tends to play out in two (or three) different ways :
  • As the setting of part or all of the show: The audience knows they're going to see real people playing games from the start, and that anything happening in a context that is not similar to Real Life is Set Inside A Game.
  • As a Plot Twist or a Twist Ending: Basically the "it was a game all along" option for a Nested Story Reveal. Putting a work in that category alone can be a major spoiler for it. Can happen to a RPG Mechanics Verse, but also to a work from pretty much any genre, especially if it's revealed at the end of a story or subverted.
  • A little of both: The fact that it's a game is a First Episode Spoiler. It may result in a Fake-Out Opening and the impossibility to describe the work without revealing that it's Set Inside A Game.

Gaming Webcomics that aren't an RPG Mechanics Verse or strictly Two Gamers on a Couch will probably have this trope show up a lot.

The game can be a real one or a fictional one, the latter frequently used to depict a whole genre rather that several specific games or to avoid copyright issues. Some works cover sevral games at a time. Whatever the nature or number of games, they have high chances of being Serious Business for the characters.

Role-Playing Games, Tabletop RPGs and many Video Game Tropes tend to be used and, more often then not, played with. Lampshade Hanging tends to be a big favorite.

This trope can overlap with Cyberspace in cases where the game is used as a Viewer-Friendly Interface and/or Inside a Computer System if the game is entered by a virtual reality interface. There are plenty of cases of the players being in front of a computer or a contemporary console and games that are just the protagonist's means of entertainment for these two tropes to not always apply. This trope also differs from RPG Mechanics Verse, that is meant to be a fictional "real" world that that happens to work like a Role-Playing Game. RPG Mechanics Verse at best hints at the existence of players, but it turning out to be Set Inside A Game (making it the plot twist variation), doesn't always happen.

Cases of real people physically transported (or somehow trapped by the interface) in a game tend to end up somewhere between Set Inside A Game and Trapped in Another World. For the work to be close to the Set Inside a game end, the setting should be considered a game in-universe and have something along the lines of Win to Exit or the fact it's a game impact the plot in some other way. On the Trapped in Another World end, a game may be the medium trough wich the "other world" is introduced, but in terms of the plot may as well have been a book or a Tv show. Do not confuse it with the characters ending up in a Role-Playing Game Verse, where the game whose world is depicted in the work only clearly exists in Real Life.

Not to be confused with when characters show awareness of being in a game. For that, see Medium Awareness or Breaking the Fourth Wall.

Please indicate where the examples fit, or at least elaborate them enough so someone can guess without having to read the work's page.


As (at least part of) the work's known setting

  • The .hack franchise (maybe not all works).
  • The light novel Sword Art Online and its anime adpatation start out with players getting trapped in a virtual reality MMORPG that centers arounf sword fights. The premise of the second part of the series has some of the players of the first game now trapped in another one and "playing" alongside players that can log off when they want.
  • Noob and its novel comic adpatations, follows one of the worse guilds that play a fictionnal MMORPG called Horizon.
  • The Guild mostly shows the life of the players, but Season 4 finale was partly set in the game they play that is hinted to be World of Warcraft clone, called The Game. Its comic prequel series aleternates between real life and in-game scenes.
  • The Noob first follows a MMORPG player that just got the game and than alternates between players, with seldom seen real life scenes.
  • Pixelface follows the off-screen life of video game characters and has portions in which their repective games are being played.
  • The Jumanji cartoon has the character be sucked into a board game and solve a riddle to get out.
  • The Gamers
  • The Simpsons Game (in the plot's context)
  • eXistenZ
  • Chainmail Bikini alternates between players playing a variant of Dungeons & Dragons (as opposed to straight D&D, in a failed attempt to keep the resident Min-Maxer from breaking the game), and the world as seen by their characters.
  • Dungeons And Dorks uses a similar arrangment with vanilla D&D.
(tell me if if should be in second or third category)

Plot twists and twist endings (spoiler warning)

  • Guilded Age first seems like fantasy story, but turns out to be a game people are playing in chapter 9.
  • Subverted in the "Back To Reality" episode of Red Dwarf, where the characters have an hallucination that starts with them emerging from virtual reality interfaces.
  • The 2002 The Twilight Zone episode "Upgrade" has the show turn out to be in a The Sims-like game.
  • The final story arc of Yu-Gi-Oh! at first looks like a case of time travel, but turns out to be an RPG-style Shadow Game between Yami Yugi and Yami Bakura.
  • Discussed and subverted in this The Order of the Stick strip, when Blekar misinterprets a hallucination telling him to "play the game". The works itself happens in a RPG Mechanics Verse based on Dungeons & Dragons.

As a first episode spoiler

(nothing comes to mind)

Examples that need to be elaborated to be sorted :
  • The Grind is a World of Warcraft machinima set in the game.
  • Another machinima called Matchmaking is set inside Halo 3.

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