Created By: Nazetrime on August 10, 2012 Last Edited By: Nazetrime on October 21, 2012

Set Inside A Game (rewrite proposal)

A game is used as the story's setting or is a major part of it

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First of all, check the original YTTW as Psycho Frea X is the one who came up with the general idea. The discussion revealed potential misunsertanding of what the trope was supposed to be about and made me feel that it needed a much more detailed decription. The present discussion is here because I don't want to override Psycho Frea X's original post as the original YTTW is not Up for Grabs. This is an attempt to set things straight.

There are plenty of examples in the original YTTW, but not all are elaborated enough to get classification (or potentially don't qualify). New ones are however welcome.

Rolling Updates

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 (sometimes 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 theyr'e 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 a 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 sevral 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 Game, Tabletop RPG 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 were 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 entertainement for these two tropes to not always apply. This trope also differs from RPG-Mechanics Verse, that is meant to be a fictionnal "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 turnining 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 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.


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

Plot twists and twist endings (spoiler warning)

As a first episode spoiler

(nothing comes to mind)
Community Feedback Replies: 6
  • August 10, 2012
    Tron has people brought inside a computer program, not brought inside a game specifically. The game parts are limited to specific scenes and I'm not sure even that counts, since nobody is outside the computer controlling them during those scenes.
  • August 10, 2012
    Also, The Gamers is an example of type 1.
  • August 10, 2012
    The Simpsons Game subverts (is that right?) this trope, then plays it straight. It starts off with the family discovering they're characters in a video game from the get-go rather than being immersed in one... but then they get sucked into their computer and play levels based on other video games. Needless to say, the game is very meta.
  • August 11, 2012
    ^ Just reminded of a part of of the original that I forgot to transfer. The first part sounds more like Medium Awareness. The part where they end up inside the computer fits.
  • August 12, 2012
    eXistenZ is a type I, and ALSO a type II... maybe...
  • October 21, 2012
    Would the film The Game fit?