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Not coming to an arcade near you, sadly.
An original Video Game
described in detail through a work of narrative fiction. Very prone to Defictionalization
, even when not made into an official licensed game.
If it's a video game, may be part of a Cyberspace
If described in such detail (though games like Ultra Super Death Gore Fest Chainsawer 3000
tend not to be), they'll generally avert Pac Man Fever
See also Game Within a Game
, Sudden Videogame Moment
, Watching a Video Game
, and Personal Arcade
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Anime & Manga
- In an old issue of The Mighty Thor, an arcade game called Megatak was being promoted; unfortunately, an industrial thief named Gregory Nettles tried to steal the prototype software at the expo where it was being promoted. Apparently, he wasn't much of a thief; his attempt got himself electrocuted, then somehow sucked into the machine, and turned into a virtual being representing the game's protagonist, with the ability to bring the monsters in the game to life, which he used to send on a rampage. When Thor showed up, Megatak got lucky, taking Thor by surprise and knocking him down; needless to say, when Thor got up again, he floored the guy with one blow, and his powers faded. After spending a few months as "a mercenary in a dumb costume", he was killed by Scourge.
Films — Animation
- That Buzz Lightyear game within Toy Story 2, which looked very cinematic for a Super NES game, even compared to the Donkey Kong Country series and other prerendered games on that platform.
- Thou Art Dead from Monster House. (The game was made playable for the DVD release... so cool.)
- Wreck-It Ralph, being a movie about video game characters has at least three fictional games that are the homes of the main characters. Ralph and Felix come from Fix-It Felix Jr., a game similar to Donkey Kong. Sergeant Calhoun comes from a game called Hero's Duty, which is a Light Gun Game with a science-fiction design, and Vanellope comes from Sugar Rush Speedway, a Racing Game with a candy theme going for it.
- Planet 51 has several alien pinball machines in the bowling alley.
- In Ralph Bakshi's X-rated Heavy Traffic, the main character Michael repeatedly plays a pinball machine, a metaphor for the randomness of fate and people's place in the universe.
- In My Little Pony Equestria Girls: Rainbow Rocks, Applejack and Rainbow Dash play one at Pinkie's house, based on a humanized version of the Mane-iac.
Films — Live-Action
- TRON featured "Space Paranoids", and the famous "Light Cycles".
- Light Cycles has been repeatedly Defictionalized, notably as one of the four screens in the Tron arcade game. The most popular is Armagetron.
- Space Paranoids is now available online. It was recently featured in an episode of Once Upon a Time — Henry was playing it on a handheld gaming device that Regina gave him.
- The game from eXistenZ.
- WarGames has Global Thermonuclear War — or, if you're not in the movie, DEFCON.
- The Last Starfighter. A video game version was planned (and mentioned in the end credits), but never materialized. A version for the Atari 8-Bit Computers was in development, and later released as Star Raiders II.
- The title video game in the "Bishop of Battle" segment of the movie Nightmares.
- Cloak & Dagger is another movie about a fictional video game (and RPG).
- "Stay Alive" from the movie Stay Alive. It looks like a voodoo-themed mod of Left 4 Dead.
- The Chumscrubber from the film of the same name.
- Big has Josh playing an unnamed text-based game with an evil wizard and ice giants. Defictionalized as The Cavern of the Evil Wizard .
- The Cock and Bulls house in Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj features a "Miss Nude America" pinball machine, complete with enthusiastic moaning and sound effects.
- In The Game Plan, football star Joe Kingman has a "Kingman" pinball in his apartment.note
- Similarly, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou has a "Zissou" pinball on the boat.
- There is a "Richie Rich" pinball machine in the movie Richie Rich, with gold-plated metalwork and pictures of the Rich family all over the game.
- The David Spade movie Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star features a "Glimmer Gang" pinball, named after the protagonist's original TV sitcom.
- High School High has "Homeroom Homicide" and "Classroom Carnage" arcade games in the teacher's lounge.
- "Gang Fighter II" and "Rodney's Ride" appear in Don't Be A Menace To South Central While Drinking Your Juice In The Hood
- Alien: Resurrection has an "Atom Zone" game.
- A variation occurs in Grosse Pointe Blank, where Doom II appears in an arcade cabinet, even though it was never released as an arcade game.
- In I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, Chuck owns a "Balica" video game cabinet.note
- James plays a "Bionic Mutant" arcade video game in Adventureland
- The B-grade sex comedy Pick-Up Summer centers around a pinball tournament where the competitors face off by playing "Arthur: The Talking Pinball Machine" and "Pinball Summer" (the original name of the movie).
- A "Ninja Ninja Revolution" arcade game appears in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
- After a harrowing run through an Indiana Jones-styled hallway loaded with traps and a massive fight at the end of it, the title characters of Billy and Howard go home and play a game based on what they just did.
- In Diary of a Wimpy Kid, the main character is a fanboy for the game 'Twisted Wizard', which is apparently on the Wii. He's so obsessed with it, he evens prays to God so that he can beat a level without using a medical pack.
- Free Play in Ender’s Game, which seems to be an adventure game, set in some sort of Dream Land, that was designed by the Battle School folks to secretly test each student's creativity and psyche. That Cruelty Is the Only Option in a few of the game's trickier puzzles comes back to torment Ender.
- The hero of the Iain Banks novel Complicity spends most of the book playing a world-builder game called Despot, which he describes as "byzantinely complicated, baroquely beautiful, spectacularly immoral and utterly, utterly addictive." Word of God says it was inspired by Civilization (which supposedly almost made him miss the book's deadline). He also mentions he used to play a sci-fi game named "Xerium".
- Another Iain Banks novel, The Steep Approach to Garbadale, features a family-run games business whose fortune is built on a board game called Empire!.
- Tad Williams' Otherland series features a ton of these - appropriately since it's set Twenty Minutes into the Future and the key feature is a world wide virtual reality network. Particularly significant is the "Middle Kingdom", portrayed as the ultimate fantasy MMORPG, not to mention the game-within-a-game virtual worlds of the Grail Network itself.
- The samurai Fighting Game in Snow Crash.
- In the Star Wars Expanded Universe, the highly realistic simulators tend to either be played as games or Unwinnable Training Simulations. Sometimes both. In the Hand of Thrawn duology, Supreme Commander Pellaeon sometimes used an AT-AT simulator. It was frustrating sometimes, but enough unlike his normal duties that it was actually a form of relaxation. Of course, it also meant that he became more familiar with how the machines performed on different terrains, which meant that he might be better able to deploy them.
- Somewhat similar to the above, in Diane Duane's The Wounded Sky, Sulu put together a spaceflight simulator on the rec deck holotank that lets him play with unconventional sublight combat tactics (flying a starship as if it were a high performance atmospheric fighter). He insists that the underlying physics model is accurate, if on the outer edge of the performance envelope for the Enterprise. Kirk comes in toward the end of a particularly spectacular session where Sulu manages to crash his simulated ship into a Klingon cruiser. A bit later in the book, a situation arises where highly unorthodox sublight combat is called for:
Kirk: Mr. Sulu, you play tank games, don't you?
Sulu: Sir! Yes sir—
Kirk: Get it right this time.
- The game of the same name in Only You Can Save Mankind.
- The titular game in Killobyte. Piers Anthony also wrote a Xanth book revolving around a game, to give the designers the basic idea of what to make when they defictionalized it.
- The plot of Halting State by Charles Stross starts with a major event in a World of Warcraft- style game called "Avalon four". Several other MMORPGs appear throughout the book.
- Several parts of La Révolution des Fourmis of Bernard Werber describe various characters playing a Civilization-like video game named Origines.
- Dark Krassnia, the MMO created by Lucy Stone and Digital Damage Productions in The Restoration Game by Ken Macleod, based on Lucy's mother's epic work of Krassnian mythology The Krassniad. There's also the fact that the entire world is a video game of sorts, just a highly detailed one with sentient NPCs.
- NCIS featured these commonly. Mostly MMOs. Most notably "Captains of Industry 3" a terrible MMO that barely anybody played.
Abby: Captains of Industry 3. The completely unnecessary third installment of the not-so-popular sequel.
McGee: (sarcastically) Capturing all the fun of being a corporate CEO and building your own business empire.
Abby: Not playtime, Elf Lord.
McGee: You got that right. COI3 was universally panned as '08's worst MMORPG.
- The second series of Look Around You had a whole segment on fictional 1980s games... some of which, such as Diarrhea Dan, actually did end up getting implemented in Flash.
- Ace Lightning and the Carnival of Doom from Ace Lightning.
- "Better Than Life" from Red Dwarf.
- Caprica had a game called "New Cap City", a reference to Grand Theft Auto.
- House had some sort of recurring alien FPS that first showed up being developed in season six. The enemies in the game were bird-monsters, and this was the clue that led to curing the game designer. Birds had been the cause of his illness, which the patient somehow psychically understood, and subconsciously incorporated into his game. Foreman and Taub are later seen playing it.
- CSI: Crime Scene Investigation had Aeron's Legion on its videogame-centric episode.
- Vikings of the Realm in the Rizzoli & Isles ep "Virtual Love".
- The Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episode "Identity" featured a pinball machine called "Murder & Destruction"
- The episode "Care" featured an adventure game favored by a developmentally challenged foster child. The similarity between the game's artwork and the condition of the victim lead the detectives to consider the child a suspect until they play the game and discover the child was trying to save the victim from their abusive foster mother.
- The Rules of Engagement episode "Old School Jeff" featured a "Poker Pinball" game.
- One episode of Diff'rent Strokes showed Arnold playing a "Space Sucker" arcade video game.
- In one episode of Mr. Belvedere, the Owens family gets a "Firebomb" pinball table,note but gets rid of it once Belvedere becomes addicted to the game.
- The Community episode "Digital Estate Planning" featured "Journey To Hawkthorne", an adventure game with relatively deep gameplay, 8-bit graphics...and blatant racist overtones. The winner inherits the fortune of the game's designer.
- Polybius... We hope... Defictionalized: Good luck!
- Grand Theft Auto: Vice City has commercials on its radio stations for the Degenetron game system, which features such titles as Defender of the Faith, "Where you destroy the blue dots with your powerful red square!" In San Andreas, you can actually play these games on retro arcade machines.
- Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard is supposedly the latest incarnation of an entire fictional video game franchise.
- The World from the .hack// franchise. (Yes, it's a videogame, where you play as a character playing a fictional videogame. Defictionalized, possibly, but certainly a hint meta and loving it.)
- In the GameCube version of Animal Crossing, which included real NES games, the mayor, Tortimer, would give players the fictional NES game Super Tortimer as a present on April Fool's Day. Unfortunately, it can't be played; attempting to only results in a message that says it's an April Fool's Day joke.
- No More Heroes has the SHMUP "Pure White Giant Glastonbury" game, and the sequel has "Bizzare Jelly 5", both of which you can play on Travis' TV.
- Nasu from Yume Nikki. It is a depressingly repetitive Endless Game, and it helps with the ambience. When Madotsuki falls asleep she appears on her balcony, but when she enters her room her console and controller are gone. Many have made WMGs about this.
- The NES-esque Tranoid, from the song of the same name in beatmania IIDX 14. note
- Maniac Mansion has an arcade which is full of these. Unfortunately, the game averts Game Within a Game and none of them are playable. (Or fortunately since the characters label each of the games, except for Meteor Mess, as "Pretty boring".)
- Duke Nukem:
- In Duke Nukem 3D, the player can find a "Balls of Steel" pinball machine, but can't actually play it. Later defictionalized as one of the tables in the Balls of Steel collection.
- "Balls of Steel" returns in Duke Nukem Forever as a fully-playable game-within-a-game, though it's not related to the "Duke Nukem" table in Balls of Steel.
- The Matrix Path Of Neo mentions, in passing, during the kung-fu/ninja training level how Neo had the high-score for a, likely arcade, game called "Ninja Crisis".
- Homestar Runner has quite a few of these made by the fictional company Videlectrix. Some have been defictionalized.
- Years of Yarncraft in Sluggy Freelance (take a guess what it's a parody of).
- Along with Fashion Rancher Waif on the PSP.
- Chainsawsuit featured the recurring "Boiga Bruddas", a parody of early Mario games. Later, an American company remakes it as an ultra-violent first person shooter.
- Homestuck gives us Sburb.