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I Wish It Were Real
The sleep is still in my eyes, the dream is still in my head
I breathe a sigh, and sadly smile, and lie awhile in bed
I wish that it might come to pass, not fade like all my dreams
Just think of what my life might be in a world like I have seen!
Rush, 2112

Remember when you were a kid playing with your favourite action figures/video games/television shows and you would go, "I wish it was real!" Well, that's the basis of this trope: a well-trodden storyline where the favourite fictional elements of the main characters somehow materialise into the real world (or the characters are transported into their home Alternate Universe) through some Applied Phlebotinum (frequently a wish). Depending on the mood of the story, Zany Antics or horrific Deconstruction follows as the characters deal with their new circumstances. Remember, Be Careful What You Wish For.

If the show/game is a member of a series, it will most likely use the Recursive Canon trope and place the fantastic elements as a Show Within a Show.

By law, such storylines must include a What If? scene where the protagonists compare themselves to the fictional game, musing on what character class they would be or what superpowers they would have or what cute mascot monster they would train. This turns out to be some kind of highly accurate prophecy.

See also Welcome to the Real World, Refugee from TV Land, Ascended Fanboy, Longing for Fictionland. Wanting Is Better Than Having might end up as an Aesop.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 

    Comics 
  • Both Loony Leo, the living cartoon character, and Beautie, the android Fictional Counterpart Barbie doll, in Astro City.
  • Any time a DC Comics super hero visits Earth Prime, the Alternate Universe where super heroes only exist in comic books.
  • In one issue of The Simpsons comic book, aliens Kang and Kodos bring Itchy and Scratchy into the real world. Bart gets hold of the alien device and uses it to evoke Radioactive Man (his favorite Comic Book hero) to deal with the resulting mayhem.
  • Pretty much sums up the entirety of Futurama.

    Fan Fiction 

    Film 
  • Jumanji
  • Played with slightly in Spy Kids ("I wish I could go away to your world, Floop. You'd be my friend."). Floop turns out to be the villain, but as it happens, not the Big Bad. In fact, he makes a Heel-Face Turn by the end of the movie.
  • Subverted in Pleasantville, in which the protagonists are drawn into an idealized-1950s TV-show universe, and introduce various forms of personal and sexual liberation that shake up the stereotypically stodgy inhabitants.
  • Woody Allen's 1985 film The Purple Rose of Cairo invokes, inverts and generally messes with this trope.
  • Last Action Hero subverts this trope by showing how the "real" and "fictional" worlds may be entirely too different from each other for their inhabitants to cope. Though Danny has issues of his own.
    Jack: In my world they just leave clues.
    Danny: But we're not in your world.
    Danny: That kind of stuff doesn't happen here, Jack. Because this world stinks!
  • In Galaxy Quest, the washed up actors of an old sci-fi show learn that aliens have been watching the show and modeled their entire technology and culture around it. At one point, they have to get in touch with the obsessed fans of the show, whose obscure knowledge saves their lives.
  • In The Last Starfighter, Alex Rogan is really good at a video game — and it turns out the video game is a training simulator for a galaxy-spanning space war.
  • Ted shows a young boy that wishes his teddy bear was real. He gets exactly what he wants, but the charm wears off as the two of them grow up and the bear becomes a lazy womanizing slob.

    Literature 
  • The fantasy series Guardians of the Flame has the college professor DM of a gaming group turn out to be a wizard from a fantasy world who sends his players through to try and set things right there. Some benefit from the immigration (one guy, who's crippled in real life, becomes his physically whole dwarf character), but there is a high body count once the characters find out that this 'DM's world is much harsher than their usual 'game'.
  • The Simon's Quest and Wizards & Warriors books in the Worlds of Power series begin this way.
  • Terry Pratchett's Only You Can Save Mankind, although the titular video game comes to life without any actual wishes being involved. It's partially a parody of The Last Starfighter, mentioned above.
  • Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman's Good Omens addresses this. As Adam prepares to remake the world to his liking his friends become acutely aware that the best thing about pirates and cowboys and the other fantastic things in their imaginations is that you can stop being them when you want to.
  • This is what Pamela Dean's The Secret Country books are all about. Five children have spent their lives playing a sustained imaginary game inside a detailed paracosm of their own making — only to find out it's not of their own making. The reality is often very beautiful, but because it's a real place, it's filled with complications and tragedies they never dreamed of.

    Live Action TV 

    Music 
  • The Leslie Fish Filk Song "Valhalla" is about a Viking who died in battle, but couldn't reach Valhalla because Christianity had his Gods under siege. Odin reincarnated him as a "bookish, lonely lad" who immersed himself in Scandanavian lore. "Sigurd" then stumbles into the Society for Creative Anachronism, and while it's not perfect, it fits a lot of the bill - including drinking, boasting, wenching, and fighting!
    Be careful of what paradise you deal
    What hope you make other dreamers feel
    For if too many hear it
    they will struggle to draw near it
    And in the search they just might make it real!

    Video Games 

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • In one episode of Chaotic creatures from Perim invade Chaotic and Earth, but it turns out to be All Just a Dream.
    • Played straight with any newly-introduced characters. Until they receive an official invitation and password from a Codemaster, the "real" worlds of Chaotic and Perim are nothing but the crazy ramblings of others.
  • Dungeons & Dragons
  • Captain N: The Game Master.
  • The Fairly Oddparents: At least one of Timmy Turner's wishes has been like this.
    • To elaborate: In one episode, Timmy wishes to meet the Crimson Chin, his favorite superhero. The Chin suffers a Heroic BSOD after learning that he's a fictional character, and Timmy has to try and convince him to return to action. Another episode involves Timmy leaving the portal open and enabling a supervillain to escape into the real world.
    • In another episode, he wishes his life were like an action movie, and the next day it is.
  • In The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy episode "Wishbones" a minor and recurring character of the series, Pud'n, wishes his toy bunny were real. An extra-dimensional skull grants his wish, but being a case of Be Careful What You Wish For, the newly animated bunny turns out to be a complete psychopath who does everything in his power to kill Pud'n.
    "Love hurts, Pud'n, and I love you... to death."

The Genie In The MachineWishing TropesI Wished You Were Dead
I Will Find YouPlotsJailbird of Panama
I Want to Be a Real ManWish FulfillmentJoins to Fit In

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