A character, usually a hero, is knocked out or goes to sleep and wakes up in their own personalparadise. Whatever they wanted most, all their life, is finally theirs.
Actually, they're being held prisoner by another character, usually but not always a villain, who is using something; a machine, a Platonic Cave, or other phlebotinum to cause very intense and very realistic hallucinations. Sometimes they don't know it's all fake. Sometimes they do know but don't care. In order to escape, the hero has to break the masquerade and give up their life's dream. If they're in too deep, friends hoping to mount an Orphean Rescue have to force the hero to Battle in the Center of the Mind in order to escape. More often than not, a Dream Apocalypse occurs.
Bonus points go to the villains if they attempt to drive the protagonist to despair by turning the dream into a nightmare or otherwise play on the protagonist's emotions.
Because of the nature of this trope, it often lends itself to doubts after the characters 'escape'. Sometimes it isn't clear whether their escape is genuine or not. This can range from Epileptic Trees theories by a handful of viewers, all the way up to extreme canon cases of a Dream Within a Dream. In this tone, a particularly Fridge Horrific ending for a villain (or a hero) may see them fall under the spell of the Machine, but only for a second before escaping, defeating their enemies, and re-making the world in their image. Cut back to reality, where they're still under the thrall of the Machine.
Often lends itself to aesops against spending all of your time in a virtual fantasy world.
In the majority of these cases, Your Mind Makes It Real. May also be an exitlessHappy Place or not-so-happy Ontological Mystery or Psychological Torment Zone. If the place isn't happy, but the hero is still made to believe it's real over his old life, it's a Cuckoo Nest. May be used in conjunction with the Leave Your Quest Test to create The Final Temptation. May be used to set up an Epiphanic Prison. If an entire society lives in one, it's a Terminally Dependent Society. May involve Mind Rape at some point. Possible to involve Victory Is Boring.
The trope name comes from Greek mythology, where Odysseus meets a society living off narcotic plants, to the extent that anyone who eats of the lotus no longer cares about anything else, including going home.
Beware of spoilers. The revelation that the events in the story are just an induced fantasy is often used as a major plot twist.
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Anime and Manga
Gregory Horror Show has a weird variation. The hotel run by Gregory is the embodiment of the desire to escape from reality, and Gregory and his inhabitants will try their damndest to drive you mad and keep you there. You can escape, but of the two people we've seen escape, both eventually end up coming back and becoming one of the hotel's twisted inhabitants.
In Angel Sanctuary, the protagonist, Setsuna, is put into a dream world where Sara is not his sister but his girlfriend, his best friend Kira is a happy intellectual big brother figure, the guys he had been framed for killing were still alive, and the overall Angels vs Angels thing was just a dream. He is awoken by the desperate crying for help of Kira, who actually is the spirit of his sword, who actually is Lucifer, while the dream Sara tries to convince him to stay in the dream.
Another Angel Sanctuary example is when Setsuna and Kato try to break out of Uriel's realm. A part of Enma-o's body places an illusion on Katou where he sees his family and himself as a little child, his sister (played by Enma-o) asks him to put away the bat because he doesn't need it here; even his father who isn't his father at all, only the husband of his mother is nice and kind and tells him that he got that short temper from him. Then, he stabs Enma-o with his staff and breaks the seal on the cauldron.
In Bleach Episode 178, Ichigo is trapped within a special technique created by Saiga, a bakkoutou weapon used by the assassins of the Kasumi-Ooji Clan. He is trapped within a memory of his childhood where his mother dies, and he is alone, waiting by the river at the spot she was killed. Upon breaking out, Ichigo pulled out his Visored mask and promptly delivered an ass-whupping to his tormentor.
Inflicting one of these is the power of the kakugane "Alice in Wonderland" in Busou Renkin.
Yu does this to himself in episode 26, purposefully trapping himself in a "Groundhog Day" Loop after watching all his friends be dragged to their deaths by Izanami.
Code Geass gives this trope a twist by having the Lotus Eater Machine actually be a highly addictive drug, called Refrain. It's popular amongst the conquered Japanese (and may have been developed specifically as a weapon against them), since it causes the user to relive happy memories.
Keroro Gunsou episode 3: After trying various methods to disguise Keroro so he can go outside, Tamama tries the plant "Dreaming Alpha", which sticks its tentacles into Keroro's head and makes him hallucinate that he's in a wonderful field of flowers, but almost instantly drains his body away. (The plant itself is oddly similar to the one in the Alan Moore story.)
In the English dub, it's explicitly referred to as the 'Keronian Purple Mercy Lotus-Eating Lotus'.
It was more like For her, than Against her. Book of Darkness considered using it on Fate as sort of a Mercy Kill. She wanted Fate to sleep peacefully and happily within her.
The Book of Darkness also planned on doing this to her master Hayate, and the rest of the Earth, believing Hayate wished for pain of the real world to just be a dream and disappear. She drops the plan when Hayate tells that isn't what she wants.
The experience also had the effect of helping Fate come to terms with herself as a separate person from Alicia, resulting in her accepting Lindy's offer to adopt her in the third A's Sound Stage.
This is the main ability of Yukariko Sanada's CHILD in Mai-HiME. An entire episode is devoted to this, as she uses its power of illusion in an attempt to break Mai's spirit. Mai manages to decipher it's all a lie and escapes from the Happy Place, so the defeated Yukariko accepts her loss and commits suicide rather than hurting her further, bringing her evil lover Ishigami down alongside her.
She uses the same treatment on Yukino and Haruka in the fourth volume of the manga. Haruka's Happy Place puts her Twenty Minutes into the Future where she's uber-successful at everything, has her own naked lesbianharem, and she's utterly defeated and humiliated her rival Shizuru, whom she now uses as a footstool for bathing. Once she realizes the whole thing is fake because she doesn't think she could ever be so happy, Haruka uses her Heroic Resolve to break her and Yukino free and kick Yukariko's ass.
Fushigi Yuugi has a character with a similar power: Tomo, Nakago's right hand. He tends to apply it in a simpler and more subtle way than most examples, but is capable of building an entire populated town around the simple desires of one girl.
In Mx0, one of magical aptitude test is to leave a Lotus Eater Machine room within 10 minutes. If you do that, you'll forget everything that happened in there, and if you don't, you'll keep your memories but fail the test.
Neon Genesis Evangelion's penultimate episode was devoted to this, the culmination of all the psychological/spiritual Techno Babble of the series. The twisted reality presented has become an actual Elseworld in official games and manga.
This happens at least four times in the R season of Sailor Moon: when Usagi is trapped in an illusion by a youma that saps her Life Energy away until Mamoru wakes her up with a True Love's Kiss, when ChibiUsa is placed in a nightmare by another youma and led to believe she is back in her decimated home, when Ami is brainwashed into believing everyone hates her by yet another youma and has to debrainwash herself, and when Wiseman tries to brainwash Moon into serving the Black Moon Clan by breaking her spirit, but fails when she breaks away.
Also happens in the Super S movie when the villainess puts children (one of them being a kidnapped Chibi-Usa) to sleep in wonderful, eternal dreams so they can be an energy source to trap the whole planet into said dreams. When Moon tries to stop her, she too is put in a fantasy world. She's knows it's fake when Mamoru readily admits he loves her more than ChibiUsa, something the real deal wouldn't do.
Also happened in Stars, when Usagi is on her way to Nehelenia's lair but is brainwashed by an illusion (in the shape of talking flowers) into forgetting Mamoru and everything else. She wakes up when Makoto/Jupiter almost gets killed by Nehelenia herself while shielding her and one of her rose-shaped earrings falls to the ground.
Occurs once in the Death Busters arc of the manga where Makato, Rei, Ami, and Minako are trapped in their own ideal dream worlds before Usagi and the Outer Senshi free them..
Tenchi in Tokyo episode 25: The villain Yugi, after "destroying" her shadow (and Tenchi's love interest) Sakuya, sets up a "dream world" when Tenchi tries to come after her, in which Tenchi and Sakuya could be together forever. It nearly worked, Tenchi being willing to live in the dream world at first, but surprisingly, it's Sakuya (who has gained a will of her own) who breaks Tenchi out of the illusion, at the cost of her own life.
This is pretty much the plot of 1999's Tenchi Forever!, the final movie set in the Tenchi Universe continuity. Haruna, Yosho's former lover, takes Tenchi into her own universe to live out the dreams she never experienced.
In Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, the Anti-Spiral has this in the form of the "Multiverse Labyrinth". The underlying philosophical purpose, according to them is that the dimensional labyrinth recognizes the possibilities entertained by its victims, turning them into reality. As long as they are able to imagine alternatives, one can never escape from it, thus preventing the victims from utilizing spiral energy in the process.
However, the spirit and/or memory of Kamina shows up and saves everyone to the tune of "Libera Me" from Hell. Cheesy awesomeness aside, he was able to free everyone from the illusion by exhorting them to not worry about the "should-haves and maybes" and focus on the reality in front of them. This fits in with the message of the series: Don't be distracted, just always keep moving forward.
In the Battle Angel manga, Mad Scientist Desty Nova traps Gally in a VR simulation in which she's a normal, innocent girl and he's the scientist who rescued her from the Scrapyard, setting himself up as her father-figure. (As a nod to the English translation, Nova also gives her a different name: 'Alita'. In the translation, of course, Alita is renamed 'Gally'.) Nova's intention is that Gally's personality will be altered by the experience, and she'll find herself unable to kill him after he releases her from the simulation. However, this backfires in two ways — Gally recognizes that it's only a dream from the start and plays along, relishing the chance to briefly live a normal life; meanwhile, having genuinely come to love Gally/Alita as a daughter during his time in the simulation, Nova can no longer bring himself to shoot her in the real world. (Later in the series he becomes more-or-less a good guy, but his motives were always so obscure anyway that it's impossible to tell if it's a direct result, and he actually claims to have no memory of this incident due to the way he resurrects. He just backs up his mind and downloads to another body, but only backs up at certain time periods.)
Played with very well in Wolf's Rain, where Kiba is separated from his companions and wakes up in an idyllic paradise. Since the whole point of the series was to find paradise, and it had been hinted that Kiba was purer than the others, he might actually be there (and the viewers were kept in the dark as long as Kiba was).
Played straight in Paranoia Agent, where Chief Ikari, one of the series' protagonists, is led into one of these, a choppily animated world where everyone and everything is paper thin. He stays there until the last episode, when with some help from his dying wife he realizes that he shouldn't run away from his responsibilities, and so destroys the fake world with a bat.
In Sorcerer Hunters, the team unleashes a book that makes everybody's desires real, creating two extra Carrots to fulfill them all. Carrot, the real one, saves the day, which is arguably what he most desired.
Occurs several times in Ergo Proxy, as the proxies mentally war for supremacy. The ones involving Vincent have him and his friends appearing to steadily go mad, however one less serious episode involves little girl-robot Pino playing inside another proxy's gaudy Disney-esque Theme Park.
Gatekeepers had one in episode ten where the team were taken away to a beach paradise, however, Shun suspects that something is up with the place from the start.
In Get Backers, Ban's Evil Eye technique can in fact be used as a Lotus Eater Machine. Often, Ban subtly changes the one-minute dream to seem as if it lasts for several hours, and/or changes the content from dream to nightmare.
In the final book, the entire world turns out to be Ginji's dream.
An interesting case can be found in Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex where a Mad Artist created a virtual reality that consists only of movie theatre in which the perfect film is played for all eternity. Everyone connecting with the program gets trapped and the only thing he ever wants is to continue seeing the film. Of course it's never shown what is seen on the screen, but it's apparently more like The Ring tape than an actual movie.
It is so good it even makes the Major cry, who only once showed any genuine emotion except Unstoppable Rage.
The last two episodes of Digimonseason 2 had a very sudden reveal of the Big Bad, who used an alternate world where dreams come true to trap the Digidestined in their own fantasies. The way they got broken out seemed so contrived to some people that Epileptic Trees have been planted theorizing that the entire ending is nothing more than a dream-within-a-dream, and the battle never ended.
Yu-Gi-Oh!: It was implied in the Anime-only Noa arc that Noa was put into one of these by his father after he died, and went mad as he realized this, and his father subsequently abandoned him because Noa wasn't playing along.
In the Pokémon episode "Malice in Wonderland", Ash and his party get trapped in a dream-world, where Ash is able to defeat the champion Cynthia and owns every single badge in the world, Dawn is a undefeatable Coordinator, who has no problems taking on her own Mom and owns more Ribbons than one can count, and finally, Brock is surrounded by an army of Joys and Jennys, who all want to marry him. The cause is a Ghost-type Pokemon, Mismagius, who wants them to play with it... forever. As soon as they realize that, everything around them is not real, the dream changes into a nightmare, but they find a way to use their own imaginations to fight back.
Done again in Best Wishes, this time the work of a Beheeyem belonging to a crook. The trick here is that they can only be freed from the illusion once they are all fully awake, which is a problem since Meowth (who, at that time, was with Ash and friends), instantly goes back to sleep every time they try to wake him up.
Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch had Alala, a Fairy-like villain, who had the ability to use her song to either perform mass hypnosis or trap someone in a sweet dream so that person wouldn't want to wake up.
At the end of the InuYasha manga, Kagome, while trapped INSIDE the Shikon jewel, is initially made to believe that she is living a normal life, forgetting all about the Feudal Era and everything she did there. When she remembers her adventures and comes to in the darkness of the jewel, it tries to trick her into making a selfish wish by promising her that perfect normal life if she wishes for it. Only remembering and being with Inuyasha prevents her from wishing selfishly on the jewel and being trapped in it forever.
In the anime, when the Shikon Pearl is contaminated by Tsubaki the evil Miko and Kagome is affected by such a fact, she's temporarily trapped inside another one where the Inu-tachi doesn't exist and she can't remember them, despite seeing people that act and look like them (Sango and Miroku are a young married couple she passes by, Kaede and Shippo are an old lady and her grandson, etc. She only breaks out when she meets the equivalent of Kikyou, who poses as the captain of her school's archery club and starts questioning Kagome's motives to be there.
Interludetakes place almost entirely inside of one of these.
In Dragon Ball Episode 116, Korin sends Goku to an icy wasteland to find a magic potion that will help him beat Demon King Piccolo. This icy wasteland is inhabited by a monster called Darkness, who traps Goku in a dream world where his friends are able to live in peace, because Demon King Piccolo does not exist. Goku refuses to submit, so the dream becomes a nightmare where his friends become violent. Although Darkness was just testing Goku before giving him the potion, because it is fatal to the unworthy.
In Hunter × Hunter anime, one of the first tests is running around a dark alley surrounded by tree roots. Anyone caught between the roots experiences a dream related to their darkest memories and sapped of energy until they die. That's how we learn Leorio's backstory: he dreams about Pietro, his old friend who died of illness.
In Naruto, there is a spectral sword known as the Sakenagi Longsword which seals whoever is cut by it in a blissful illusion for all eternity. Itachi possessed it as a part of his Susanoo jutsu and used it to defeat Orochimaru, who had spent years searching for it.
The (real) leader of Akatsuki eventually reveals his endgame plan is to put the entire world into one of these, having decided the current reality and all its senseless deaths aren't worth keeping.
Particularly in the third arc of Umineko no Naku Koro ni, the Golden Land is portrayed like this. In the fourth arc, it's portrayed similarly, but Ange convinces Maria that it will grant everything except the thing she wants most. Although that has more to do with the peculiarities of what she wants than anything with the Golden Land itself.
Kuchinashi's Lilith Temptation attack in NEEDLESS puts everyone into a dream world with what they desire most. This is then lampshaded when Blade isn't affected. To answer why he wasn't affected he points at each reason: "I'M ALREADY IN HEAVEN! LITTLE GIRL! LITTLE GIRL! LITTLE GIRL! LITTLE GIRL! LITTLE GIRL! ...Well, she's a little girl, too."
In Dance in the Vampire Bund's, Mina Tepes awakens in a dreamworld where everyone she knows is a normal human, Tokyo Landfill # 0 does not exist, and she is a young albino taken in by Akira's mother. Her first reaction is to try finding out what is going on, but after her mother shows up she makes up her mind that she does not care anymore and does not force herself to wake for a subjective decade (on her wedding day with Akira).
In Mahou Sensei Negima!, it appears that Cosmo Entelechia, the illusory world where the Big Bad wants to put all the residents of Mundus Magicus, is a Lotus Eater Machine tailored to each person affected. Another character, Zazie's sister, Poyo, owns a lesser version of this. And before you go crying evil villain, this is because as far as they know said residents will all die. It's a complex situation where, in the end, the main moral reason for arguing against it is that it's being done without permission. Interestingly, Chisame and Makie are both immune to the lesser version because they are already perfectly content in their lives, though the former loudly protests when Poyo suggests this.
In Muhyo And Roji, this is used on the haunt of Yuki Otada, causing him to hallucinate that his classmates are welcoming him onto a rollercoaster, and that despite being a Huge Schoolboy, he can fit if he lets go of what he's carrying (the people he kidnapped). As the rollercoaster takes him down to hell, Muhyo notes that the Lotus Eater Machine was meant to make the descent easier, as his past was apparently so traumatic (being Driven to Suicide after realizing that the classmates who bullied him weren't serious about becoming friends with him) that even Muhyo felt sorry for him.
In Baki the Grappler, one of Dorian's techniques is to hypnotize his opponents into thinking they're beating the crap out of him.
Yukiteru in Mirai Nikki gets trapped in one of these where he has everything he's ever wanted, including his parents.
The anime version of Magic Knight Rayearth features Umi getting stuck in a Lotus Eater Magic, where she's back in Tokyo Tower because of her desperate wish to just go home and participate in her fencing tournament. There's a catch: everything is frozen in time, and on learning this, Umi broke down that this isn't the kind of 'go home' that she wanted. It's only after hearing her friends in distress that she managed to break away and return to Cephiro.
In Angel Beats!, Naoi, the newly promoted Absurdly PowerfulStudent Council President, tries to use hypnosis to put Yuri in a fantasy world where her siblings are still alive. She was sent to this afterlife because she blames herself for their deaths, and might be "obliterated" if she thought they never really died. But she resists, and Otonashi forcibly interrupts the process. Choosing to put yourself in a Lotus Eater as a means of filling in the gaps in your past life is the "goal" of the afterlife, and allows people to move on and get reincarnated.
At the end of the anime version of Saikano, Chise's spirit creates one for Shuuji to help him cope with the fact that everyone else in the world has died.
The story by Cary Bates in Action Comics # 492 (Feb 1979) in which Superman is caught in an "odd-shaped swirl of crimson energy" and has illusions of a future life in which he marries Lana Lang and has children, which turn out to be implanted by Phantom Zone villains to distract him while the crimson energy kills him.
In X-Men the Scarlet Witch, Wanda Maximoff, had a nervous breakdown over the deaths of her children and created the House of M alternate reality, where mutants were the dominant race and all the heroes had their hearts' desires granted (Spider-Man was married to Gwen Stacy with Uncle Ben alive, the X-Men were able to have normal jobs in a world free of persecution and bigotry, etc). Unfortunately, Wolverine's heart's desire was to remember every day of his life: he knew the world was fake and was the one to try to revert it. Unlike most examples, the House of M universe was as real as the one it replaced, but it served the same purpose — to keep the heroes pacified.
In the X-men Annual #8, some cosmic villain named Horde traps the team in one of these. One by one the X-men are seduced by their dream-visions, except for Longshot-who gets absorbed by the place because his childlike innocence had nothing to corrupt- Psyloke, -who tried to use her dream vision as a way to fight Horde, it doesn't work- and Wolverine, who had enough willpower to resist his own vision and the temptation of godhood, and broke evryone out of there.
In Batman's Final Crisis story arc, evil scientists working for Darkseid put Batman in a Lotus Eater Machine so they can take advantage of his psyche for their own ends. (Not a pleasant one... the machine runs him through slightly off-kilter events from his life as Batman, with a focus on the worst experiences.) Batman deduces what is going on and is able to completely destroy all of their equipment and ruin their plans without even waking up.
Doctor Doom once trapped the Fantastic Four into such a device: They thought they were living idyllic normal lives in a place called Liddletown, when in fact their consciousness had been transferred to miniature clones of themselves, and the town was an intricate scale model.
"Idyllic" is a stretch. Or more accurately, "Idyllic for everyone BUT Reed Richards, whose intelligence is dulled and confused so that Doom can play practical jokes against him, for kicks". Doom is a sore winner.
An early Sonic the Hedgehog comic has Robotnik trapping the Freedom Fighters in such a machine, where on top of the traditional ideal world, it actually changed to meet its inhabitants' wishes. After figuring it out, Sonic pushes the machine's "user-friendly" nature to its limit, takes control of Robotnik's war machines (currently on their way to raze Knothole), and forces Robotnik to let them go by threatening to turn them on Robotropolis.
Sonic the Comic did something similar to this effect in an early issue in the "Ruled By Robotnik" arc. Sonic woke up to find out that he was a human and lacked his abilities.
Marvel's Earth X traps an aged Peter Parker in an illusory world in which, among other things, he is married to Gwen Stacy and has a son (rather than his real-world daughter, who is this reality's Venom - and who enters this world and snaps her dad out of it).
Deconstructed in Alan Moore's For the Man Who Has Everything, featuring Superman. The Black Mercy plant gives the victim hallucinations of his biggest dream — in Superman's case, that he's with his still-living parents (plus a wife and children) on Krypton. Little by little, though, the dream Krypton becomes a heartbreaking nightmare of the planet sliding into a self-destructing mayhem, spurred by Superman's embittered father. After it was removed from Superman, it fell on Batman, and he also experienced his greatest fantasy — that his parents were not murdered. After Superman is freed from the dream, he proceeds to unleash the mother of all Unstoppable Rages upon Mongul, who mentions that he used the flower specifically to create a prison that Superman could not escape without giving up his greatest desire. The Black Mercy plant is eventually used on Mongul to defeat him, who dreams that he kills all the heroes and takes over the universe.
A similar story, perhaps written to echo the Batman: The Animated Series episode mentioned below, has the Mad Hatter trapping Batman in an idealized Silver Age world. Tellingly, Batman realizes that the illusion is not real, and breaks himself out of it, because he realizes that, in the world created by the Lotus Eater Machine, he is happy.
In an issue of Green Lantern, Green Lantern and Green Arrow are ensnared by a single Black Mercy by Mongul's son, also named Mongul; Lantern's dominant personality made the ideal world they shared too ideal for the jaded Green Arrow, and they manage to escape.
Ryan Choi has a run-in with a variant Black Mercy in The All-New Atom. It gives him everything he's ever dreamed of - but not the things he truly wants, which are back in reality.
Turns out that Black Mercys are Well Intentioned Extremists who do this in order to end pain and fear, and later, Mother Mercy joins the Green Lantern Corps.
Also by Alan Moore, Dark Age volume 2 of Marvelman (aka Miracleman) recasts the character's Silver Age adventures as Lotus Eater Machine dreams invented to keep him and his fellow post-humans in line while they were being studied and programmed.
Steve Moore (no relation to Alan Moore) used this trope in his Jonni Future stories. One of Jonni's enemies is the Empress of the End, who trades people all their Earthly possessions to experience a (fatal) experience of their heart's greatest desire. A surprising number of people willingly make this trade, but when the Empress kidnaps Jonni's sidekick, Jermaal Van Pavane the Paraman and forcibly submits him to the machine, she has to rescue him.
In another Jonni Future story, she has to be rescued from a planet which causes her to hallucinate her greatest desire. Which is apparently being swarmed by lots of naked versions of herself...
Ed Brubaker did a guest two-parter for Tom Strong, in which the title character got dropped in a really subversive one of these: first the hero is made to believe that he's mad, and then when he fights this, he discovers that he's the result of a government Super Soldier program, and when the project was scrapped he was dumped on the street. The resulting existential angst almost kills Tom Strong... but then he realizes that it was All Just a Dream, smashes the Phlebotinum keeping him there, and goes back to his loving wife and four-color adventures. Except the wrap-up is handled very quickly, leading some of us (one at least) to wonder...
As was the Batman story with Darkseid's minions above. He obviously likes the trope as well.
In an attempt to take control of his body and manifest in the real world the Devil Hulk once trapped Bruce Banner in a perfect fantasy land that existed only in his head. Bruce was married to Betty, had kids and was best friends with his father and General Ross.
During Fall of The Hulks, the Intelligencia trapped Bruce - and the other seven smartest men in the world - in a Lotus Eater Machine in order to drain their intellects. Not all that surprisingly, Bruce was married to Betty, had kids, and had killed the Hulk.
One Xxxenophile story featured a villain trapping Orgasm Lass in a Wet Dreamtime Generator, bouncing her between fantasy lovers. She escapes by overloading the device... come on, this is Xxxenophile, you know how she did it.
A rather nasty one was inflicted on Pixie. Some demons used their magic to make her own illusory powers trick her and her friends. She was essentially the power source for her own Lotus Eater Machine.
In a ploy to steal their magical powers, some demons put Traci 13, Zachary Zatara, and Black Alice in a world where: Traci is uncontested ruler of the world, Zatara's lover is still alive and they are married with children, and Black Alice's mother is still alive. Traci rejects the fantasy because her father is dead. Zatara rejects it because he feels it is shaming the memory of his lover. Unfortunately, Black Alice refuses to give up her mother and attacks them. Alice's mother eventually tells her that she needs to do the right thing and restore the world to the way it was.
In Empowered, Anglerfish and his son both have the power to hypnotize people who look into their head lures into seeing their greatest desires.
In one issue of The Books of Magic, Auberon of the Fay gets dared/guilt-tripped into putting his soul inside a globe supposedly containing his own Paradise. Once he does so he's both trapped and mindwiped of that fact, while his zombie-like body is put to menial labour.
A story arc of The Trigan Empire featured little black boxes with attached wires which, when plugged to the temples caused the user to experience his or her favourite fantasy in lurid detail. They were a dangerous addicition.
My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (IDW): This is Nightmare Rarity's ability. She tries to use it on Spike, trapping him in an ideal world where Rarity asks him to marry her and together rule as Queen and King. It doesn't work since dream!Rarity wants him to forget about their friends and doesn't know what the Fire Ruby means to him.
In The Transformers, Rapture aka Katrina Vesotsky, is a human with the ability to ensnare other's minds into fantasies. It works on both humans and transformers. She was even able to ensnare Unicron... for about thirty seconds before the Planet Eater snapped out of it.
Shows up in two episodes of Suske en Wiske; both in De Tartaarse Helm and De Schat van Beersel they get placed into an illusionary world by Mr. Priem through hypnosis. However, Mr. Priem is not their enemy; the first time he did it as a reward for helping him and the second time it was in a last-ditch attempt to get out of a trap, and in both cases they wake up when the story in the illusionary world has reached its conclusion.
In the Star Trek Mirror Universe comics, Lotus eater machines are the preferred method of torture for the empire. The rebels and scientists think they are safe and helping to free the universe with secrets and inventions explained only to their closest family members... while in reality they are in a small room in a very heavily guarded prison.
In thisBleach fanfiction, Szael traps Ishida in one of these during the Hueco Mundo arc where he is killed over and over again, except for the last hallucination, where he is living with Orihime and his child by her in what is hinted to be a vision of the future, or one possible future.
An Axis Powers Hetalia fanfic A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes has Denmark being ensnared by a Black Mercy and dreaming where he is living in the perfect world. Unfortunately for him, as the rest of the Nordics and other countries tries to wake him up, his perfect world descends into a horrifying nightmare, as the Black Mercy is slowly draining his life at the same time.
In the Neon Genesis Evangelion/Overman King Gainer crossover Nobody Dies, Shinji, Asuka, Mana, and Rei are trapped in one by Iruel. Shinji winds up in a high-school setting, Asuka is sent to a Magical Girl setting where her mother isn't a complete bitch, Mana is in a Dating Sim, and Rei is... On second thought, let's not even go there. Of course, it's IRUEL, the Angel of Terror, so things get worse. Shinji watches a fake Asuka go from normal to insane numerous times, Asuka is completely taken apart by her mother, who gives everything she took, her eyes, her hair, etc., to Uriel, Mana is hit by a truck again and again and again, given more cybernetic parts each time, until she is entirely a robot and goes on a killing spree of the virtual counterparts of her friends. No clue what, if anything, happened to Rei, though. When Ichi goes into the virtual reality to find the pilots, Iruel does the same thing to her.
A second case happens when Arael plunges the whole of Earth into a seven-week dream state. The exact reasons why she did this are not yet known, though only Shinji (through Lilith's meddling) and the Angels remember any of the dream. This was actually an Author's Saving Throw by Gregg to Retcon the entire fourth "season" of the fic, which was plagued with writing problems and was not well-enjoyed by the readers.
In Arc Of Sacrifices, a Harry Potter fanfiction featuring a Slytherin!Harry, Harry takes a Dark curse featuring this. Unlike some other incarnations of the trope, the perfect world in the curse doesn't turn into a nightmare, but it also takes an outside influence with knowledge of the Dark Arts (in this case Lucius Malfoy) to convince him to break the dream world.
In the Pony POV Series, Fluttershy's Superpowered Evil Side, Princess Gaia puts ponies under a spell, making them experience their own personal paradise. In a twist, she truly is a Well-Intentioned Extremist who does this to make everypony as happy as they possibly can be. The mane cast even gets drawn into it as well. Applejack's paradise is to live with her alternate reality family she saw looking into the Truth. Rarity's has Prince Blueblood turn out to be her Prince Charming after all. Rainbow Dash's has her become the leader of the Wonderbolts, rekindle her friendship with Gilda, destroy her old flight school, and marry Wonderbolts member Soarin' (Rainbow Dash has a lot of dreams...). Pinkie Pie's has her owning a theme park where parties go non-stop and her family even comes, with her parents becoming game show hosts (it's Pinkie Pie, what did you expect?). Twilight's has Spike never having to grow up and leave her, and her friends all move to Canterlot with her so she can be with both them and Celestia. Trixie's has her being Celestia's apprentice and ultimately becoming queen of Equestria, after which she does everything she can to help keep her family happy. Only Applejack, Pinkie Pie, and Trixie are able to break free of their own accord, needing magic to free the others. In a sad twist, Applejack is completely aware that hers is an illusion since she became a Living Lie Detector, but really wishes it were real.
In the Machinima A Link to the Smash Link is put into a dream state by Mewtwo's psychic powers, on Ganondorf's orders.
Chronomistress Out Of Time: Queen Chrysalis traps ponies in eternal, blissful hallucinations about being together with their love interest, so that she and her hive may feed on the victims's emotions.
In the 8th story of The Journey Of Graves series, Graves experiences this when he jumped in front of a crossbow bolt's line of fire to protect Princess Celesta. It turned out that the shot was loaded with a powerful drug called "Heart's Desire".
In The Cadanceverse, Nightmare Moon's final trap to stop anypony from reaching the Elements is one of these. It almost works, too, trapping five of the Musical 6 in their own personal paradises (Octavia gets a life of solitude to perfect her craft; Medley owns a prosperous business; Lyra marries Bonbon; Bluenote indulges her hedonistic desires and loafs about; Vinyl is the most famous DJ in Equestria and performs at all kinds of epic concerts). Only Fluttershy can resist, because she is too focused on caring for others to allow herself to rest in her own paradise.
Life In Manehattan: The first trial to reach the Soluna Stone is a room full of Heart's Desire plants, the pollen of which has this affect — Twilight becomes Princess Celestia's right-hoof mare, Trixie's act gains world renown, and Spike gets a whole cave of gems for himself. Honey Do, who managed to avoid the pollen and its affect, snaps them out of it by pointing out that those dreams, as presented in the illusions, would mean abandoning their friends. Since none of them are willing to do that, they're able to break free of the illusions.
In the Puella Magi Madoka Magica fanfic A History Of Magic, this is what happens when a girl attempts to wish away war or death or disease - they end up imagining a world like that, and transform from a lack of grief seeds.
The aptly-named Lemmy (or LEM) in the Pokémon fanfic Wings Have We, whose specialty is taking these blissful visions and mutating them into the victim's worst nightmares... of course, sometimes he skips the happy parts entirely and cuts directly to the torment.
In the Marvel/Yu-Gi-Oh! crossover Ultimate Re Imaginings, all of 'Real World' was created to be Joey's perfect little world in an attempt to keep him out of the actual real world. It backfired because he just couldn't let himself go.
The My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic fanfic Friendship Is Optimal presents an entire universe turning into this, as an AI thought experiment. Equestria Online is created to satisfy values through friendship and ponies, by an AI powerful enough to reverse-engineer the entire human mind. Even when it involves a video game console, specifically targeted NPCs and encounters make it so much more fulfilling than life that the game has to turn itself off so the players don't harm their own health. Once virtual reality and brain uploading are involved, players are placed in an environment where the local rules of the universe care about them, individually, having a good time. By the way, that "entire universe turned into" is literal. The AI turns several galaxies into computronium. Needless to say, this example has no escape clause.
In the A Certain Magical Index fic A Perfect World (here's the Nonlemon Version of the same fic), the heroes Touma Kamijou, Accelerator, and Shiage Hamazura wake up to find the world at peace and themselves living happily with their respectiveUnwanted Harems. Their memories have been altered so they believe it has always been this way, but they slowly begin to notice inconsistencies, like when Mugino cannot remember the date of her and Shiage's anniversary. The fic seems to be cancelled, but the author released an outline revealing that Aleister Crowley trapped the heroes and their girls in this illusion to get them out of his way, and that it was slowly killing them. Everybody manages to break free, but Touma is forced to let Maria Kumokawa go, as unlike the other girls, she had been an illusion created by Crowley all along. Before the fake world is destroyed and she disappears, she admits that she truly loved Touma.
(And they were lucky—others had been blissfully gaming the night away for forty or more years without so much as aging, let alone realizing how much time had passed.)
The Dust Factory: The main character nearly drowns and is transported to a comforting and dreamlike version of the real world where time stands still for all who end up there. They could easily stay, until the end of time if they so wished, lest they become unafraid to get dusted and return to their real lives.
Although it's not a super happy fantasy, in the Stephen King film Fourteen Oh Eight, Mike believes the hotel room was simply a nightmare he had after an injury. His ex-wife is there to comfort him, and things are looking up. Then he goes to the post office, and burly workers tear it down around him to show him the hotel room, which has been cruelly mocking him.
Though the theatrical ending, how do we know that his penultimate escape isn't yet another illusion? Whether he escaped or not, once he realizes this, he'll he paranoid for life. Actually the fact at the very end he heard his daughter's voice on his recorder, the voice which was one of the rooms illusions... may almost confirm it.
The ending of Brazil. It's not clear if the villains have put Lowry in that state and he won't return, or if he's just completely snapped.
In Labyrinth, this happens to Sarah twice over. The first time is the result of her eating a magic peach; her memory is erased and she is transported into a literal crystal ballroom where Jareth the Goblin King tries to woo her at a masked ball. The atmosphere becomes increasingly creepy; she realizes something's wrong (just as the clock strikes twelve — significant because her quest must be completed by the time it strikes thirteen) and manages to escape by smashing the crystal walls... but when she lands in a junkyard, she still hasn't regained her memory. A Junk Lady then lures her into a perfect replica of her bedroom at home (which initially makes Sarah believe her journey was All Just a Dream), albeit with all her favorite childhood toys and whatnot. The replica is a little too perfect though, because a copy of the play that inspired her adventure in the first place is there and jogs her memory; as Sarah realizes It's All Junk and that she has to rescue her baby brother, her friends arrive and the room's walls are literally torn down by tumbling rocks.
Agent Smith and the Architect claim that this was the original form of The Matrix, but almost all of the humans rejected it because it was too good to be true.
In Minority Report, the prisoners in containment are supposedly in virtual realities where all their wishes come true. Since the prisoners never actually managed to commit any crimes, having been prevented by Pre-Crime operatives, they're not being punished. They're being conditioned to never want to commit the crime.
Star Trek: Generations gives us the Nexus, where, in Guinan's words, it's as though joy were something tangible, that you can wrap around you like a blanket. "Once you're there, all you'll want is to stay in the Nexus." The villain decides it's worth the sacrifice of several solar systems to get back in. Picard nearly agrees until Guinan talks him out of it, and Kirk loves it until he finds out that nothing he does there matters.
The holodeck has served as one in a few instances. In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the crew was stunned to find that Starfleet had formed an alliance with the Dominion in exchange for technology and weapons. With the station now under occupation, Sisko gathers the others together for a coup — which turns out to be a VR simulation in a cave somewhere. The Dominion's agents were experimenting on Sisko to see how he might try to undermine them in the future.
Vanilla Sky, a remake of Abre Los Ojos, ends with the revelation that the protagonist actually committed suicide early on and was cryogenically frozen and put into a state of lucid dreaming where he lives out his fantasy life, gets the girl and gets an operation which fixes his disfigurement... however, the dream turns into a nightmare which culminates in him accidentally killing his girlfriend. At the end he jumps off a building in order to wake himself up despite being given the choice to have everything fixed so that the dream would be happy again.
In Solaris, the planet creates human-like beings on the space station based on the astronauts' memories of family members.
In X2: X-Men United, Jason Stryker is a mutant with this power, who uses it on Professor Xavier in an effort to break his will. At one point, he shows Xavier a vision where he is able to walk again.
Combined with Cruel Twist Ending in the early-'90s Fangoria Films release Mindwarp. In a post-apocalyptic Earth, the majority of the surface consists of large areas of radioactive wastelands, inhabited largely by violent mutant "Crawlers". The remaining humans, a.k.a. "Dreamers", live in a single biosphere known as Inworld, and spend their time plugged into a computer living out virtual-reality fantasies; while retaining barely enough volition to take care of their basic physical needs. One Dreamer rebels and is exiled from Inworld, fights Crawlers, and searches for her father who was similarly exiled for rebelling. In the end she encounters multiple layers of Dream Within a Dream, as she repeatedly "wakes up" from virtual-reality fantasies; and is ultimately revealed as just another apathetic Dreamer.
Happens in Inception, where one character even runs this kind of place for people. Cobb earlier had warned Ariadne of using real life memories in the dream world because you might think that reality itself is another dream. The ending leaves itself open to whether the whole thing was one for Cobb. The film stops before we see the spinning top fall.
Repo Men: Remy is stuck in one of these for the last third of the movie, due to suffering brain damage from a hard blow to the head.
Repo Chick: in the last scene of the film, we find out that everything in Pixxi's reality has been happening in the table-top train set in the military command bunker.
Used at least twice by Alfred Bester, usually not via virtual-reality machines (or the equivalent in sophistication) but with actors and (presumably) various more mundane aids:
In The Stars My Destination, the failure Gully Foyle is put in a fantasy where he's rich, famous, and loved, and all his remembered past is part of a psychosis he's struggling to overcome; the goal is not to imprison him but to wring valuable information out of him. Fortunately, he's too stubborn to accept it.
In the short story "5,217,009", Jeffrey Halsyon is dumped into successive science-fiction-themed juvenile fantasies: in the first, he's the last fertile man on Earth, with all that implies. This turns out to be an unorthodox method of psychiatric treatment.
The drug thionite is this in E. E. “Doc” Smith's Lensman universe - the user goes into a "thionite dream" and experiences the fulfillment of their every desire, noble and base. Unfortunately the psychostimulant effect creates tolerance rather quickly and requires increasing quantities for the same effect, while the physiological effects of said doses add up rather quickly - a second dose taken immediately after the first dream WILL kill you, and thionite sniffers make sure they lock their stash up before taking a hit (so that the effort will bring them to their senses). Eventually the dose you take in order to keep having the expected effect will do the same. Thionite sniffers do not have long lives. Kim Kinnison turns an enemy base into the embodiment of this trope by dumping a massive dose into the air purifiers.
Ray Bradbury's Mars is Heaven! starts out as a sort of Ontological Mystery in the beginning. A crew from Earth land on Mars, which looks like Ohio at the turn of the 20th century. However, when their long lost dead relatives start appearing, it becomes more of a Lotus Eater Machine story. It has a Downer Ending: the residents of the town are telepathic, shape-shifting Martians who put up the facade to throw the spacemen off guard. It works: that night, just as the Captain is beginning to realize this, his "brother" turns into an alien and stabs him to death. The same thing happens all over town. The next day, they have a funeral for the spacemen... and then take on their true forms and gleefully tear the ship apart.
In "Here There be Tygers", three space explorers lands on an uncharted planet which turns out to be a beautiful, idyllic paradise which seems to cater to there every need. Being Genre Savvy types, two of the crewmen realize that it must be a trap, and leave, but the third insists that it must be genuine and stays behind. As the two leave, they see natural disasters ravage the surface and the ecosystem tear itself apart... which is actually an illusion generated by the living planet, which is angry at them leaving; the third astronaut remains in a paradise.
In Arthur C. Clarke's novella The Lion Of Comarre, the protagonist discovers that "Comarre", a rumored place that is occasionally sought out by people who are never seen again, is a robotic Lotus Eater Machine facility. The government tries to keep the truth hidden, and to keep people away — but not very hard, as it's considered a good safety valve for those who would otherwise be disruptive.
Used more-or-less in William Gibson's Neuromancer. The hacker Case keeps getting pulled into hyper-realistic simulations by the AI he's supposed to free. The longest which was actually caused by the AI's rival/counterpart lasts several subjective days and reunites him with his murdered girlfriend; the Machine breaks down, though, since he's just as miserable and lonely with her as without.
In Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time, the test for becoming Accepted is to go through an artifact that does this three times. The dream world (Or Was It a Dream?) takes many forms, sometimes horrifying, sometimes perfect, sometimes prophetic. To pass each round of the test, they must pass through an exit door that appears only once, at the time when they are least able or willing to use it.
Possibly the entire universe. Multiple dimensions, and the time just keeps repeating in a cycle. Even people's lives keep renewing in a reincarnation, while trapped in the World Of Dreams in the mean time.
The Pendragon Adventure by DJ MacHale: the territory of Veelox has Lifelight, a sort of virtual reality where people can live perfect lives. The world outside decays into a ghost town because of this. The titular Reality Bug is created to make the illusions less idealistic, but it has the unintended and VERY unwanted effect of actually killing people. Unfortunately, Saint Dane's plan all along was to have the bug deactivated. Bad ending.
Accelerando by Charles Stross: Some Sufficiently Advanced Aliens discover an Islamic scholar, and become interested in his beliefs. So they decide to throw him into a virtual reality version of Paradise, complete with 72 virgins. He responds by locking himself in the highest tower he can find and praying, as he knows immediately this isn't Fluffy Cloud Heaven; he's a scholar, his idea of paradise is infinite knowledge straight from the most omniscient source around. Interesting in that this is the sort of Lotus Eater Machine that you can't break out of, even if you know it's not real. He has to be rescued by someone outside.
In the novel The Last Temptation of Christ, this was Satan's last attempt. Satan gives him a vision of a peaceful life with Mary Magdelene. Jesus rejects it to die on the cross and redeem humanity.
Part of a minor subplot in the novel House of Suns by Alastair Reynolds. One character plays in a virtual reality game which malfunctions and replaces his personality with that of his game character. Eventually he has to be wired permanently into the machine as he can't function properly outside it any more.
In John Aegard's short story Feng Burger, the main characters inhabit a shared lotus eater machine universe, while in the outside world their bodies slowly dehydrate. It is left unclear whether they go on living in the fantasy forever even after their bodies die
In Dan Abnett's Warhammer 40,000 novel Ghostmaker. The Tanith 1st, a regiment of light infantry are fighting a regular enemy when they are suddenly placed under a psychic illusion where they imagine they are on their homeworld. This is important, as said homeworld was destroyed when the Tanith were first formed into a unit and were forced to evacuate the planet against all their wishes. The illusion is intended to make them fight harder by touching on what was most dear to them. As a result, the illusion gave the Tanith the chance to defend their homeworld that was forever denied to them. It works spectacularly well, as they defeat a force that outnumbered them a 1000 to 1 with only one casualty.
Romance of the Three Kingdoms has a non-literal version of this be "Plan B" when Sun Quan and Zhou Yu's plot capture Liu Bei under the guise of an arranged marriage to Sun Quan's sister goes sour when the marriage, thanks to the intervention of their father-in-law and Sun Quan's mother, and as advisor Zhang Zhao put it, "Liu Bei began life in a humble position and for years has been a wanderer. He has never tasted the delights of wealth." Unfortunately for them, Zhuge Liang saw the whole thing coming a year away, and thus the second of his three "schemes in a bag" (literally) was to have Zhao Yun snap Liu Bei out of it. Oddly enough, it appears that a year away was as long as it took for Zhao Yun to actually remember that scheme # 2 existed... * facepalm*
There was this Captain Future villain named Ru Ghur who discovered a type of radiation capable of doing that. He denied it was anything bad, but people were apparently a bit too desperate to get another dose.
The Mirror of Erised in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone appears to have become an unintentional example of this. It only shows an image of someone's greatest desire, but "Men have wasted away in front of it, even gone mad" indulging in the fantasy. Dumbledore stops Harry from becoming one of them.
In the Animorphs side-story The Ellimist Chronicles, the main character finds himself in a dream world created by a semi-sentient sponge called "Father." It turns out that out of his entire race, he is now the only surviving member, and all the people he meets in the dream are the resurrected memories of the dead that Father had captured from his ship. When he has children in his Lotus Eater world, they only appear to him when he thinks of them. Unlike most Lotus Eater Machines, the Ellimist knows he's in a dream world, but he still has to figure a way out of it.
In The City of the Iron Fish by Simon Ings the protagonists discover they are in a virtual environment by trying to leave. There's no edge, but the world becomes less with each step they take. The horror is that they lessen too with each step: from seeming human to wooden doll with metal joints to a child's sketch of a man. The City becomes ghastly place: the controls have been lost, reduced to prayers. And this fishbowl world just doesn't have enough memes in the end to stave off madness...
In BIONICLE, Toa Lesovikk is mind-tricked by the evil Karzahni into thinking that he is thousands of years back in the past, and his old Toa Team is still alive. He only gets out because he realizes the illusion got one thing wrong; the way his friends all died in the first place.
The titular machine in Kurt Vonnegut's The Euphio Question gives such pleasure to listeners that they ignore everything else.
In the Back Story of John C. Wright's The Golden Age, Daphne Prime "dream-drowned" herself in such a world, such that she would, if woken up, regard the waking world as a dream and the dream as reality. At the end of The Golden Transcedence, she reveals that she had had "true dreams" so that she would, indeed, see how she affected her husband.
In The Unincorporated Man widespread addiction to virtual reality leads to the collapse of Western Civilization while Nuclear War ends Eastern civilization. Alaskans eventually rebuild but require all citizens of what eventually becomes the Terran Confederation to experience a VR sim exposing the horrors of the addiction. The actual methods sound similar to those in Inception.
In The History of the Galaxy series, the logrs are miniature alien computers/storage devices in crystal form. Each logr can hold a person's mind in active form and was originally intended by the Logrians as a way to live on after death, spending eternity in contemplation. When humans get a hold of these, they quickly realize that an eternity of thinking is not enough for a human. The environment inside a logr looks and feels real. It is formed from the person's memories. However, since the mind has no body at this point, there are no emotions either (they're caused by chemicals, after all), just raw memories all recalled with perfect clarity, which can turn each person's paradise into hell if he or she wasn't a nice person in life. While it is possible to copy a dead person's mind back into a cloned body, this is specifically forbidden by the Logrians who fear immortality (with good reason).
You have heard of the black lotus? In certain pits of the city it grows. Through the ages they have cultivated it, until, instead of death, its juice induces dreams, gorgeous and fantastic. In these dreams they spend most of their time. Their lives are vague, erratic, and without plan. They dream, they wake, drink, love, eat and dream again. They seldom finish anything they begin, but leave it half completed and sink back again into the slumber of the black lotus.
In the Shannara novel Antrax, Walker Boh is captured by the power-crazed supercomputer Antrax and forced into an artificial reality where he's forced to use his magic to defend himself. He's led to believe that he will escape eventually by the simulation, all the while having his use of magic feed Antrax more energy. He can't escape the simulation by his own power alone, either.
The Opal by Ivan Kireyevsky is built on an attempt to defeat an invincible king that way. In the end, the king loses his kingdom, all his treasures, and even access to the visions. He doesn't care about the two former, but the loss of the latter would have driven him into suicide if not for the fear of losing the memories of it.
Hologram Fun World, a vacation destination in Galaxy of Fear, has elements of this. The holograms span all human senses and can make it hard to tell what's real or simulated. When offered a chance at a holographic recreation of Alderaan, Tash and Zak don't want to take it. Later they're swept into more nightmarish scenarios.
In The Futurological Congress by Stanislaw Lem there are layers upon layer of this. Drug induced hallucination are used to give the population the illusion of living in a lush paradise world, while the over crowded cold world outside the, is dying rapidly. .
In Ruth Frances Long's The Treachery of Beautiful Things, the changelings are completely trapped in the delusion that they are living out Fairy Tales as the heroes and heroines. Tom is less deluded but still demands to know why Jenny thinks he would leave being the Queen's lover for a job in a second-rate orchestra eking out a living. Jack brings up the Human Sacrifice aspects.
In The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect, humanity has spent at least the last six hundred years in a simulated universe where they can not die, and can have anything they wish for. Prime Intellect won't necessarily make life as enjoyable as possible, but its response to every voiced desire gets pretty close. That includes a voiced desire to have the neurons responsible for pleasure directly stimulated. The main character spends quite some time trying to get free.
Raymond Z. Gallun made Lotus-Eater Machines central to one short story and one novel.
In "The Lotus-Engine" (1940) space explorers fall into the inadvertent trap of an alien machine which offers them an illusion of paradise. Since they receive neither food nor water while victims of the illusion, they must break its spell quickly if they hope to survive.
In The Eden Cycle (1974) alien transmissions teach 21st-century humanity to build a vast supercomputer virtual reality generator, complete with life support for the users, which enable its users to live immortal imaginary lives. Within a few centuries humanity disappears into its collective navel: many millennia later, the protagonists become bored with their virtual Eden and attempt to recolonize the now-fallow surface of the planet.
Live Action TV
On The 4400, Alana's Promicin ability is to create worlds inside hers and another person's head. The future people use this to romantically set up her and Tom Baldwin by creating a world for them where they've been married for a few years and nobody but them even remembers the 4400. Eventually Tom figures this out and he and Alana have to choose to leave the fantasy world after spending most of a decade together happily married.
The main character of Angel has a curse where if he's ever truly happy, he loses his soul and becomes a vampire serial killer. For plot reasons, the good guys needed this to happen, so they hire a somewhat nefarious looking shaman to cast the spell that would accomplish. The shaman, however, is revealed to be an assassin, and attempts to kill Angel, leaving the spell un-cast, though Angel and company decide they have to face the Big Bad regardless. Over the course of the episode, it plays out just like a normal episode, with gains and losses, things happening, until the Big Bad is actually defeated and everyone is happy. Then... everything starts getting freaky as too much happiness results, with far too many good things happening, culminating in a rewind back to the supposedly "failed" spell, which actually worked. The entire episode was a hallucination of Angel's, creating a day when everything fit together perfectly in such a way that it culminated in a moment of true happiness. His soul was taken from his body, and we come face to face with Angelus.
Smallville had an almost identical episode. And then the bad guy who made the fantasy world gets killed.
Inverted in another episode where Clark is trapped in a nightmare world instead - he finds himself in an asylum, and made to believe that everything he has been through, superpowers and all, was paranoid delusion. He is rescued by the Martian Manhunter.
In "The Family Of Blood", the Doctor has rewritten his personality to be that of an ordinary human named John Smith. When the titular Family comes after him, he finds the item that will allow him to restore the Doctor personality... but receives a glimpse of a full, happy life with his love interest, who he'll never truly be able to connect with as the Doctor.
"Forest Of The Dead": Donna ends up in one of these after a teleporter accident. She, like the thousands of others "saved" by the library, ends up in a recreation of 21st century Earth, and ends up marrying a man and having two children before she's rescued. However this does take place in the span of less than ten minutes.
"Asylum of the Daleks": Oswin Oswald is a human who lives in an asylum for insane Daleks, hiding from them and living on soufflés. Right? Wrong. She's been turned into a Dalek and set up that reality inside her head because she couldn't cope with her transformation.
"Amy's Choice": The Dream Lord traps the TARDIS crew between two scenarios and forces them to choose which one is the dream, and which the reality. One is Rory's fantasy (married to Amy, baby on the way, successful Doctor in Upper Leadworth); one is the Doctor's (on the TARDIS, facing mortal peril). To make it trickier, Upper Leadworth is being invaded by the alien-possessed elderly who can reduce people to ashes. It turns out neither is the true reality; as the Doctor ultimately points out, the Dream Lord only has power over dreams.
Given an interesting twist in an episode of Eureka: the entire populace of Eureka is slowly disappearing around Sheriff Carter, consumed by strange glowing portals, leaving him as the only one who even remembers them existing in the first place. Turns out he's hooked himself up to a prototype virtual reality psychoanalysis machine, which has trapped him in its illusion in a somewhat overzealous attempt to force him to come to terms with his fear of losing his daughter (at the time, the subject of a custody dispute between himself and his ex-wife). He breaks the spell by taking her to the edge of town and leading her into one of the portals, at which point the machine declares him cured and allows him to wake up.
This seems to be a blatant ripoff of an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where Dr. Crusher gets trapped in a pocket dimension shaped by her own thoughts, in which the crew members disappear one by one and are forgotten by the rest of the crew, while weird portals (leading back to the real world) open up everywhere- eventually she's the only one left and the universe starts collapsing.
In the first three episodes of season five Allison, Zehn, Fargo, and the rest of the Astraeus crew are trapped in a virtual reality where the ftl drive malfunctioned and sent them four years into the future. In the real world they're missing for a month and after Jack, Henry and Jo rescue them the corrupt senator responsible is imprisoned in a VR of Jack's office, all alone, with no way out.
Farscape: Crichton is twice made, by different factions, to hallucinate that he is back on Earth. The second time, he quickly realizes it's not real, but can't figure out how to wake up, and the dream steadily becomes more and more surreal. When he finally makes it back to Earth by sheer luck, he initially assumes it's another mind trick. Oddly, the question he asks as a test when he makes it back to his own world and time is one that could have been answered by either of the previous two.
The first one involved him realizing something was wrong when everything was /exactly/ like when he left as if he had gone back in time. He becomes increasingly aggravated at how everything is the same once he realizes this and manages to break out once he enters somewhere he has never been (ladies room) and finds a glowing wall, he is then spoken to by the creators of the hallucination.
In the episode "John Quixote", Crichton and Chiana are trapped in a virtual reality game. Something that blurs the line between this trope and Cuckoo Nest a bit is that, initially, they're quite aware of the nature of the world, however as Near the end of the episode, Crichton apparently escapes and returns to Moya. He finds that, as he as feared since Scorpius came aboard Moya, Scorpius has gone crazy and betrayed them. Except, no, it was the game still, preying on Crichton's long-standing fears. Then, it turns out the game was designed by Stark, who was blaming John for Zaahn's death earlier in the series. The game was specifically designed to do this to Crichton, and only him. One interesting difference in this case is that, at the start of the next episode, Crichton actually mentions this and wonders if he really did escape at all. Typically, this possibility is almost entirely ignored outside of the episode it takes place in.
"Tempests", an episode of the 1990s Outer Limits. The protagonist's spaceship, carrying a vaccine for his dying colony, crashes into the heart of an Air Whale in a gas giant's atmosphere. When he goes outside to check the damage, he's bitten by a nasty, basketball-sized spider and passes out just as he returns to the airlock. When he wakes up, he keeps passing out and reawakening between a reality in which he's lying on a hospital bed with his family at his bedside, having already been rescued and now hallucinating from his colony's plague, and a reality in which he and the remaining crewmen are struggling to fix their ship, in which he's hallucinating from the spider venom, while another crewmember is being webbed up and parasitized by the spiders while babbling happily to herself. He eventually rejects the hospital reality as a Lotus Eater Machine (and reasons that if there's any chance the colony still needs to be saved, he has to take it), finds a way to escape from the wrecked ship and delivers the vaccine. At his moment of success, however, the view changes to reveal that the spiders actually overwhelmed the ship near the beginning of the episode, and now he and the entire crew are lost in their dream worlds while they're being webbed up and sucked dry. Both the good and bad realities were illusions.
Power Rangers Operation Overdrive has an episode where the Mercury Ranger is made to believe that his fiancée is still alive, he was never mutated into a Lava Lizard, and the entire season never took place.
Sh15uya takes place entirely within a Lotus Eater Machine, and although the viewers know this from the very start, the story revolves around the main characters figuring this out. It might not seem perfect at first (there's a three-way gang war going on, and violence is common) but as one character puts it, "Shibuya has everything that you young people want: the latest styles, fashions, entertainment, you name it." It turns out that the Lotus Eater Machine is being used to rehabilitate the cast from teenage thugs to model citizens.
At one point in Stargate SG-1, Teal'c finds himself bouncing back and fourth between three realities: one where he's human, and he and the rest of the team are firemen; another where he's back on the base living fairly "typically"; and a third reality where he's lying, injured, in the middle of a field, surrounded by dead soldiers, and sharing his symbiote with his equally injured Old Master friend Bra'tac in a desperate effort to stay alive. However, he doesn't seem to remember the third one when he's in the other two realities, and when he's in those realities, he thinks the other one is a dream. The third reality is the real one, and his delirious mind is creating the two fake realities.
At a later instance, the Human-form Replicator Fifth, who has an obsession with Sam, kidnaps her and sets up an idyllic fantasy existence for Carter, where she's happily married to (her boyfriend) Pete. Pete is actually Fifth, using his power over Sam's mind to disguise himself as Pete.
Inverted in "The Gamekeeper", where instead of being an idyllic paradise, the machine-created realm forces Jack and Daniel to repeatedly relive the worst moments of their past.
Stargate Atlantis used this in the episode "Home". The characters think they've found a way to return to Earth, though it doesn't become apparent until about midway through the episode that their Lotus Eater Machine is individual and doesn't include the others. Each of their worlds was designed with everything they wanted, to keep them from fighting back, but starts defying logic in ways that provoke their suspicion. Though, in Major Sheppard's case, he somehow figured this out early and, and to test it, included in his mental fantasy a sweet apartment he had never seen and two friends who were both dead in the real world.
The idea was that he "wished they could be there", as one misses lost loved ones and such. The fact that they appeared was what tipped him off.
Not, not so. It is made clear that his spoken aloud wish that his friends were there was a deliberate test to see if they would turn up. He clearly knows the world is fake long before that because he and Teyla have been in his dream apartment for some time - an apartment that never existed in the real world and that he made up on the spot. Furthermore, in the scene just before he and Teyla arrive at said apartment, he has a brief conversation with Teyla in their car in which he expresses his suspicion that things are just a little too perfect in this world and that things aren't as they appear. All of this happens long before his wish for the company of his dead buddies. Hell, he starts to become visibly uncomfortable before he even leaves the base, after the obvious lack of a thorough debriefing and General Hammond's eagerness to praise him and get him back out "enjoying some well-deserved R&R."
Star Trek: The Original Series This was the plot of the original pilot, "The Cage," though Pike sees through the ruse easily. However, another character trapped there doesn't want to leave the machine — and knows that it's all an illusion - as after having been horrifically mangled in a crash the aliens were able to restore the illusion of her original beautiful appearance. They give her a illusory Captain Pike to live with until the real Pike returns to the planet in a later episode made up of the original pilot.
"Future Imperfect": Riker is trapped in a Lotus Eater Machine by a benevolent captor who just wants to be friends with him.
Poor old Riker is also trapped in one in "Frame of Mind".
"Ship In A Bottle". During one of Data's Sherlock Holmes holodeck adventures, Moriarty gains actual sentience. He then theorizes that he must have come to life, and he should be able to leave the holodeck, which he does. The rest of the episode is Data and Picard trying to figure out what's going on until they realize everybody on the Enterprise suddenly is left handed, like Moriarty. They manage to escape the program, and create a small subroutine so that Moriarty, still living in his dream, can dream it for as long as he wants with the love he found in his Lotus Eater Machine.
The Inner Light is the rare positive example of the Trope and is considered by some to be the best episode of the entire series. After encountering an ancient alien probe, Picard wakes up in another man's life on an unknown pre-space-flight planet. Even after several years there, he never really stops believing that he used to be Picard on the Enterprise, but he accepts that he can't go back and focuses instead on the life he has in front of him, with a loving wife in a small drought afflicted community. He teaches himself to play the flute, raises a daughter who takes after him as a serious minded scientist and a son who can't seem to find his calling until he settles on musician (playing his father's flute), helps the community survive the ongoing drought, and eventually discovers that his new home's sun is about to go nova and wipe them all out. One day, as an old widower, he accompanies his grandson and the rest of the family to some important "Launching" that he hadn't heard about. Suddenly, there in the crowd is his old friend who died decades ago and then his beloved dead wife steps forward too explaining that the Launching was the probe he saw on the Enterprise, an attempt to Fling a Light into the Future by the doomed civilization in the hope that it might find someone out there to carry on the memory of their society and the people who lived there. The "dream" ends and Picard wakes to find only a few minutes have passed on the Enterprise. When they bring the now inactive probe aboard, they find a small box inside which contains the flute Picard had learned to play. The episode ends with Picard, alone in his quarters, playing the song he taught his son.
In one episode of Star Trek: Voyager, a Negative Space Wedgie in the form of a gigantic psychic creature (referred to as a "telepathic pitcher plant") tricks the entire crew into believing that it is a wormhole that leads to Earth, then making them pass out and experience a supremely pleasant false reality in order to feast on them. Specifically inverted for the characters Seven of Nine and Naomi Wildman, who are able to resist its effects because they have no particular desire to go to Earth.
And then double-subverted because while they had no real motivating desires besides remaining on Voyager, once the rest of the crew was unconscious, the creature was able to then exploit their desire to escape instead.
Another episode has telepathic aliens who exist primarily in a dreaming state invading the crew's dreams, forcing them to all join into a single group dream that seems totally real in order to attack them. Only Chakotay, the Magical Native American, knows it is a dream at first, and uses his lucid dreaming / vision quest Applied Phlebotinum machine to control the dream world. Eventually, the whole crew learns this skill to turn the tables on their captors and exit the dream state.
Can't remember specifics, but several Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episodes hinge on this. In one, O'Brian is caught for espionage (he just browsed some files on some planet's "internet" where apparently it's hacking and illegal) and is instantly sentenced and given memories of years spent in prison, without actually serving the time.
A part of the episode involves him angsting about what he supposedly did in "prison". While he understands that it was all fake, he still believes that his actions in the illusion were his own. In fact, they were, Bashir explains that the reason he can't just erase the programmed memories from his brain is that it wasn't just an implant, it was an interactive (and incredibly accelerated) experience of spending decades in confinement. The place and people weren't real, but O'Brian's choices and actions within it were, including killing his friend/bunkmate of 20 years in a fight over a scrap of food after they had been starved for weeks on end.
Another Voyager episode has Harry Kim end up on an alternate timeline due to a Negative Space Wedgie. In this timeline, he stays on Earth with his girlfriend and is a well-known ship designer, while a friend of his took his spot on the Voyager for its ill-fated mission. Tom Paris also didn't go on the ship after starting a fight with Quark on DS9 and getting thrown in the brig by Odo. While this is not a typical example of the trope because no one is keeping Harry there, there is an alien pretending to be a friend of Harry's in order to make sure Harry adjusts to his new life. The alien is friendly and even explains to him how to get back to his own reality.
Supernatural, "What Is And What Should Never Be": After fighting a Djinn, Dean wakes up in a world where his mother is still alive and he and Sam are living normal lives. This included a slight inversion; rather than creating a perfect world for Dean, it granted him a specific wish, that being that the demon had never killed his mother. As a result, their father never became a monster hunter, all the people the Winchesters saved are dead and Sam and Dean have absolutely nothing in common. Eventually Dean realizes that, rather than changing the past, the Djinn just messed with his head to make him think he was in an alternate reality. Unusual in that Dean chooses to try and leave before he realizes that it's an illusion. Just believing that all of the people he and Sam saved are 'actually' dead now is enough to make him go for the Heroic Sacrifice.
The Twilight Zone episode "A Nice Place To Visit," in which Rocky, the unsavory protagonist is trapped permanently in a Lotus Eater Machine where he has easy access to money, women, and everything else that he wants, that turns out to be Hell itself.
The X-Files episode "Field Trip": Mulder and Scully are caught in a... (wait for it)... Giant Underground Fungal Organism which uses hallucinogens to keep them trapped while it tries to digest them.
"Amor Fati" also touched on this, where Mulder was offered a world where he had everything he'd desired, including his sister back, but the cost was the rest of the world going to hell. Ultimately, he got pulled out of the trance by Scully.
"Kill Switch" also incorporated this, though it was less of a utopia, and more like the Castle Anthrax scene of "Monty Python and the Holy Grail".
Charmed featured a magical version, with the Source using it on Piper to retrieve a spell to remove the sister's powers, which had been removed from the Book of Shadows, and existed only in her head.
In Dollhouse, when Echo, Victor, and Sierra are in the Attic
The Red Dwarf episode "Better Than Life" features a Virtual Reality Game that can make all your deepest fantasies come true. In the end, though, Rimmer's deep self-loathing results in the destruction of everybody's perfect worlds. In the books, the game is almost impossible to leave, because in order to leave, somebody has to want to leave, and nobody ever does (also, it's hard for people to realize that they're in the game in the first place, as the game sets itself up in such a way as to prevent people from realizing they're in the game). As a result, the person's real-life body will eventually waste away and die. Somewhat of a spoof in the novel, as the Cat is so self-absorbed that nothing will fulfill his desires short of living in a mountain kingdom and being waited on by giant, topless, singing, dancing Valkyries, putting even Rimmer's incredibly indulgent fantasy to shame, while the android can come and go freely as they have no hopes, dreams, or desires besides getting new squeezy-mops.
It is later reversed in the same series by a hallucinogenic venom from a Despair Squid that causes the group to, together, hallucinate a reality that drives them to the brink of suicide. They are only stopped by the ship's computer forcing the android to release a mood stabilizer.
The novel version of Red Dwarf ends in the "Better Than Life" simulation where Lister must make the decision whether to stay in the simulation or return to the hardships of traveling back to an Earth six million years in the future where he may well be the last human as he understands it. Talk about a Downer Ending. The second novel reveals that the Lotus Eater Machine digs deep into their psyche, bringing to light their deepest desires. Which, unfortunately for Rimmer (or fortunately, since it is what breaks them out of the fake paradise), revolves around his self-loathing. Rimmer's self-hatred ends up destroying the dream world. When they finally leave, they find that reality is suspiciously better than it should be (Lister's 2nd cup of coffee tastes better than the first, he drops a slice of buttered toast 20 times and it always lands butter side up, a TV dinner tastes better than its cardboard box, etc.) and discover that they're still in the game, at which point the game designer appears and congratulates them for figuring it out, then lets them leave.
It's also used in a form in "Legion". The crew are dragged into a space station by a tractor beam, but find the only occupant - the eponymous Legion - simply wants to accommodate their every need. This is because he's a gestalt entity and can only exist when there are other life-forms on the station. All the residents died millennia ago.
More Red Dwarf: The three-part miniseries Back to Earth that aired in 2009. Act II and Act III get increasingly bizarre until they are revealed as a Lotus Eater Machine hallucination brought on by a hallucinogen that links all the affected characters in a pleasant dreamworld. After finding out, Lister is tempted to stay but ultimately he opts for the real thing.
The flash-sideways timeline in LOST is an interesting example because the inhabitants of the timeline created it themselves.
In one episode of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Hercules goes to The Underworld on a mission. He decides to take a detour to the Elysian Fields to visit his dead wife and children. He's heartbroken to find that they weren't even aware that they were dead, an illusionary Hercules was with them the whole time, and they were living out their "lives" as a happy family.
In an episode of Xena: Warrior Princess, Xena goes to The Underworld and is shocked to find her son, Solan, in Tartarus. Solan explains that he figured out the Elysian Fields' illusion, and begged to go to Tartarus because he was about to Go Mad from the Revelation.
On Lexx, Lyekka, who is actually a carnivorous plant monster, causes her prey to hallucinate achieving their deepest fantasy so they don't notice that she's consuming them.
Warehouse13 A trap freezes our heroes into a trance where they experience their happiest place while the floor under they starts to crumble. Pete gets to make out with his girlfriend, making him realize that he truly loves her; Helena gets to play with her dead daughter, making her seriously freak out when she is forcibly thrown out of the dream; and Myka... gets to work on a hard problem at the Warehouse while her boss gives her praise and coffee. Well, that is just sad.
In an episode of the TV series of V, Donovan is captured by the Visitors and wakes to find himself in the bedroom of an apartment where it is ten years in the future, the war has been won and the Visitors vanquished and he is living happily with his son and his wife, Julie. In reality, of course, Julie and his son are Visitors wearing shapeshifting devices to alter their appearance and the aim is to trick him into revealing the time and location of a resistance meeting - information that he would believe was no longer relevant ten years later. Donovan finally realises it's all a trick when the Visitors overplay their hand, leaving a future edition of a newspaper in his room which includes a picture of the Star Child still as a little girl. Donovan knows, but the Visitor's don't, that the Star Child evolved into a young woman at the start of the series. Although...you'd think that they'd have figured she might have grown up anyway ten years later, so why they still had her a child...!
On Heroes, Matt Parkman's father Maury is a living lotus-eater machine. Unfortunately for his victims, he doesn't trap them in pleasant scenarios, giving rise to his In-Series Nickname: "the Nightmare Man."
Sally from the Being Human (Remake) gets trapped in a fantasy world within her mind by her alter-ego, Scott. In the dream, Sally and Scott are engaged and living together in a refurbished and decidedly more pleasant version of Sally's house. Zoe the medium must enter the dream to fish Sally out of it before "Scott" kills her, Aidan and Josh.
In an episode of Legend of the Seeker, Richard gets put under a spell by Darken Rahl's wizard, in which Richard wakes up back in his village with his father still alive and nothing amiss. He's with his girlfriend, who is actually Rahl himself in disguise. Rahl's goal is for Richard to tell "her" his "dreams" of being a Seeker, including where he hid the MacGuffin. Thanks to Zedd and Kahlan, Richard manages to see through Rahl's disguise and snap out of the spell just before being lost to it for good.
There is also an inverse example in the second season, where Richard wanders into the Valley of Perdition, which traps him in a nightmare of banelings overrunning the entire world and killing all his friends... except Richard, leaving him the last person in the world. Somehow, he manages to snap out of this dream world as well, just in time to defeat Nicci.
The warlocks of Qarth attempt to lure Daenerys with a vision of her dead husband and stillborn son in the House of the Undying in the second season finale of Game of Thrones.
Used in the episode "Out of the Blue" of Sanctuary. Will and Magnus find themselves in simulation of a different life, but periodically wake up from the hallucination, only to be put back to sleep by a group of scientists. At the end of the episode it's revealed that it was a benevolent treatment to help them recover from the poison of a psychworm. This newly-discovered abnormal is a giant worm creature that normally puts its victims in these sorts of hallucinations so it can devour them quietly.
Done slightly differently in The Legend Of William Tell when there is no actual machine. Instead a whole valley uses this. The heroes get everything they ever wanted, but the illusions all turn nasty and try to kill them, sometimes overlapping with one person's illusion going after another person.
The circus in Maddigan's Quest visited a community that tricked them into drinking "mindweed", a substance that made them believe that the worms they're eating is actually a banquet and the rough sacks on the floor are feather beds.
Opeth, what with being lead by a savvy fellow, have "The Lotus Eater"
Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds have a song called 'Night of the Lotus Eaters' on Dig Lazarus Dig!!! which seems to entirely be following this trope, a character sleeping through some kind of apocalypse. Of course being by Nick Cave, that might totally not be the case.
The Eagles' "Hotel California" is about a hotel that turns out to be one.
"We're all just prisoners here Of our own device"
Mythology And Religion
The Trope Namer is the Lotus Eaters in Homer's The Odyssey (chapter IX, 90-104), who use a magic lotus to enslave people into spending their lives lounging around in an apathetic stupor.
The concept of Solipsism is that the only thing that is real is "the mind" (which is to say, the person reading this) and that "the mind" created the universe as an illusion to protect itself from the horror of the void. A self imposed LEM if you think of it that way.
Buddhism essentially purports that the universe we inhabit is this.
Same with Gnosticism, except that the LEM is imposed by Yaldabaoth and his archons.
BIONICLE: Kharzani puts Lesovikk into an illusory alternate reality in which his teammates were still alive. He wakes up after remembering what really happened to them.
There's The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening. The entire game takes place in Link's/the Windfish's dreamworld. Link is sent to a perfect island paradise with plenty of adventure, friends, and fun, and he'll never have to work for anything again. Instead of staying, though, he's forced to fight the game's enemies, the Nightmares, to wake up the Windfish and return to reality. In doing that he essentially destroys the entire island and all of its inhabitants he's grown so fond of. Even though most people know it's coming, it's still a pretty powerful ending. The manga is even worse.
In the unfinished 80's video game series Alternate Reality, the character was abducted by aliens and placed into one of these for the entertainment of the aliens.
In Fable II, this happens to your hero after Lucien's attempt to kill him or her. Apparently on the brink of death, you awaken in "The Perfect World", a bucolic farm where your sister is alive, you have parents (who are conveniently offscreen on a trip, though), and everything is peaceful and beautiful. After a day of innocent fun, however, you awaken in the night to hear a music box playing, and if you follow the tune down a path away from the farm, your sister begs you not to leave, her pleas becoming more desperate before she eventually lets out an agonized "NOOO!" and vanishes, the trail becoming a war-torn battlefield full of fire, ruin, and dead bodies. Even more heart-wrenching is that you have to leave all this behind so you can confront the villain and save the world.
Fallout 3's main quest brings the player character to Vault 112, where the residents inhabit a virtual reality simulation orchestrated by Dr. Stanislaus Braun, the vault's Overseer. The current simulation is for "Tranquility Lane" a 1950s-esque suburban cul-de-sac with the other residents of Vault 112 playing as the people of Tranquility Lane. However, the psychopath Braun merely torments them for his personal amusement, devising methods to traumatize and temporarily kill his vault charges. The player, stuck in the virtual body of a 10-year old child, can tell the residents that this is just a computer simulation, but they will respond in character thinking that it really is the 1950s (or more likely pre-war 2077, which was heavily influenced by the 1950s). The only way to escape is either play along with Braun's sadistic games (which causes major Karma loss) or activate the hidden "Failsafe" which kills all of the Vault's inhabitants (a preferable alternative to being eternally tormented by Braun) leaving Braun trapped alone in the simulation presumably for eternity.
In EarthBound, Ness is knocked unconscious after visiting the last Your Sanctuary, leading the player to explore Magicant, a surreal, idealized version of the game's world, populated with figures from Ness' life.
The simulation of a pleasant brightly-coloured playground Raimi gets plugged into after becoming a ghost in Geist. At least, until the glitches start up and another ghost pulls you out.
In Grandia II, one of the towns being terrorized by demons (think Supernatural, but with swords) has a sleep curse placed on everyone. When they go to sleep, they dream of a beautiful meadow, but they can't reawaken. The party actually stumbles on the "garden" on their way to the village, which is surrounded by otherwise-inhospitable snow and rocks. The garden is definitely not supposed to be there. This dream world was constructed by the demon's host, a small girl from the village who wanted to make friends.
The adventure game Gateway featured a rare TRIPLE Lotus Eater Machine. First the protagonist is placed in a VR paradise and must escape. Next comes a VR Hell, which is also escapable. (Given the lack of real torments and the presence of challenges, this is really a puzzle-solving adventurer's Lotus Eater Machine in disguise.) Finally, after the villain's apparent defeat, it is revealed that no escape has been made, and the player must act within the illusion to defeat the villain.
Kingdom Hearts II has new character Roxas discovering he is in one of these towards the end of the prologue, though a portion of it, "The Seven Mysteries of Twilight Town", gave away hints that the town and its people weren't what they seemed. Roxas, a Nobody that theoretically couldn't feel emotions was generally happy when hanging out with his friends (though he was going through a literal identity crisis with Sora). When he learns that his "home" is a computer simulation he's been dumped in to keep him safe until Sora is ready to reabsorb him, he goes into a mini-Unstoppable Rage against a computer monitor and a holographic DiZ. When he finally sees Sora in his memory pod, he resigns to his fate and when Sora meets the real versions of Roxas' friends, Roxas cries through Sora for the friends that he never really had.
A non-happy example of this is Metal Gear Solid Mobile. It starts off looking like a typical infiltration, with Snake being guided by Otacon and eventually talking to a scientist over the Codec. Then you discover that the scientist is a computer program designed to lure you into disabling the security for the building so that terrorists can take over Metal Gear.Then you discover that the entire mission is a computer program, and the mysterious person who calls you multiple times throughout the game without Otacon noticing is in fact the real Otacon hacking into the simulation. Of course, the only way to get out is to finish the mission. It turns out that the program was made by the Patriots, who kidnapped and drugged Snake before putting him into it. They decide he didn't give them enough information so they wipe his memory, cleverly obscuring the game's canonicity in the overall series.
Neverwinter Nights: Hordes of the Underdark had a scene where an Elder Brain, in a last ditch effort to keep you from killing it, used its powers to make you think you actually live a peaceful life with your significant other in a cabin in the woods. It's easy to break out of the illusion, but if you want...
Planescape: Torment has two instances of this. The faction of the Sensates collect magical stones that contain memories and experiences. One of these is a trap that one of your previous incarnations set for his later self, i.e. you, but isn't too hard to break out of. The other is created by the main antagonist and found in the penultimate room, and even holds your brilliant Chess Master previous incarnation captive.
In Shin Megami Tensei II, the workers in the Factory district are brainwashed by siren's song to make them happy, productive workers content to literally work themselves to death with endless shifts. Additionally... The entire Arcadia district is one big Lotus Eater Machine; everyone is really strapped into chairs and hooked up to computers while living in a virtual paradise.
Actually Arcadia was a prototype, everyone would be hooked up to the machine once the plan was enacted.
Persona plays with this concept; the other world is in Maki's imagination, but it's real at the same time. Confused? The (first) Big Bad used his Reality Warper machine to make her dreams come true.
In Final Fantasy VIII One of Selphie's Hidden Limit Breaks is "The End", which sends the enemy to a serene field of flowers where they are put to rest.
BioShock 2 also featured this for the Little Sisters. The broken dystopia the Player Characters see around them is seen by the Little Sisters as a beautiful art gallery draped in white cloth and cluttered with roses. And the corpses they drain ADAM out of is seen by them as literal angels. As an apparent fail-save, the little sisters seems to snap back to reality when surprised or in danger, such as being grabbed at by a splicer.
In Dragon Age: Origins, the Circle of Magi has been taken over by demons, where you encounter a Sloth demon. Fitting his namesake, he sends all his victims (which eventually include the party) to sleep, their consciousnesses to the Fade, a dream world. Everyone is sent to a living nightmare, except your party, whom Sloth deems a big enough threat that he splits you up and gives each of you a perfect "life", where dead/lost loved ones have returned and no one has to fight anymore. Breaking these dreams means killing said loved ones (in the dream, of course), though luckily some are not easily tricked (Morrigan is unconvinced by the Flemeth she sees since it's not the monster she remembers and Sten can be brought back to your side by reminding him that he's honor-bound to follow you). Shale, the DLC Golem party member, "dreams" that it has been paralyzed again, and you just have to remind it that its been freed. Hilariously, Dog doesn't have a dream and takes no effort to free at all.
Desire demons also have this power, though it isn't quite the same. The victim is technically conscious, but mentally checked out into their happy place. One guy attacks your party when the desire demon convinces him that you're there to kill his nonexistent wife and kids.
The same thing happens in the prequel novel Dragon Age: The Calling with the Grey Wardens (including young Duncan) and King Maric. A demon enters the body of the elven mage Fiona and puts everyone to sleep. Maric wakes up in his palace near his first love Katriel (whom he killed in the previous novel). He also finds out that Rowan (his queen) is still alive but married to Loghain. He quickly realizes it's not real, but Katriel still begs him to stay in the illusion. He ends up getting out and visiting the others' happy illusions. One Grey Warden also realizes it's an illusion but chooses to stay, even though it means death.
In Dragon Age II, Feynriel is trapped in his nightmares by a Desire Demon posing as his father and a Pride Demon posing as Keeper Marethari, and Hawke must enter into the Fade to rescue Feynriel from the demons.
Suikoden Tierkreis shows one of these first from the inside, then the outside. Inside, the protagonist relives the happiest day of his life, over and over and over, until the player figures out exactly which sequence of dialogue breaks him out of it. Dead characters are restored to life, and his friends are as cheerful as ever, but he still can't help but feel lost and confused even before he fully remembers things. Outside the illusion, lonely figures wander the ruins of a city, blissfully unaware that the friends and family they imagine are either dead or lost in dreams of their own. Of note is that in-universe, this doesn't work very well—most of the cast has some long-term goal that can't be accomplished over the course of a day, and they grow sick of eternally seeing their progress undone.
The title location of Secret of Evermore. It's all an alternate reality invented by a professor who then got sucked inside, along with his friends, granddaughter, and robotic butler. It's implied that they could have left at any time, they merely chose not to. What's odd is that time seems to stand still while inside Evermore; all the important NPCs have spent thirty real-world years and don't look any older.
In StarFight VI: Gatekeepers, the Player Character ends up being Mind Raped by an alien creature. However, what it looks like is the player waking up and doing the same thing as at the beginning of the game. If the player ends up doing the exact same thing (i.e. follow the memory), then the crew is revealed to be just projections of the creature who then consumes the player's mind. The only way to get out is to do the one thing you can't do at the beginning, enter Engineering. Since there is no memory of entering it, the illusion is broken.
There's an interesting subversion in Kagetsu Tohya. The first part is that it's a dream world and that unexpected things break in and ruin it such as Shiki's nightmare of himself as a murderer. The second part is that Len thinks she's doing it for him, but Shiki figures out that deep down she's doing it for herself. The thing is that it's actually something more like her idea of a perfect life: To Shiki it's nice, but nothing special. For Len it's something she's never had before, and she's dying. The dream does not end (though it could have if he wanted to and would have done so eventually anyway) until Shiki saves her through making a master/familiar contract.
Final Fantasy XIII-2 has this happen to the two main characters; after being defeated in battle by the game's Big Bad, they are transported to a world where their fondest wishes have come true. For example, in Serah's world, if she accepts Lightning's request to stay with her, she gets to see all of her friends again - Snow, Lightning, Sazh, Dajh, Hope and the other members of NORA. Catch? Caius succeeded in his plans to destroy spacetime itself, and Serah will forever live in a state of denial, just not quite remembering Noel.
The main setting of Saints Row IV has you trapped in a virtual-reality version of Steelport by the invading aliens. With superpowers available in the simulation, it's a pretty wild place.
It's later revealed that everyone is kept inside simulations of their own personal hell in an effort to break their spirit. It just happens that The Boss could only be broken by this trope. And even then, it didn't work.
Occurs in Shikkoku No Sharnoth when M tries to reward Mary for not giving up, but in the end it appears he understood her no better than she did him. She rejects it.
In Little BustersRiki and Rin are trapped in one in all the routes up until they reach the end of Refrain. Unlike most examples, this is a more benevolent example designed to help them grow stronger.
In Starslip, the captain of the 'Paradigm' is taken hostage by a bacterial colony that invades the brains of people and gives them visions of their heart's desires until they die. He's given visions of the woman he loved (who ceased to exist during a previous plotline) and retreats into a bizarre mind-space made of giant cups of tea and galleries full of portraits of the aforesaid woman. His crew dive in and get him out, but not before they learn of his fanatical obsession with bringing back his lost love.
In the first storyline of Fans!, Thackerabilitus Sieughiewiecz hooks the whole Billberg Sci Fi Club (less Rikk, who's been shot- pity, it would have been interesting to see his) up to one of these. Rumy is an award-winning graphic artist and writer, Katherine is a female Knight of the Round Table, Tim is surrounded by a harem of his female friends and sexual fantasies, and Will is a crewman on the Enterprise-D getting counseling from a Captain Ersatz of Counselor Troi. Three of them break out because they've changed since Thack psychoanalyzed them (Rumy values companionship more since she heard how devoting himself to his career ruined her idol's family life, Katherine doesn't feel worthy of her knighthood since she noticed her Napoleon complex, and Will uses Troi's psychoanalysis to figure out that it's All Just a Dream), but the author has acknowledged that Tim wouldn't have escaped on his own, and he has to be awakened by the others.
Thack also plays around with this with Shanna, who he doesn't put into a simulation but instead tries to convince that she's been in one all along, trying to get her to "symbolically" put on his Mind Control glasses.
Shanna would later be Mind Screwed again by the FIB into thinking that all of her adventures with the Fans have been All Just a Dream, but she got out by noticing the stress marks on her hands from squeezing the 23-Sider of Power when the alternate past says she was straight jacketed.
In The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, during the "Spooky Stuff" storyline, Mitzi specifically warns Dark Smoke Puncher and Gordito (her youngest son and her oldest son's sidekick, respectively) that the opponent they have been tasked with taking down will try this on them. Gordito sees through Mitzi's trick right away; Dark Smoke Puncher...not so much.
When it actually happens to Dark Smoke Puncher, all we see is a page of his father hugging him and saying that "computers are pretty cool".
Bob and George. George undergoes this when X tries to create a hive mind out of every living being on Earth. When he uses his electrical powers to defend himself he gets thrown back in time back to Mega Man 6. Which is more of a nightmare than an idealistic dream seeing as the last game he had to live trough he hung from a ceiling for nearly all of it. As soon as he recovers his electrical powers he rips a hole trough the illusion and ends up in a representation of X's mind.
Dream bubbles in Homestuck are a more benevolent version of these, even though they're the products of Eldritch Abomination. Feferi convinces said abominations to create a bunch of them for her and Jade to use since Jade's dream-self was dead and Feferi let hers die to prove a point about the furthest ring as well as be able to access the dream bubbles herself. It doesn't stop them from ending the typical way for the trope.
Rumors of War, being based on Greek Mythology, has a plot that revolves around the use of the actual lotus. Or more specifically, festival food that has been tainted by the lotus. Illyra, trapped at the festival, must fight off the effects of the lotus and face a deadly enemy from her past. We don't see the dreams of any particular character, but the characters' behavior is marked by giggle fits, scattered conversation, and increased appetite.
The Such Stuff Arc... of Roommates involved Jareth (and his friends) getting locked in such a dreamworld by his father as a gift, which he only intended it to last for a day, but then his ex intervened and all went south from there. Getting out involved the Token Good Teammate's Heroic Sacrifice and almost losing his soul.
Daydream dragons from the adoptable dragon site Dragon Cave weave beautiful fantasies and daydreams, which they drop from their magical clouds to humans down below. People who live nearby are stated to have to be careful not to let their mind wander because they could end up spending days in a dreamstate, and it's implied that the dragons' powers can have these type of effects.
It has been reported that some victims of violence, during the act, would retreat into a fantasy world from which they could not WAKE UP. In this catatonic state, the victim lived in a world just like their normal one, except they weren't being raped. The only way that they realized they needed to WAKE UP was a note they found in their fantasy world. It would tell them about their condition, and tell them to WAKE UP. Even then, it would often take months until they were ready to discard their fantasy world and PLEASE WAKE UP.
In We Are Our Avatars, during the Incarnates Arc, the "Ultimate Mercy" that Incarnate!Mega Man uses, it has the strange side effect of keeping people from aging, though.
In Lucky Day Forever, this trope is used to keep the Lottery Winners in stasis, so they can be used as Human Resources. This trope is used because it shows that the Proles' attempts at becoming accepted in society by finding the way out are futile.
SCP-1230 is a benign example: A book with the phrase "A Hero is Born" that will give the reader dreams of a fantasy adventure when they next fall asleep. The entity behind this (called the Book Keeper) bases these dreams on the reader's imagination and things they would enjoy, and seemingly just wants them to have a fun adventure for a while. Takes a tragic turn when one researcher enters the dream world and refuses to leave, killing himself shortly after waking up again. The Book Keeper is devastated by this, and it takes intervention from another researcher to bring it back to its senses.
American Dad! episode "The Vacation Goo" has the family discover that every summer, Stan sticks them in a set of machines from the CIA so he can have some "me time". After Steve and Hayley do the same, Francine gets upset and the others resolve to give her a real vacation. Unfortunately, she assumes they're still in the goo and doesn't admit that they're not until after she's nearly wrecked the vacation personally. After the whole thing turns nightmarish, the Smiths declare Let Us Never Speak of This Again and the episode ends with a shot of all four of them in the goo, big smiles on their faces.
Related, Family Guy had a season finale where Stewie killed Lois and became president of the United States... and then Lois came back, Peter killed him when Lois was on the ropes (as he delivered the killing blow), and it was revealed to be a simulation the whole time.
In the Batman: The Animated Series episode "Perchance To Dream", Batman wakes up in a world where his parents never died, he never became Batman, and instead he ended up hitched with Selina Kyle (who wasn't Catwoman either). He eventually figures it out by realizing that he couldn't read anything (which is supposed to signal that you're in a dream). It quickly becomes a nightmare as there's somebody else playing the role of Batman in said world...
Interestingly in that case, the Mad Hatter put Batman in the dream as a favor, in the hopes that if Batman was given the ideal life, he'd just leave him alone. Batman was not very pleased.
Astute viewers can also figure out something's going on by how versions of Mad Hatter's leitmotif play throughout the episode.
In one Batman Beyond episode, a villain traded rides on his Lotus-Eater Machine for stolen loot brought in by mostly unhappy teens. The machine also slowly killed them while letting them temporarily experience their greatest wishes.
In one episode of The Batman (Batman can't get enough of this trope apparently), Poison Ivy traps Batman and Batgirl (along with a lot of other people) in a plant version of one of these. Of course, given that it's Batman that she has trapped, getting free is not really a problem.
The Ben 10 fourth season premiere "Perfect Day": Enoch uses a machine to force the titular character to have a perfect day in his mind while he is being robbed of his Imported Alien Phlebotinum. He is able to escape as he realizes that he is able to control what happens. The episode ends with Enoch trapped in the machine and The Reveal that he is not the true leader of the Forever Knights and that his boss decides to leave him in the machine as he has failed him for the last time (Cue the Ben 10 Vs. the Negative 10 2 parter).
There's also the Cassiopean Dream Eater from the Ben 10: Ultimate Alien episode "Night of the Living Nightmares", which is a subversion, in which Ben is attacked by Albedo, who latches one such creature onto his face, which starts giving nightmares of his worst enemies attacking him in an empty Bellwood, and Kevin and Gwen demanding the Ultimatrix by force. As it turns out, it's Albedo who's having the nightmare, because he slipped on a smoothie spilt by Ben and let the Dream Eater fall on his own face instead - hence why, in the nightmare, Ben manages to turn the tables on him without resorting to any of the Ultimatrix aliens.
Ben 10: Omniverse gives us the Hypnotick, a giant flying bug who's wings can ensnare prey into their personal dreams. Also doubles as a Fantastic Drug, as according to Grandpa Max, people in-universe capture the Hypnotick for its hypnotic qualities for a high. When Ben becomes ensnared, he finds himself on stage surrounded by adoring fans. He is able to pull himself out by reminding himself that fame isn't what a hero's about.
In an episode of Captain N the Game Master come across a Carnival themed LEM, which made physical replications of things they liked (for Kevin an endless videogame arcade, for Lana a clothing shop, For Dr. Light, a lab, etc.) and while these things weren't dangerous in and of themselves, they distracted the heroes from their main quest. But with the help of roll, Megaman breaks out of the spell, beats the Carnival's ringmaster, and forces the rest of the N Team out of there.
In Danny Phantom, this is Nocturne—the Dream Ghost's—specialty, as he has devices that give the dreamers their happy paradise. The beginning portion of the episode is designed with this in mind for Danny, though he quickly snaps out of it.
Dave the Barbarian: Dark Lord Chuckles The Silly Piggy tempts the good guys with literal rose-colored glasses — whoever wears them will see (and somehow, hear) a perfect world. He is quickly defeated by someone putting the glasses on him, causing him to go catatonic and laugh endlessly as he thinks he has finally attained ultimate power and wiped out his quirky enemies.
In one episode of Dragon Hunters, Gwizdo breathes in spores from a dragon and falls into a coma; in his dream, he becomes a hero, Jennyline is a stunning red-haired beauty he falls in love with. This is the dragon's usual hunt MO, as the unsuspecting victim sleepwalks to its lair. Which means for Gwizdo that he abruptly goes from a lovely, romantical island with the woman of his dreams (his fantasy) to an ugly, grim landscape with a dragon about to eat him. Whoops.
In the Fairly OddParents TV Movie Wishology, the Darkness puts Timmy in one of these until his friends come and save him. It is an interesting case because it is quite likely that the Darkness did this because it wanted to make Timmy happy - not because it wanted to trap him.
A nightmare version is portrayed in "Future Tense" when Avalon finally releases Goliath, Elisa, Bronx, and Angela from their quest and return them to New York, only to find that time had passed differently for them than it had for everybody else and it was now 40 years in the future and Xanatos had become Big Brother, enslaving the city. It gets worse, just about every plan fails, nearly all the characters die, the world is basically falling down around him, Only to find out that the whole thing was an elaborate hallucination created by Puck in order for Goliath to hand him the Phoenix Gate.
The episode "For it May Come True" (from the out-of-continuity third season). Goliath wakes up to find that he's human, married to Elisa and has children. Naturally, his fantasy gets worse when he discovers that Xanatos is still a villain, the Quarrymen are still around, and Eliza has joined up with them to kill the rest of the gargoyles.
The "Dib's Wonderful Life of Doom" episode of Invader Zim: Zim traps Dib in a Lotus-Eater Machine just to find out if it was he who threw a muffin at him. After extracting the information, Zim releases his nemesis in a fit of Genre Blindness, instead of finishing him. But not before hitting him with a counter muffin. From a cannon.
Codename: Kids Next Door: A villain makes Numbuh One think he's on an island inhabited only by kids. In the end, the machine is put on him, and, in a rarity for this trope, this villain is left aware of this and miserable. It's later revealed that the KND scientists kept the device to use for a Secret Test of Character.
The Tick in "Evil Sits Down For a Moment": The villain traps the Tick in the "World's Comfiest Chair," which is so comfy that nobody ever wants to stand up again after sitting in it. No imaginary worlds or anything are involved; it's just that comfy. The episode ends (like most serious examples of this trope) with the villain getting trapped in her own Lotus-Eater Machine.
Transformers Animated had an odd, not-happy, example set up by Soundwave. The virtual world placed the Autobots into a series of increasingly bizarre scenarios. Seeing as the whole thing was a distraction so Soundwave could reprogram the Autobots into his slaves, this makes sense. The Autobots were also able to manipulate the world around them to a certain extent, a la The Matrix.
The Venture Bros. has "Eeney, Meeney, Miney... Magic!" in which Dr. Venture builds, as he calls it, a "joy can." According to Orpheus it probes the user's mind to create hallucinations based on the user's deepest desires. Of course... with Rusty being Rusty, it's apparently Powered by a Forsaken Child. Brock gets trapped inside and we get a frightening vision of his apparent deepest desires. Using tinfoil hats, teenage limerence, and a urine soaked t-shirt, the boys are the ones that get Brock out. It's interesting to note that while the device does make an attempt to fulfill one's desires through hallucination, these fantasies appear to be horribly distorted in some way and all together surreal. Of course we're dealing with some fairly screwed up users here, so I'm guessing that point is moot.
W.I.T.C.H. has a character (Princess Elyon, the local Dark Magical Girl) trapped in a Lotus Eater Machine for nearly half the first season, which is a key plot point, since the victim's actions affected the world outside. Also, the LEM is set by her brother Phobos aka the local Evil Prince, in an attempt to manipulate Elyon long enough to steal her powers and seal her away during her crowning ceremony.
Also Nerissa in the series finale. Considering that she's a powerful Magnificent Bitch, it's better to make her believe she's gotten everything she wants rather than merely imprisoning her.
Star Trek: The Animated Series episode "How Sharper Than A Serpent's Tooth". The animals in Kukulcan's zoo believe that they are living in their natural environment, a hallucination generated by Kukulcan's machines.
In the Adventure Time episode "Power Animal", gnomes capture Finn and use his imagination to power a giant machine that will swap the overworld and the underground. Finn is mostly done for, but Jake comes to the rescue by allowing a placated Party God to turn him into the eponymous being, wrecking the LEM with Dionysian disregard.
In the Veggie Tales episode "Larry-Boy and the Bad Apple", this is how Bad Apple plans on conquering Bumblyburg. She begins by making the mayor, a reporter, and Larry-Boy believe they're in their dream world (i.e. a room full of fashionable clothes for the mayor) in order to eliminate leadership, communications, and law enforcement, and then creates a fun house for everyone to play at.
Philosopher Robert Nozick conceived of one of these in a discussion about utilitarianism. To this day Lotus Eater Machines are sometimes known as Nozick Engines.
Near-death experiences indicate that dying may be like this. The pineal gland (behind the forehead; associated with the "third eye," as it is stimulated by light) is thought to release N,N-dimethyltryptamine, a powerful, short-acting psychedelic, shortly before death. This chemical is theorized to also play a role in dreaming.