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"As I said, O'Neill, ours is the only reality of consequence."

In fiction, especially the Trapped in Another World department, many characters have the curious habit of talking about their world (almost always Present Day Earth) as "the real world". This is justified when the world they're trapped in is a construct, such as a computer simulation or All Just a Dream. It gets far murkier when it's filled with sentient inhabitants.

But even if the Magical Land is a place in and of itself, so many of the classical ones have been used as metaphors for something (for instance, Oz or Wonderland) that there is the faintest impression that this one just may be as well (especially if it's a Planet of Hats or otherwise thematically represents a subset of the diversity of "our" universe – is a Candy World with a Licorice King really as "legitimate" as the world in which licorice was invented?). As such, the "rules" on behavior are different in different worlds. Sure, you might have been fireballing the warlord's goons in that other world right and left, but using those powers on, say, a mugger in "the real world" would be wrong. Of course, this is sometimes justified due to the fact that it would break the Masquerade, but that doesn't cover a moral double standard.

And even if the main characters treat everyone in the other world as people, there's still the stupefying habit of referring to their homeworld as "the real world". This seems like it would be incredibly rude, yet nobody ever calls them on it. Even more bizarre is when the natives themselves start doing it. Of course, the question of what to call either universe would be tricky, since the distinction had no reason to come up before the two worlds began interacting. A common solution is the Planet England naming convention, though that's still protagonist-oriented because it's arbitrarily based on the country they first visited (and it ought to sound to most natives like, well, "Planet England" or "The Johannesburg Universe" might sound to us). Still, the main point of naming is to reduce confusion to a minimum; as long as the other world's natives don't mind this isn't the most of your worries.

Interestingly, with Alternate Universe works this trope will come in play much less and protagonists will rarely, if ever, call their own universe "the real world". Perhaps it's because the Alternate Universe they visit bears plenty similarity to their own, so the issue is that the protagonists/writers are subconsciously thinking world that runs on magic / has different laws of science = not a real world. Or perhaps it's because instead of calling their world "the real world" it's more common to call the world they're from "Earth Prime". Again, this can be justified if The Multiverse actually works as such, with every other universe ultimately able to be traced back to the one the protagonists live in, but quite often "Earth Prime" is used simply because from their point of view, their universe's timeline is the "right" one and every other universe is just a deviation. So, expect the protagonists to go "In this world, Elvis is still alive" when you could easily flip it around and say "In this world, Elvis has died instead of living to a ripe old age as he's supposed to".

A type of Creator Provincialism, one step above Earth Is the Center of the Universe. Compare Expendable Alternate Universe, Expendable Clone, Real-World Episode, The Time Traveller's Dilemma, This Is Reality. Contrast Down the Rabbit Hole.


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    Anime And Manga 
  • Many characters in Bleach call Ichigo's world "The World of the Living." Granted, people from Ichigo's world have to die to go to Soul Society, but considering that there was a conspiracy revolving around who killed Captain Aizen, that in the same conspiracy they were going to execute Rukia, Yumichika ordered for preparations to be made for Ikkaku's funeral procession, etc.
    • There's a bit of Lost in Translation in this one. The Japanese word used for this, "gense" (現世) is commonly translated as this for commodity when dealing with the world of the dead as opposed to that of the living, but "gense" has a more fundamental meaning as "present/real/material world", the last of which would make far more sense given shinigami are spiritual beings, as opposed to the material beings that living humans are.
  • Digimon has its Main Characters refer to "the real world" so much that the commercials started making fun of it. In this case, it was more that "Digital" was a kind of Pure Energy as opposed to Matter, which was referred to as "Real".
    • The very first thing that a Digimon tells the kids in Season One is "You're in the Digi-World". Apparently, Digimon don't think of their own world as the real one.
    • This leads to a rather interesting case of Your Mind Makes It Real near the end of the second arc, when Taichi thinks that the Digital World doesn't have any consequences, and that nothing that was happening was real. So he acts really irresponsibly and almost gets everyone killed until he wises up. This seems to be a reoccurring problem throughout the various continuities.
    • In the case of Digimon, though, it does make somewhat sense to call the Digital World that - the world is, in fact, digital. However, the "real" world would be more accurately described as the Material World, or the Protein Based World, as that is a more accurate description of what it is. Both worlds are "real", but one is digital and one is material. Considering in every show, manga, and in fact every continuity but Digimon Data Squad, the main cast are kids, it is justified that they would simplify it as "real".
  • Invoked by Dragon Ball fans who refer to the Bad Future that Future Trunks comes from, where two Androids have single-handedly created a Crapsack World apocalypse, as an Alternate Timeline. Technically speaking Future Trunks' timeline is the original one: the more familiar timeline depicted on-page in the manga is specifically there as a result of Trunks going back in time and informing the heroes of the Androids and helping them prepare for their arrival, creating a branching timeline where his Bad Future never happens.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist: The Conqueror of Shamballa, Edward feels this way about being trapped in our world. In fact, the Alphonse of our world calls him out on this and makes him realize that both worlds are real, subverting the trope.
  • Subverted in Fushigi Yuugi; when Big Bad Nakago escapes the book-reality most of the series has taken place in and starts trying to conquer the real world, the heroes protest that he cannot do this because he is just a character from a book. Nakago responds that this only makes it more amusing for him to rule this "world of the gods".
  • Inuyasha: Kagome has often referred to her present timeline as "The Real World." Thankfully, the others just refer to it as "Kagome's world." Interestingly, nobody ever says "The Past" or "The Future", despite the fact that she got there through pure Time Travel.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure Part 7, the Big Bad's stand has the power to visit parallel worlds and bring people from said parallel worlds to his world. He constantly refers to his initial world (the world where the plot takes place) as the root world, he doesn't have any problems with killing people from the other worlds and every time he's killed he has one of his alternate selves take his place, abducting him from his original world and overriding his memories with the villain's (apparently, his alternate selves don't have any problem with this and if they do it doesn't matter). He has a reason to think like that, since the Holy Corpse only exists in the so called root world
  • Magic Knight Rayearth has the Magic Knights having a curious discussion about this. They concluded that Magical Land Cephiro was "real enough" and the clincher was that if they died there, they would "die in the real world too".
  • In Magical Girl Pretty Sammy, the heroine is finally deciding to do something about her best friend's Parental Abandonment problem, so tries to use her magic to fix the situation. It doesn't work. She's confused until her Animal Sidekick explains magic doesn't work so well against problems in the "real" world. She finally uses her powers to send a letter that her best friend has written to her father but couldn't find the courage to put in the mailbox. This is beginning of the turning point in the entire series.
  • In chapter 251 of Negima! Magister Negi Magi, Negi refers to "our" world as "the real world" (In the Magic World, it's known as "the old world"). He corrects himself immediately afterwards.
    • When Fate tries to talk Negi out of getting in his way, he emphasizes the idea that Negi's "reality" is our world, and he has no obligation to bother with helping Mundus Magicus because it's "nothing more than a fantasy" to him and the girls that followed him over. Negi very nearly falls for it.
    • Shockingly, there might actually be a good reason for this, as Magicus Mundus is actually a giant pocket dimension (on Mars), and it's implied that Fate's old boss may have created it, along with its inhabitants, meaning that it might not be exactly as "real" as people think it is.
    • Negi seems aware of this, but doesn't care (except as it drives Fate's actions), since the people are still real, regardless of whether they were created or not.
  • Zegapain subverts this with the "real" world of Maihama Kyo comes from and the After the End world on board the Oceanus. The "real" world is a Matrix-like construct containing the remains of humanity's minds while the "other" world is the real world.

    Comic Books  

  • Alan Moore (who also created "Earth-616") takes a playful swipe at this trope in Top 10:
    "So, Grand Central is a parallel upon which the Roman Empire never fell?"
    "No, your &%$£-hole world is some freak parallel where it did!"
  • Inverted in the comic book adaptation of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere with this exchange between the Marquis de Carabas and Richard Mayhew while trying to explain London Below.
    "The hand. The shadow. My world. Your world."
    "Naturally, you mean the other way around."
    "Your world is too thin to cast a shadow."
  • In the crossover JLA/Avengers comic, during a dream-state where in The Avengers and the JLA regularly meet up, the heroes argue which Earth is Earth 1.
    • In Infinite Crisis, the Superman of Earth 2 said they allowed the JLA to refer to themselves as Earth 1 out of politeness.
    • Interestingly, DC's Golden Age comics were Revised as taking place on Earth 2, meaning that it came "first" chronologically.
    • In The DCU, the main earth being called New Earth (and the real one) was justified in the fact that it forms the fulcrum/nexus of all the other Earths.
    • In the JLA "Red King" story arc, the villainous Red King has access to six billion alternate Earths (one for every human soul) and they are identical except for his own actions. So he uses these "free second chances" to try every possible course of action, finds out which ones work for him, then obliterates the "failed" realities. In short order, he's become wealthy, influential, and has every super-power imaginable - all at the cost of reducing six billion universes to four. Including killing six billion versions of himself (who didn't count because they were "losers"). A seriously ticked Doctor Destiny likened it to threatening all of space and time to win a bet at the track.
    • Grant Morrison wrote JLA: Earth-2, wherein a heroic version of Lex Luthor arrives from the Mirror Universe and refers to the main DC world as "Earth 2."

  • Done rather bizarrely in the case of My Inner Life - the author insists that the story documents a "second life" she leads while she dreams, a life which she insists is "very real" and seems to identify with more than her waking life.
  • The TRON example below is Lampshaded and just as quickly Averted in Endgame Scenario. Tron sarcastically refers to the User world as the "real" one, and Jet bristles, firing back that the Program world is just as "real" as the human one.

    Films — Live-Action 

  • TRON has onscreen text at one point saying "Meanwhile in the Real World." In dialog, the world of Users is only called "the Real World" by the Master Control Program, who exists in both worlds. However, the franchise likes to play with the trope.
    • The first film was closer to a Save Both Worlds plot as Master Control was trying to take over both sides of the Cold War and rule humanity with the same brutality he was inflicting on the Programs.
    • In the TRON: Legacy prequel comic Tron: Betrayal, CLU actually calls Flynn on this, pointing out that while he calls the realm of the users "The Real World"; The Grid is "The Real World" to all programs.
    • TRON: Legacy plays it more explicitly. Sam experiences little that seems to be worth saving on The Grid, aside from Quorra, who is implied to be part organic and therefore not Just a Machine, and Flynn has all but given up on the Programs. So there's not a whole lot of effort put on trying to save anyone from Clu, just on making sure Clu doesn't carry out his plan to enforce his twisted idea of "perfection" on humanity.
    • TRON 2.0 swings it back to a straighter Save Both Worlds, as fCon plans to invade and conquer the digital world as a way to control and rule the analog one, essentially inverting Master Control's plan from the first film. Jet's conclusion that the digital world is every bit as real and valid as the human one plays a large part in the spin-off comic, leading him into a Heroic BSoD when he thinks about the Programs he had to kill and the implications of what being a User means in that universe's context.
  • Enchanted: After one attempt to locate it, as far as Robert is concerned, Andalasia (a very real if Magical Land) is "fantasy", and This Is Reality. Nobody ever corrects him or acts as if this makes anything but perfect sense.
  • Avatar: At one point, protagonist Jake Sully says "Everything is backwards now, like out there is the true world, and in here is the dream." Sully spends half his time Brain Uploading to an alien body, an "avatar" which is just as physically real as his human body, and this alien body exists on the same moon ("out there" is the Pandoran jungles, "in here" a human military base). Therefore, neither "world" is actually less real than the other. The avatar experience does involve the human body entering a stasis, so in that sense it's a "dream", but the same case could be made the other way around, because the avatar body sleeps when the human one is awake.


  • One of the ur-Trapped in Another World stories, Alice in Wonderland, was All Just a Dream. Thus, the tyranny of the Queen of Hearts and the pointless executions didn't matter.
  • The Faction Paradox book Dead Romance has an extreme version of this - the main character's world is just a small bottle universe sold to the Time Lords. Upon escaping to the universe "above" (outside the bottle), she begins to realise, that may be yet another bottle universe. So she starts a quest to find the uppermost universe - the true Universe.
  • In the Wizard of Oz movie - one of the major influences on this trope - it turned out that Oz was All Just a Dream of Dorothy's. In the original books, on the other hand, not only is Oz real, but Dorothy moves there to become an immortal princess, and eventually goes back to bring her Auntie Em and Uncle Henry because living in the Dust Bowl sucked.
  • Works both ways in The Chronicles of Narnia: Despite Narnia only being a country in another world, the characters refer to the entire other world as "Narnia" (which actually causes Jill some confusion on her first trip, as Eustace told her he'd been to "Narnia" — the world, not the country). Earth is "that other place" — fair, since both "Narnia" and Earth are just two of many, many worlds... none of which are, ultimately, "real." When the characters finally reach Aslan's Country, they discover that it is the only real world; everything else, including the physical world that we know, is just a cheap imitation.
  • In the first Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, Thomas persistently denies that The Land is real (giving him the title of "The Unbeliever"), which somehow helps him defeat the Big Bad. Who is his Enemy Without. God of The Land is a part of him too, so it's possible he's right — never mind that the second series sucks someone else in too.
  • In the Discworld books, Archchancellor Ridcully, while heading out to battle elves (with million-to-one odds), is told that, because of the whole multiverse thing, for every one Ridcully that survives the fight, 999,999 other Ridcullys will die. He responds, "Yes, but I'm not bothered about those other buggers. They can look after themselves." He's mostly just bitter they didn't invite him to their weddings, thanks to a disastrous earlier attempt to explain the concept to him.
    • In The Science of Discworld and especially the sequels, the wizards consider the Disc is the real world and "Roundworld" is an oddity that sits on a shelf in Rincewind's office. They respect that the inhabitants of Roundworld might see this differently, though. Plus, somewhere on Roundworld there's an author named "Terry Pratchett" with a neat idea for a story...
  • The characters in Everworld refer to Earth as "the real world," although the series at least lampshades it when Senna mocks them about it. For their part, the inhabitants of Everworld refer to this world as "the old world" (lowercased), since Everworld is a colony dimension created by the gods who originally lived in our world.
    • There's a slip-up in book seven where Athena follows this trope, though, despite being a long-time Everworld resident.
  • Robert A. Heinlein's The Number of the Beast has one character use "Earth-Zero" (to refer to the "real world") once. This gets jumped on immediately by his companions, arguing it implies an Earth-Zero-centric multiverse. He says it's just for simplicity, and admits any of the other worlds they're traveling to have just as much claim to being "the real world" as theirs. It's eventually subverted when the main characters' world turns out not to be our own, as a character named Carter is aghast that we have a president by that name.
  • In Heinlein's The Cat Who Walks Through Walls, the interdimensional police agency uses labels for each dimension based on the first moon landing, that being understood as the "branching point". "Our" universe's designation is "One Small Step".
  • In Roger Zelazny's The Chronicles of Amber series, Earth (where the action starts) is just one of the many Shadows cast by Amber, which is supposedly the "real" world. As it turns out, there's an uninhabited Amber that's even realer.
  • Lampshaded and subverted in the German novel Dreizehn (Thirteen). Woosh, a talking bat from another dimension who gets caught in heroine Thirteen's world, complains that she wants to return to the "real" world. Thirteen tells her that this is the real world. Cue reply: "Says who?", leaving Thirteen to sputter a bit.
  • Both averted and somewhat inverted in the Young Wizards series by Diane Duane. While none of inhabitants of all the different universes are treated as more or less morally important than any of the others, some universes are more metaphysically potent than others, and our universe just isn't that important when ranked metaphysically.
  • Averted in the Haruhi Suzumiya novels. In later books, Kyon ends up in a timeline without time travellers, aliens or espers. He considers how selfish it is to want to change things back, that the people in the new timeline have just as much right to exist. He does it anyways, but often "wakes up late at night, with their faces in his mind."
  • Averted in Larry Niven's All The Myriad Ways, set in a world where travellers to parallel universes report worlds where the Cuba War was "a damp squib" (called the Cuban Missile Crisis) and return with different technology such as the stapler.
  • Kinda played with in "Cowboy Angels". One version of America has developed dimension-jumping tech, and makes contact with all the other versions. The first one now refers to itself as "The Real".
  • Played with in The Dark Tower books, where it is first implied that our world is not, in fact, the "real" one. In the real world, Co-op City is in Brooklyn, the Path of the Beam is visible in the sky, and there's a magical rose in an abandoned lot somewhere in Manhattan, among other things. In fact, that's only only partially true - that world is directly stated to be more important than ours, but the real world is All World. Maybe. It's kinda confusing. Keystone Earth does have the distinction of having unidirectional time, unlike All-World.
  • There's a moment in Sidhe Devil when the main viewpoint character, Zeb, apologizes to Doc for having taken the attitude that the fair world was "Less real than where I come from." He's changed his view after failing to completely prevent a terrorist attack; a little girl died of her injuries as he was carrying her to a doctor. Now It's Personal.
  • In Brave Story there is the "real world" and the world of Vision. Everyone in Vision easily, and nonchalantly, accepts the seemingly unprovable fact that Vision is created from people's thoughts in the real world, and that their unique Vision, out of infinite others, is the creation of one individual (Wataru). Actually really confusing, since all of Vision was originally created by a Goddess, and it's suggested that the real world was created by the same, and that the two worlds are "like two sides of the same coin." So it's kind of like a semi-maybe-un-subversion?
  • Played with in Flatland, where A. Square assumes that there may be more than three dimensions because of what he's seen on his journey, but the Sphere denies this possibility as emphatically as the Flatlanders refuse to believe in a third.
  • Played with in Fine Structure, as each universe's inhabitants assigns their universe some name like "Prime" or "Earth-1" when they discover interdimensional travel. It doesn't stick, though, as they soon realize that it would be extremely confusing to continue like that, especially given the stupidly large (but not infinite) number of universes. Since universes are arranged in a straight linenote , designating a universe becomes a matter of "how far from this universe, and in which direction." There is one universe that insists on using the name "Universe +1," although they at least have the justification of being at one end of the chain.
  • Characters in Philip K. Dick novels are so frequently finding that they live in a world that is simulated or otherwise not entirely real that he may as well be the Trope Codifier.

    Live Action TV 

  • Star Trek
    • "Replicated food doesn't taste the same as real food" is a sentence that irks some Trekkies, because there is no difference between food that's been grown and food that's been synthesized save for its origins. (Whether there are genuine molecular differences that you can taste is another matter.)
    • Holograms are mostly programmed not to realize that they are programs and not to recognize characters referring to the Real World, and will become depressed and/or ticked off if a malfunction results in them becoming aware of this. Which it does. Often.
  • In a not-dissimilar way, in Life on Mars, nobody from 1973 ever appeared to take Sam Tyler seriously if he mentioned being back in time, or anything relating to his pre-car-crash existence. In Ashes to Ashes (2008), Alex Drake is quite sure that the whole experience of being in 1981 is a hallucination, and repeatedly says so out loud, but, again, nobody bats an eyelid or suspects that she's deranged.
  • In Sliders, Earth Prime refers to the original Sliders' homeworld. Inhabitants of the other dimensions don't generally use this name, though.
  • In the Doctor Who episode "The Power of Three", Amy Pond referred to her life on Earth as "real life," as opposed to her life gallivanting about time and space with the Doctor.
  • Since the characters in Once Upon a Time have both fake memories of growing up in mundane reality and hearing versions of their Enchanted Forest lives told as fairy stories, and the knowledge that their old world was recorded in Henry's book by the Author, other "realms" have similar books, and the non-magical world doesn't work like that, they become quite comfortable referring to it as "the real world". Though this is Lampshaded by the Mad Hatter of all people.
    Emma: This is the real world.
    The Mad Hatter: A real world. How arrogant to think yours is the only one?
  • Discussed, and eventually defied, in Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency. Todd initially believes, even after entering "Wendimoor," that it probably isn't real, and what happens to the people in it doesn't matter. Amanda, who had been there much longer and found that her illness from the "real" world gives her magic powers in Wendimoor, does not agree. The locals are a bit distraught when they learn that their entire universe was created by a Reality Warper child from our universe. But, by that point, all the original-universe characters are convinced that Wendimoor is a real place that isn't any less important than their own world.
  • The protagonist-centric naming scheme is discussed in The Flash. The first Alternate Universe discovered is referred to as 'Earth-2', to which Harry, who is from that universe, responds that our world, to him, is Earth-2. Calling the setting's universe Earth-1 is ultimately justified, however, as it is revealed to be located at the centre of the Multiverse.

    Tabletop Games 
  • A standard trope to appear in the Planescape Dungeons & Dragons setting, among other things. It's practically expected of any clueless prime who wander into Sigil to assume that their home plane is the most central and most important place in all of the Multiverse, and that everyone should know of it and follow their rules and customs. (Conversely, some Sigilians claim the same thing about Sigil - proving that you don't have to be a Prime to be Clueless.)

  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Most of the characters (even those in the alternate timelines) acknowledge that the canon timeline is worth returning to because it is in some way significantly better to that alternate one. Scorpius, however, clearly sees his original timeline as the "real" one, with the alternate timelines as mistakes to be "fixed". He makes the following distinction which, once you've already made a few time jumps, starts to seem a little shaky:
    Scorpio: "I was able to ask for help because I was in an alternate reality. We aren't. We're in the past."

    Video Games 
  • Called out in Dragon Age: Inquisition. The quest In Hushed Whispers has the Inquisitor and Dorian trying to return to the past, and Leliana of the future calls the latter out on treating the real suffering and tragedy of her present as an abstract hypothetical.
  • In the Portal 2 Perpetual Testing Initiative, Cave refers to his Earth as Earth-1 or Earth Prime. One other Cave also refers to an Earth-1, but since there are multiple test subjects from other universes in there, it's unexplained if he means your character or someone else. Dark Cave also refers to the first Cave as Cave Prime, though this might be for the purposes of avoiding confusion. Interestingly enough, the world this Cave is talking about wouldn't be the "real" world from the perspective of the player, since that Cave has an assistant named Greg instead of Caroline and he also shuts down the GLaDOS project after hearing the ramblings of an AI Cave.
  • Eternal Sonata: The premise is that the fantasy world in which the game takes place is a figment of Chopin's imagination created on his deathbed, and that the characters and events of the game are allegories for his own life experiences and personality traits. Chopin himself, being a smart guy, quickly figures all this out. But suddenly, in as big a Gainax Ending as there ever was, Chopin suddenly realizes — after attempting to murder all of the party members — that "it's not a dream!" Don't get it? Well, this is a game that ends with a tête-à-tête between a caterpillar and a snail after all.
  • The plot of Final Fantasy Tactics Advance involves the world being transformed overnight into a world similar to fantasy games played by the kids who opened a magic book, with the changes seeming to revolve around fulfilling their desires. The main conflict of the story involves the question of which reality is "real", and which one should remain. The main character is very insistent that his original world is the "real" world, but notably dodges answering every time he's asked to prove it.
  • Early in Brave Story: New Traveler, after the protagonist has wandered into his fantasy land he meets a young girl who says "Travelers only come from the real world". That's a downer.
  • Played with in Touhou Project. The fantastic beings are aware that their reality is just a phantasm and there's a real world out there. And they're OK with that, taking things and customs that drift from the outside, for example the sport of soccer. The same thing is true for the humans: only humans that reject the "real world" can stay in Gensokyo, but it’s not that much of a problem considering that most of Gensokyo’s human population have lived there from birth and have never even seen the real world and probably have no interest in ever going there.
  • Cross Edge mentions a number of worlds; including "the Fantasy World, the Demon World, and the Real World." As per this trope, said with a completely straight face from natives.
  • Namco × Capcom and its Project × Zone sequels reject the trope entirely - all worlds are equally reality. Even The World from .hack (which is explicitly digital) is treated as though it's real.
  • To the Moon features Dr. Rosalene and Dr. Watts talking to a virtual construct based on Johnny's personality. Problem is the construct doesn't know he's a construct and is understandably terrified when the protagonists delete his friend from the memory. At one point Watts begins explaining to the construct that it doesn't exist. Rosalene calls him on it, saying that if the construct doesn't exist, why does it matter if it knows that.
  • This is referenced in Folklore when one of the faeries mentions that the term "netherworld" was created by the humans to refer to the space being like them occupy, and yet most inhabitants of the place have taken to calling it by the title as well.
  • Defied in Star Ocean: Till the End of Time. While some of the 4 dimensional race (including Big Bad Luther) disregard the "created" Eternal Sphere is a false reality, the inhabitants disagree and are steadfast in their position that their universe, though artificial, is equally real and valid.
  • Moon: Remix RPG Adventure plays with the concept in the ending. Moon World is the inside of a game cartridge, as revealed by the rumroms having data on every inhabitant and their schedules, revealing none of the game characters are 'real.' When the boy turns off the game and goes outside to apply what he's learned in the real world, the game characters are able to escape as well and live real lives free from the constraints of the game.


    Western Animation 
  • In The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3, not only the Mario Brothers, but the Princess and other characters native to the Mushroom Kingdom, called Earth the "Real World".
  • ChalkZone also encounters this where characters will refer to our reality as the "real world", even by those from the other dimension of ChalkZone. Which slightly implies that because the characters from ChalkZone are made of chalk they're not real.
  • Subverted in Futurama. When Dr. Farnsworth's "dimension in a box" experiment ends up creating a gateway into an alternate universe, the inhabitants of both universes instantly proclaim the others to be Evil Twins. After much debate and a rereading of the New Testament, it is decided that no one is evil and the universes are named "Universe 1" and "Universe A". Even stranger, at the end of the episode, the portals are rearranged such that each universe contains a box containing itself.
    • Nicely Lampshaded when Fry sits on "this" universe's box and the screen image appropriately squashes down.
  • In Cyberchase, the residents of Cyberspace interchangeably refer to Matt, Jackie and Inez's world as either "Earth" or "the real world."
  • In Danny Phantom, Danny and the others talk about the 'real world' and the 'ghost world'. Even some ghosts refer to the human world as the 'real world', despite it not being clear if they were ever living people.
  • Averted in the Dexter's Laboratory episode "Jeepers, Creepers, Where is Peepers?". Deedee's Not-So-Imaginary Friend Koosalagoopagoop tries to enlist Dexter's aid in saving his home dimension, the Land of Koos, but Dexter initially doesn't care because, as far as he's concerned, the Land of Koos isn't real. It's not until he sees some of the more adorable locals get carried away as the land falls apart that Dexter is moved by their plight.

    Real Life 
  • In American military slang, the "real world" is used to refer to the Continental U.S. Might have something to do with all the mayhem and fighting they deal with on a regular basis not existing back home.
  • In gamer lingo, RL refers to Real Life and is used when something outside the game is mentioned or requires attention ("BRB RL"). So far so good. However, some gamers have taken on to use the term to describe different portions of their actual lives, as if one part of their lives is more real than others. This can get especially odd if they refer as "real world" to the non-work, non-school time of their lives, which is often spent playing the aforementioned games.
    • For this reason, many college professors have come to refer to life outside of academe as "the civilian world" instead.
  • In general, many people use "real world" to refer to life as a full working adult (as opposed to being in school).
  • On many Internet forums, people refer to "Real Life" as any part of their lives that does NOT involve the Internet, as in, "smokesmadbluntz420 is the only forum member I've met IRL". Others invert this trope by referring to the non-Internet disparagingly as "meatspace."
  • Popular science articles since about 2015 have frequently alluded to various versions of the "Simulation Hypothesis," i.e. that our universe is a simulation inside the computer network of some larger universe. There's a probability argument that if there is only one real universe, but there can be some very large number of simulated ones, the odds are very low that the one we're observing is the "real" mother universe.