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Virtual Danger Denial

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Lily Sloane: I don't get it. You said this was all just a bunch of holograms! If it's holograms—
Captain Picard: I disengaged the safety protocols. Without them even a holographic bullet can kill.

Despite the importance of telecommunications in our daily lives, many people tend to underestimate just how important they are, especially as we creep closer to Everything Is Online. This can lead to disbelieving statements or outright denial when digital trouble has analog effects. Even if traffic lights are going haywire, and water mains are popping from overpressure, they may protest against any suggestion that it has to do with computers.

Contrast Your Mind Makes It Real, where the person's mind is what is being impacted due to its suggestibility. May occur during a Holodeck Malfunction. May involve Cyberspace.


Anime and Manga

  • In Summer Wars most of the family doesn't realize how serious the problem of the internet being taken over by a rogue AI is, inadvertently sabotaging attempts to defeat it twice - first when the AI still demonstrated only a single avatar, and again by removing ice that was cooling a supercomputer when it was on the verge of containing it. Only after it aims a space probe at a nuclear power station do they realize the magnitude.
  • In Digimon Adventure, once the kids learn they're in a computer-based world Tai becomes reckless since he thinks it's all virtual and nothing can hurt him. When he finally gets that it's not a video game and can kill him dead, he realizes what nearly happened to him and, well, bluescreens.
    • Both Digimon Adventure 02 and Digimon Fusion have "villains" who think they're basically playing a video game and not really hurting anyone doing so. Neither one takes it well when they realize they really did hurt a lot of innocent victims.
  • At least one minor villain in Sword Art Online, Rosalia, states there's no proof of the game designer's admonition that if you die in the game, the Nervegear game console kills you in real life. She uses this to justify attacking other players, causing at least four deaths. Whether she actually believes what she says is left ambiguous.

Film - Live-Action

  • Star Trek: First Contact has a woman from the mid 21st century exposed to holodeck technology for the first time. She is surprised when Picard's holographic Tommy Gun has very real (and very lethal) effects on the two Borg that follow them in. Picard further explains that there are usually safeties to prevent such lethality, but he disabled them for his purposes.
  • In Final Deployment 4: Queen Battle Walkthrough, Xanzicon doesn't seem to think Scourge can really kill him, possibly because he was controlling the character through a Recursive Reality.
    Scourge: You're going down!
    Xanzicon: But you're just a game.
    Scourge: Your mama's a game! [shoots Xanzicon in the head]


  • At the beginning of American Gods, Shadow expresses lack of faith in his electronic plane ticket - where he doesn't have a physical ticket, just a number to give at check-in - because it just doesn't seem real to him. It's nice foreshadowing of his siding with the old gods against the new, technology-based ones.

Live-Action TV

  • Inverted in an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. The Aliens Of The Week beam four DS9 crew members into a holographic game. When things start to get dangerous, they immediately take it as a real life-or-death situation, as do Quark and Odo on the outside note . To their own surprise, after apparently being killed by the game, they turn up perfectly okay back in Quark's bar, where the alien leader is incredulous to learn that they actually believed themselves to be in real danger. Apparently they just thought these people took their games really seriously (to be fair, the alien race kind of does, so it's not an unreasonable belief from their point of view).
  • A strong example in NUMB3RS. A Playful Hacker cheerfully pisses off a number of powerful agencies online, legal and illegal, and is in total denial that they could come after him in real life. His tune quickly changed when one of them tried to have him assassinated on FBI property, and almost succeeded.
    • An earlier episode involves a group cheating to win an alternate-reality game associated with an MMORPG. The creator was aware of the issue but didn't take it seriously because all of their actions were digital, through the game — until they weren't.
  • In the La Femme Nikita series, a hacker attacks both the Designated Hero Section One and a rival black-ops intelligence agency and both sides pull an Enemy Mine to track him and find him. When they do, the hacker shows surprise at the fact that they managed to track him-and it's sort of implied that he thought he was playing some kind of war game.

Western Animation

  • There's an episode of The Fairly OddParents! where Timmy and friends start out thinking this, but since the game is magic, it can really kill them, so Timmy has to save them.

Real Life

  • As this Penny Arcade strip shows, there was initially some reluctance to deal with Real Money Trade related scams, thanks to a perception that the goods weren't "real" anyway.
  • Laws regarding Intellectual Property are meant to avert this trope by giving certain rights to people who produce intangible products such as digital media.


Video Example(s):


Tai and the Firewall

After his friends successfully convince him that touching an electrified fence in the wrong place could kill him, Tai freezes in fear.

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Main / DeerInTheHeadlights

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