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This trope, featured in stories which feature game-playing as an important element, occurs when the game the characters are playing becomes real. Either elements of the game start manifesting in reality, or the characters are drawn into the game. Winning the game is often the only way to escape, or to undo the changes the game caused. The Game Come to Life is usually a Board Game, a Collectible Card Game or a Video Game.

A variation on this trope involves children playing a video game which turns out to be a remote-control system for actual combat machines.

See also: Trapped in TV Land, Refugee From TV Land, Inside a Computer System.

Has nothing to do with The Game. Which you just lost.


Anime and Manga

  • Yugi and his friends are sucked into a board game in the "Monster World" arc of the Yu-Gi-Oh! manga. The anime had a filler arc where Yugi is forced to play Duel Monsters inside a virtual world.
    • In the manga, the first game of Duel Monsters that Yugi played against Kaiba was played as a Shadow Game in which the monsters on the cards were brought to life in front of the players. Kaiba then set out to reproduce this effect through holograms as part of his plan to get revenge on Yugi, and the resulting technology was used for the rest of the franchise.
  • The third Digimon series, Digimon Tamers, had the Mons from a Collectible Card Game come to life. The children's game cards, when scanned through their Digivices, would have real effects, too.
  • Bakugan
  • Chaotic
  • .hack\\sign is about a kid who can't log off his virtual reality MMORPG.
  • Serial Experiments Lain has an online shooter mixing up with a bunch of kids playing tag. The results are definitely not pretty.


  • Jumanji and Zathura, mentioned below. have been made into feature films.
  • In Tron, Flynn is forced to play various deadly games by the Master Control Program.
  • In Arcade, teenagers are trapped inside a virtual reality computer game run by a malevolent AI.
  • In the Nightmares segment "Bishop of Battle", when a boy beats the title arcade game, it sends out real versions of its opponents to give him a true test of his abilities. He ends up trapped inside the game.
  • In The Last Starfighter, Alex Rogan is recruited to be a real Starfighter when he breaks the record on a video game; the game was just a test to find someone with enough talent.
    • A similar recruitment method is used in the 13th Batallion novel of The History of the Galaxy series. Earth Alliance military sets up VR booths for piloting realistic Humongous Mecha in an MMO environment. The most creative individuals (mostly teens) are forcibly recruited for a critical mission. They don't make it.
      • A short story of the same series also describes virtual space combat played by several passengers of a transport ship. The ship is also transporting actual Space Fighters for the Confederate military. The ship is ambushed by Space Pirates, forcing the captain to gas the players and put them into the real fighters to fight off the pirates. Not all make it back.
  • War Games had a hacker playing "Globar Thermonuclear War" against a military computer. Unfortunately, the computer had control of real nuclear missiles...
  • Stay Alive (2006).


  • In the children's book Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg, the eponymous board game transforms the children's house into a jungle with each roll of the dice.
  • Van Allsburg used a similar device in a subsequent book, Zathura, which used an outer-space motif.
  • Kilobyte by Piers Anthony has a paraplegic man trapped in a VR MMORPG. He is in danger of starving to death. Even worse, the Game Over sequence could kill him by shorting out his pacemaker.
  • In Heir Apparent by Vivian Vande Velde, Giannine gets stuck in a simulation game and must win to extract herself without doing major brain damage.
  • Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card might also count.
  • Only You Can Save Mankind (if not you, who else?), the first in the Johnny Maxwell trilogy by Terry Pratchett features the young hero discovering that the aliens in a game are real, and are being killed by everyone who plays. Also features the now-extinct race of Space Invaders,
  • Played for laughs in Vurfing the Gwrx, a short story by Michael Scott Rohan.
  • Most definitely not played for laughs in another short story, Is This Real Enough by Lisanne Norman. It's set Twenty Minutes Into the Future, and the World of Warcraft stand-in presented uses virtual reality technology, so the main characters don't even know they're inside the game until they discover they don't respawn when killed.
  • Albion's Dream, essentially Jumanji before Jumanji, had a variant of this. The game, a highly surreal and metaphorical board game, didn't pull anyone in. Instead, each of the character cards looked suspiciously like someone the main characters knew, and what happened to the characters happened to those people. There was some degree of in-universe argument over whether the possibility of changing lives for the better was worth risking the wrath of the Random Number God, not to mention what would happen if anyone fulfilled the alternate win condition by reaching the never-explored center of the board. In regard to the former: bad idea, especially when they encounter the fellow who's on the Death card. In regard to the latter: PHENOMENAL COSMIC POWER! However, getting to the center was a Luck-Based Mission, and was only managed by cheating, which turned out not to "count."
  • In Daemon, the darknet community operates like a real life MMORPG. Members wear augmented reality glasses; flyouts hover over other members showing their current class, level and reputation in the darknet community and other markers can show destinations, equipment status, etc. Successfully participating and/or completing projects beneficial to the community gets you darknet credits which are a combination of status and money.

Live Action TV

  • The UPN series Deadly Games had an explosion bring the villains from a programmer's homemade video game to life, and he is forced to play his own game for real.
  • Star Trek used the holodeck for this in a number of Star Trek the Next Generation and Star Trek Deep Space Nine episodes.
  • Stargate SG 1 had an episode in which Teal'c and Daniel are trapped in a VR combat simulator. Each simulated "death" brings them closer to having real heart attacks.
  • Sea Quest DSV had an episode in which mecha fighting in a post-apocalyptic future were controlled by kids playing video games.

Western Animation

  • Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends had an episode in which Electro traps Spider-Man inside a computer and forces him to play Pong. .
    • In another episode, a video game creature called Videoman escapes from his arcade machine and then traps Iceman within it.
  • In the CGI animated series Re Boot, the User's games would descend on a part of Mainframe, and the sprites in that area would be forced to compete. If the User won the game, that area of the city would be destroyed, and the sprites would turn into mindless Nulls.
    • In a more proper sense of the trope, when Mainframe starts to crash the characters from the games appear in the system. This is given a quick Hand Wave so we can move on to seeing our heroes beat the crap out of every User Character.
  • An episode of Ben 10 had Ben and Gwen transported inside a video game by a combination of Upgrade's powers and lightning.
  • One episode of Darkwing Duck had DW trapped inside a video game.
  • Fairly Oddparents The episode "Power Mad" .
  • The Back to The Future The Animated Series episode "Bravelord and the Demon Monstrux" had Doc accidentally zapped into Verne's favourite video game of the same title, and the characters from the game transported into 1992 Hill Valley.
  • In an episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Meatwad plays a video game that, like The Last Starfighter, is a test to find the person who can defeat the Gorgotron and save all of the moon's craps crops. Of course in reality it's just a ploy by Ignignokt and Err to find suckers for their MLM scam.
  • The cast of Futurama become characters in a Dungeons and Dragons game world in the direct-to-DVD movie Bender's Game. (Since it was a world imagined by Bender, it was sort of a video game too.)
  • In the Kim Possible episode Vurtu-Ron, the characters enter the MMORPG "Everlot," an Ever Quest parody.

Web Comics

More examples at Defictionalization.

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