Living in The Real World

Today I’m putting two states of reality against each other; the real world we live in, and the game world we imagine we live in. I’ll be comparing the relative merits of each, and then deciding which I prefer. I’ll let you decide the exact meaning of ‘real’.
Steve Dean's Blog
Giant Eagle. Image: Deviant Art

Welcome! Today I’m putting two states of reality against each other; the real world we live in, and the game world we imagine we live in. By real world, I mean this one, the one you and I and billions of other people share. If this is real or a plug-in-the-neck existence, we’ll just call it real. By game world, I mean the one your characters inhabit, whatever the genre.

Transport Links

For the most part, real-life has some good transport links, allowing travellers to reach many destinations in a relatively short time. Public and private transportation is available in a range of speeds, sizes, types and colours, mostly safe and fairly inexpensive. The only problem comes when things go wrong, and you’re delayed by the thinnest of mists or the wrong type of snow on the rails.

When it comes to game worlds, transportation is much more varied, and more interesting, although also hazardous. You can ride anything from a horse to a dragon, a hovercar to a space ship larger than a reality TV star’s ego. In game world time there are hold-ups but no one wants to sit around, so the metarules are triggered and movement becomes instantaneous

We have safe but often slow, and interesting and usually quick. I think game worlds take the point for an early lead.


In the real world, as in game worlds, the quality of health care very much depends on where you live and how much gold/credit chips/Woobawungo Clumping Nuts you have. On the whole, real-life medicine is pretty good, some recent advances really making a difference, providing you can get to a hospital and have the aforementioned wherewithal to purchase the care you need.

Game world medicine could be anything from a herbal poultice bought from a witch, and probably containing things you wouldn’t touch never mind swallow or rub on your skin to A.I. controlled nanobots that can cure anything and even rebuild a missing appendage if you can afford it.

It seems there’s some kind of cosmic link between real life and game worlds when it comes to health care, only those who can afford it can have it. I don’t think either side comes out of this one well.

Adventurers with healing skills do their bit, so I’m giving the point to game worlds.


Different people find different things entertaining. Some people like more placid pastimes, like origami, crosswords, or watching creatures humping. Some aren’t entertained unless they’re throwing themselves out of a perfectly good aeroplane or prodding something lethal with a stick. Luckily for all you real-life fans, these things are available twenty-four hours a day, if you have the stamina and plenty of cash.

In a game world, you aren’t there to have fun, you have a job to do soldier, no time for enjoying yourself. You might find some entertainment in your downtime between jobs, but that will probably mean visits to the tavern. Other entertainments found in game worlds usually consist of creatures fighting each other for money and the ever-popular horizontal entertainments.

In game worlds, we have the possibility of a wide range of entertainments but often just get lots of combat. In real life, we have the whole range of activities, and so real life pulls back a point.


Like healthcare, particularly in the western world, education is linked to wealth. (I’m talking about quality schooling, not pupil ability.) We all know there are certain universities normal mortals can’t get into unless they’re in line for the throne or have rich parents. The rest have to make do with a state education, rely on charities, or just have none at all, depending on circumstances.

In game worlds, education is probably more firmly linked to wealth, although the choice of subjects on offer is immense. You can learn how to regrow a leg, neutralise hydra poison, or turn someone into a zombie. You can be taught how to calibrate a particle vortex rail gun, disassemble a battle droid, or build a phase-locked loop force field generator. You can also buy memory stones or mind downloads to bypass the whole tedious education thing altogether.

Game worlds are awarded the point here.


People are now far more likely to live to be a ripe old age and spend their children’s inheritance than at any other time in history. Health and wealth are on a general upward curve, with scientists reckoning children born today have a chance of living to 150! (Imagine the birthday card expenses for all the children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc.)

In game worlds, characters are members of a special elite for the most part and can be healed of the most fatal symptoms, and even brought back from the dead. For the rest of the population, those who aren’t special, sudden and violent death and maiming are an everyday occurrence. (Not for the same person, obviously, unless they’re very unlucky.)

Characters have it easy compared to the hoi-polloi, so I’m going to call this one a draw.


Just to clarify, diet is what you eat, not when you’re trying to lose weight. (Saying “I’m on a diet” is meaningless and almost as bad as “that’s just an excuse!” and don’t get me started on “baby kitten”.) Anyway, the modern diet, and I’m talking about choice offered, is varied, with foods coming from all over the globe.

The game world diet is dependant on setting. Your character might have a smoothie and have everything they need for a growing body, or might be eating hacked off pieces of unicorn charred over an open fire. (I think unicorn is one of your Five A Day.) In the past, they didn’t have processed foods, and so their diet would have been better than ours, at least in times of plenty.

This is a difficult one to call, and very dependant on the game world setting. I think I’ll have to call it a draw.


In real life, housing has always been a status symbol. People with money live in houses so large they close off the rooms they don’t use. Most people manage with less but are always dreaming of moving to a better home. The majority of people have running water, heat and light, and somewhere to sleep and cook. (Not at the same time, that would be dangerous.)

In game worlds, most people will live in a cottage or a mansion, or maybe a pod, communal habitat or a tiny compartment in a space ship. But they could also live in a treehouse in a giant sentient tree, the hollowed-out ribcage of some gargantuan beast or a gourd floating on the mana stream.

For sheer variety and freedom, I think game worlds take the point here.

It’s fairly obvious game worlds are far better than real life. Unless you have a private income and hang around with the country’s top people, life in reality just can’t compete with the many game worlds available to us normal people.


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