Tonight's Warehouse 13 (airing at 9/8C) features the main characters getting sucked into a videogame. In honor of this, we thought we'd to take a look at the use of this plot device over the past three decades.
Note that these are movies and TV shows where characters actually get trapped inside a videogame—so no The Last Starfighter here!
Jeff Bridges jumps inside a mainframe to confront a malicious, sentient artificial intelligence. Then the mean computer system makes him play a bunch of digital games with Bruce Boxleitner in order to gain control of a series of hijacked programs. If this sounds confusing now, imagine how baffled theatergoers were upon seeing the 1982 film while totally baked and knowing nothing about computers.
Other videogame horror memes must step aside for the plot to this horror flick about a girl whose mom commits suicide. The bereaved teen immerses herself in a realistic videogame. It turns out the game was made because "Science" took some brain cells from a boy who was beaten to death. Then "Science" turned them into a videogame, somehow (probably using science).
In a move that should surprise no one except the characters in this movie, these tormented brain cells decided to make the videogame turn deadly. As if enough plot holes weren't hopped over, the game ends with the teen rescuing her friends but freeing the dead boy. Also, the dead boy has given up being tormented and confused and is just an evil jerk. Society took the message to heart, which is why we never have videogame execs jumping graveyard fences to exhume the corpses of murdered children.
X-Files, "First Person Shooter"
In a virtual-reality videogame, a female assassin has become real. Scully and Mulder must don ridiculous bodysuits and enter the game, even though there may not be an exit. If you guessed that this episode came out after 1999, then you are well studied on the decline of The X-Files. The entire episode is resolved by the programmers erasing the game, a feat that could've been accomplished without the help of any X-Files detectives.
The editorial message is clear: Videogames are unnecessarily violent and, apparently, unnecessarily boring.
Nightmare: The Bishop of Battle
Emilio Estevez plays an arcade-obsessed youth trying to reach level 13 of a popular game. In a series of scenes that were so expensive it's rumored they almost bankrupted the film, Estevez finds himself fighting the game in real life. Then he gets sucked into the game, his visage appearing inside the console's display.
It's never revealed whether this machine is just a security system to catch snotty kids who break into arcade parlors. We wouldn't put it past 1980s arcade parlors.
In this must-miss franchise sequel, a stoned teen moves from a psychadelic trip into a videogame world. Inside this game universe, it is revealed that Freddy Krueger is the one operating the controls. Which leads us to wonder, how exactly does he use a joystick with that freaky clawed hand?
A lot of the plot to this filmed can be summed up as "like Inception, but with videogames."
"Are they in the game, or not in the game?" is a question constantly raised as the two main characters struggle to stay alive and be likable. We suspect that the entire movie is a game simulation, because the nerdy game designer is a hot blonde.
This cartoon series revolves around the premise of a gamer entering the world of a videogame series. This illustrates the common danger faced in extreme gaming countries, where players become obsessed to the point of forgetting to breathe.
Sometimes we wonder if Japan is going to transform its entire culture into some form of interactive game. Then we realize that is a ridiculous idea that no country would ever try. Except North Korea.
"Are You Afraid of the Dark?" The Tale of the Pinball Wizard
Some kid plays a pinball machine that he's not supposed to. It turns out to be an evil pinball machine that sucks him in and makes him play forever. The cackling old freaky dude who owns the pinball machine won't free the kid, either, which we think is a pretty harsh punishment. Of course, that kind of moral message fit right in with preachy 1980s television, where smoking cigarettes could lead to gang violence, or whatever.
Stargate SG-1, "Avatar"
A training simulation game traps the player inside, creating more and more impossible win scenarios. This, somehow, affects the player's real physical body, which is an unintended side effect. As a result, the player must win before having a heart attack.
This actually might not be realistic enough, since modern arcade games are already heart-attack-inducing. Also, we presume that if they just shut the game off the player dies (which, frankly, someone should have fixed, beforehand).
Ben 10, "Game Over"
A freak bolt of lightning hits Ben's videogame system, which is also how Franklin discovered electricity. Ben and Gwen get sent into videogame world and must escape without letting videogame aliens escape. Although, technically they wouldn't be aliens upon escape, because the videogame was manufactured on Earth.
Fairly Oddparents, "Power Mad"
Timmy wishes for a videogame that sucks people in and can't be escaped using magic wishes. For some reason, his Fairy Godparents think this is a not-at-all-deadly idea and make his wish come true. Timmy then spends the rest of the episode desperately trying not to die in the videogame (and thus die in reality). We're still not sure exactly what lesson this episode is supposed to teach, other than older relatives can be senile and shouldn't be left in care of smaller children.
Darkwing Duck, "Whiffle While You Work"
Darkwing Duck enters a videogame tournament, but then some evil creature attacks and traps Darkwing inside the videogame. This is way up there in terms of "evil plans that weren't thought out very well." After all, the bad guy is attacking the one location where Darkwing Duck is, then trapping DD inside a videogame which DD is tournament-level skilled at. The key to being a bad guy is flexibility: when you discover that Darkwing is at the arcade you're attacking, just lock him in and go rob a bank or something.
Although this topic seems to be heavily covered, not all aspects of getting trapped inside a videogame have been explored. Like how, after a certain amount of time, you run out of memory and begin forgetting things you learned a long time ago, i.e. speaking and continence. So, there's plenty of fertile ground for new sci fi TV shows and movies to till.