I've recently started reading books that fall under a genre they are calling "LitRPG", and I noticed a lot of similarities to things like .hack and Sword Art Online. I remembered a lot of debate about which came first between those two, then I remembered Captain N: The Game Master. Granted it wasn't an MMO setting, but it was video game world.

So my question is, what is the first use of the "being stuck in a video game" trope as a story?


I'd like to state I would like to exclude the D&D cartoon, as that wasn't a video game. TRON might be close, as it is a "digital world", but in neither movie was he truly "stuck" in the game, as he could leave without consequence.

  • For this question, are you looking only for stories that involve a literal interpretation (e.g. real world characters grab a controller and get sucked in to a game) or would you allow a story where a real-world character interacts with any sort of game-mechanic (a portal, pipe, video-game-looking door, etc) and subsequently enters the game world?
    – phyrfox
    Oct 20 '18 at 5:04
  • 4
    Where did you get the idea that the main character in Tron (1982) was free to leave the simulation? The whole plot was driven by his quest to escape....
    – Spencer
    Oct 20 '18 at 14:03
  • I wonder if Larry Niven and Steven Barnes' 1981 Dream Park might fit the bill. Although there's no magical VR translation, characters do get stuck in a live-action RPG in a purpose-built theme park where things went wrong in a manner analogous to 1973's Westworld.
    – Spencer
    Oct 20 '18 at 14:13
  • @Spencer - They weren't stuck in the LARP - they weren't extracted at the first sign of a problem, but I don't recall the tech going crazy enough that the game couldn't be stopped. However, I admit to having read The Barsoom Project quite recently, and I may be blocking something due to that.
    – RDFozz
    Oct 20 '18 at 23:39
  • I second Spencer’s question about TRON. The whole plot is that the MCP sees Flynn poking around and wants to do away with him, so he does the only thing he can do in the real world: uses the laser to digitize Flynn and trap him inside the system where he can be killed (aka “derezzed”). To quote the MCP: “Train him for the games, let him hope for a while, then blow him away.” The only way Flynn can get out is to take a specially encoded disc inside the MCP’s core to ride the communication beam out, which turns out to be very difficult. Oct 21 '18 at 2:19

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