Do Video Games Make You Want to Try Things in Real Life?

So I’ve been playing a lot of Grand Theft Auto V lately. One of my favorite things about the game is that you’re able not only to drive like a maniac and survive (most of the time), but also to fly airplanes and helicopters. I used to want to take flying lessons and daydreamed about having a private plane someday. That lasted about two weeks. My desire to take motorcycle lessons lasted more like a year, but I haven’t done that yet either…


On Twitter this week, Sam Leung of the awesome blog Cheeese Toastie and Video Games mentioned that she wanted to fly planes in real life after playing so much GTA V. It got me thinking about video games as escapism, because I love games that let me do things in-game that I can’t do in real life.

I used to think that about creative writing as well — if I can’t be a professional athlete, a singer, a world traveler, even a criminal (not that I’d want to be), I can write like I am one and live vicariously through my own stories. Video games act similarly, and I fell in love with them largely for that added level of immersion that comes from being able to “enter” a game world and navigate it. I can see it, hear it, interact with it. And through role-playing games in particular, I can be anyone I want to be… for pretend.

Virtual reality is going to make this even more impressive someday soon. There’s a danger for some that living a “second life” in a video game can feel more real or become more important than real life. However, it seems to me that for the majority of gamers, the main way video games seep into real life is when they inspire extra daydreaming.

There are some games where daydreaming is all you can do — such as in fantasy games where you have powers. Sadly, there’s just no way to recreate that in real life, so throwing fireballs and mixing love potions are adventures saved only for gaming time; they don’t carry over into the real world at all. But with games set in the real world, without anything magical or futuristic, it can be pretty tempting to do some of the in-game actions in real life. In fact, I’ve even been largely inspired by fantasy games to pick up archery in real life.

Playing GTA V, I’m able to fly planes and ride motorcycles just like I once wanted to in my spare time. For some gamers like Sam, it sounds like doing those things in-game makes them long to do them IRL as well. But for me, trying out some of the more extreme things in a fictional world is often enough. Sure, there are some things I plan to do in the real world, and virtual reality can only take you so far… but if there’s something I can’t do IRL — like carry out my two-week fantasy of flying planes — being able to enact it in video games is the perfect answer.

— Ashley


5 thoughts on “Do Video Games Make You Want to Try Things in Real Life?”

  1. I’ve always wanted to go to space, like since I can remember. However, being a real life astronaut was always a definite no, I’d never pass the health checks. I also thought about being in the police/army, again health checks would have said no. I can do all of the above things in the video game world. I love Mass Effect, visiting different planets and so forth, it fills a gap that I’ve always had.
    As for the wanting to do stuff in real life because of gaming, I’ve been looking at airsoft tournaments. I think I’d really enjoy that for the same reason I love FreddieW’s videos on YouTube. Bringing all the enjoyment of gaming into real life.

    1. Ooh that sounds fun. And that is so true about Mass Effect! I totally agree that one of the best things about the series (and about a lot of sci-fi) is getting to “travel” to all these different planets… even if they are fictional. =)

  2. I can relate to your archery sentiments. Long ago, my parents used to have an archery set, and we learned how to aim and shoot and all that. It was loads of fun but never something that I was able to pursue as a sport. To this day, I love having the chance to hone my aging archery skills in any game that it’s available.

    I’m really bad at the flying portions of GTA, but decent enough at driving that it makes me wish I *really* knew how to drive, like in race cars and such. However, I can’t play GTA and then go for a drive because I have to give myself some time to get out of the “it’s okay to hit pedestrians” mindset! 😛

    1. Hahaha yes, it can be very dangerous to drive in real life after playing GTA! That is awesome you got to learn archery for a bit when you were a kid. I’m not a big sports person and not terribly athletic, so archery is a great option for me… but I might not have gotten into it had video games not inspired me first! I love shopping for bows in fantasy games…

  3. …Yep. I have to say nuh-uh. I’ve never played a video game that made me want to try it out in real life. Mostly because it requires a ton of effort…and I’d like to waste my efforts on something I have to do 😀

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