Escape from Reality – Escapism in Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality gives us access to a completely new world. We can travel to other worlds, learn and even interact with other users. But as with all technological trends and innovations, there is always a good and a bad side to technology. While VR offers great opportunities for science, education and entertainment, it can also influence the psyche. One media psychological theory that is often considered here is so-called escapism.

Escapism – Escape from the Real World

Escapism in psychology is the withdrawal from the real world into an illusory reality. In the past, people withdrew into the imaginary world of TV, regarded the actors as their friends or dreamt of realizing their own dreams in an imaginary world. According to media psychology, the medium is chosen as an escape from everyday life and serves to satisfy affective and cognitive needs.

At the centre of the thesis, however, is the motivation of the user. People who withdraw from reality are often dissatisfied with their everyday lives. They find joy in a world created by them, which they can control themselves – even if it is only in their head. With the increasing development of technologies, however, their own imagination has increasingly been supplemented by technological possibilities.


Virtual reality as a new home

The relevance of the escapism theory in today’s time already became clear some years ago, when more and more people identified themselves with the computer game SecondLife. Some players did not leave the house for days, did not pursue their profession anymore, but concentrated completely on their dream career, their dream house and their dream personality in the game. While the interaction and immersion in this game was still very low, Virtual Reality enables a whole new level of escapism.

Especially because of the ever cheaper VR headsets, more and more people are able to access the virtual worlds. There they can get lost in a realistic adventure and live out their dreams. This kind of escapism is particularly effective because the user knows that nothing can happen to him and he can get out if something doesn’t work out as he imagines it. He has no responsibility or liability for consequences, but has full control over his virtual world.

Escapism means escapism from reality, meaning escape from and from the reality one cannot cope with. If the problems of everyday life seem to literally overwhelm you, there is hardly anything more beautiful than to lose yourself for a certain time in the world of a book, film or computer game. However, the term escapism is mostly used in negative contexts. The reason for this is that you want to run away from your problems, you want to flee. You don’t face your problems and therefore you can’t find solutions.


A solution approach

In order to counter this phenomenon and protect users, it is up to the manufacturers of headsets and games to control excessive consumption. They have to store pauses in the system, which force the user to emerge from the virtual world and deal with the real world.

This type of user protection becomes particularly relevant when Social VR, as currently being developed by Facebook, becomes part of everyday life and interaction with other users becomes possible. Companies as well as users must therefore handle the technology responsibly.

However, the possibilities of VR must not be demonized. As with all things in life, you have to weigh things up and make decisions. There is no black and white, technologies all have their shades of grey and these need to be explored and adapted to individual needs, always with a view to one’s own well-being and the social environment.


Alexander Pinker
Alexander Pinker
Alexander Pinker is an innovation profiler, future strategist and media expert who helps companies understand the opportunities behind technologies such as artificial intelligence for the next five to ten years. He is the founder of the consulting firm "Alexander Pinker - Innovation Profiling", the innovation marketing agency "innovate! communication" and the news platform "Medialist Innovation". He is also the author of three books and a lecturer at the Technical University of Würzburg-Schweinfurt.

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