VIRTUAL MERGE™ – “I’m in the real world, and I’m bringing the internet with me.”™

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he ’70s and ’80s introduced us to tabletop gaming. Games like Dungeons and Dragons took the outcast communities by storm. Never before had gaming communities been given the opportunity to have the creative outlet that was introduced with gaming that was separated from technology. As this lifestyle aged, the original fans started taking jobs as the writers and developers of modern role playing and fantasy driven games.

Now-a-days, non-electronic gaming has become mainstream with shows such as ‘Community’ and ‘The Big Bang Theory’ exhibiting analog games and breeding acceptance beyond the niche communities that embraced it in the first place. Appealing qualities of an analog style of gaming are the presence of face-to-face involvement as the consumer plays through an offline fantasy world and affordability due to an absence digital and technological immersion.

People want to break away from their computers screens, but they don’t want to their lose a sense of community or imagination that they receive with digital gaming. Analog gaming provides consumers the ability to stay connected to their communities, explore adventure through their imaginations and even solve puzzles while strategizing how to complete the game. Sometimes it can even immerse real life within the fantasy world. In Poland, Harry Potter fans are given an opportunity to take part in live action role play, a.k.a. LARPing, at the College of Wizardry, where they can take part in adventures from their favorite books.

It’s not just about completely living in a fantasy world. Bars and restaurants are realizing that consumers want to get out of the house and away from typical gaming environments. Venues are sporting medieval scenery for gamers to be immersed in while they participate in table top games. Events like Beer and Board Games are creating communities of peers to game with – without the need of technology.

Despite its general absence in analog gaming, technology can be used as a catalyst to expand tabletop adventure campaigns. The new Pathfinder series has recently gained popularity by adding depth to the fantasy series with the implementation of digital video and sound effects to fully immerse players into the world they enjoy. Phone apps are also exploring additive functions – one example being an app that creates a sort of drinking game for players as they progress through the story, reminding them to take a drink, breaking them away from the fantasy world – even if it’s just for a moment.



Electronic and digital everything is becoming part of our everyday lives and completely unavoidable. We’re going to see people using digital apps and surfaces to bring fuel to the analog fire, and even using virtual reality as an aid with our analog actions to bring the fantasy worlds alive. Analog and digital will combine to create a new hybridization of entertainment. It enables us to be beer connoisseurs, actors, and to play in worlds that exist outside of our imaginations.

But the future doesn’t always mean advancements in technology; sometimes it’s an evolution of the community. Within this community we can still immerse ourselves within fantasy adventures to escape reality, but no longer do we have to do this alone. We can do it with our friends, family and new peers using this hybridization between analog and digital to fully immerse ourselves in our imaginations. But then the question arises: In this new world, will we be able to tell our real lives apart from our fantasies?

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