Why Unreality is Called Unreality

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I’ve always prided myself on the name of this site. I think it’s catchy, cool and fits with what we cover here on a day to day basis. When Nattyb first said he wanted to start a site with me, I had one idea, and one idea only for the name: “Unreality.” We didn’t even discuss another possibility.

But I’ve never really gone into the roots of the name all these years, and it does have roots. Back in junior high and high school, my AIM screen name was TheUnreal418. It was about the time I really started to get into movies, TV shows and video games. Sure, every kid grows up watching Sesame Street and Power Rangers and such, but you don’t really start to appreciate media as something other than just loud noises and flashing colors until you get a bit older. Eventually it can really start to mean something to you.

And it meant something to me, it really did. Once I started watching films and shows and played games that meant something, it was easy to get lost in those worlds. It was even easier when real life wasn’t so great.

To complain much about my childhood or adolescence would be something out of first world problems to be sure, as I had amazing parents and subsequently a great upbringing. But like any 11-17 year old, I struggled with many issues that come with adolescence, including friendships (or lack thereof), bullying, depression, the race for popularity, etc.

I had an internal philosophy during these troubled times, “The Unreal Life is Better.” That is, the life I could imagine living when I was fully engaged a favorite movie or show, or lost playing a favorite game. “Unreality” was a world I lived in, and often times, it was better than the one labeled “real life.”

My favorite episode of Batman Beyond when I was younger was called “Hooked Up.” In it, the villain, Spellbinder, got teens addicted to virtual reality machines. In them, they could be anyone they wanted, from a rock star or super soldier to a slightly more accomplished version of themselves in their own life. They became hopelessly addicted to this other life, one that was leagues better than their own. “I would do that,” I thought to myself.

As gaming evolves, I can see us arriving there someday. After all, why live life when you can have one that’s so much better online? It’s already happening as people live entire lives inside World of Warcraft or The Sims, ones they find more worthwhile than their own. If I’m a level 80 Paladin, it doesn’t matter I have a crappy job in my other life. If I have enough Sim friends, it doesn’t matter I don’t have real ones. For them, the Unreal Life is better.

Eventually, I grew up. I stopped worrying about how cool or popular I was, and managed to wrangle a great assortment of friends (and a few girlfriends as well). My acne clearing up and a foot tall growth spurt certainly helped things along. For those following my actual life story hinted at in these web pages, I’m currently engaged to a fantastic girl and doing what I love for a living. Life couldn’t be better.

But still, there’s always that draw of Unreality for me. Moments when I want to get lost in those fictional worlds, and do. It was a coping mechanism when I was younger, and it can still be one today at times. Some people might get high or smashed when they’re sad or lonely. Rather, I’ll sit down and watch nine episodes of Doctor Who, tearing up at the end of practically every one.

There’s something in my eye, I swear.

With my friends scattered across the country, and a recent move to a new place where I know no one, the lure of Unreality calls again. I’ve sunk countless hours in Diablo 3 and Guild Wars 2. I’ll watch Happy Endings, an incredibly funny show, and find myself sad at the end wishing I could refashion a close group of friends like that once again.

In truth, Unreality, as the name of the site, does reflect all the fun things that are associated with all forms of escapist media, from Pokemon cosplay to Nic Cage photoshops. The primary purpose of entertainment of course is just that, entertainment. The overwhelming majority of the time, I’m watching shows and movies and playing games because I like them, not because I’m self medicating. There’s nothing like sitting down in a theater, bristling with anticipation as The Dark Knight Rises starts to play, or when you turn on your Xbox and see the snow capped mountains of Skyrim for the first time. I do what I do because of moments like that. Of all the big things I look forward to in life, marriage, a family and so on, I still get excited thinking about the great movies I have yet to see or the great games I have yet to play. It energizes me.

Escapism can be good when moderated, bad when abused, like almost anything else. I know I’m not alone in my history with Unreality, even if others haven’t called it that, but it’s rarely talked about openly. Perhaps this was something of an overshare, but it’s nice every so often for you to get a glimpse at who I am and where I’ve been. Fortunately for me, I’m now at a point where I love both Reality and Unreality, and have found a balance for the two to peacefully coexist. It’s not that simple for others, where the latter isn’t their full time job.

If you’ve ever had an experience similar to my own regarding this, I’d love to hear it in the comments. Or if you think I’m just crazy, I suppose that’s a fair assessment as well.

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  1. I’ve always told my wife that there’s this guy online who I swear is just me in a different part of the World. It seems like I can relate to about 99% of the posts you do here on this site. I love coming here on down times at work and reading through your articles. You have no idea how many movies and games I’ve tried based on your opinions and have liked them just as much as you said I would. This, too, is turning into a bit of an “overshare”, but that’s alright, too. This was another great read!

  2. Have you read “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline? At first glance it seems like just another SF novel, but once you get into it you find that it’s much more. It deals with exactly what you talk about in your article: escapism. I’m probably late to the party as every one and their mother should have burned through this book by now but check it out. A book about a fully immersive MMO created by a crazy guy who loves everything 80s and all the nostalgia that comes with it. Throw in a poverty stricken kid who’s only escape is the MMO and add a hunt for one of the greatest easter eggs ever hidden with a sprinkle of some corporate villainy and you get “Ready Player One”. Obviously I can’t do it enough justice, but give it a look if you haven’t already.

    P.S. Really enjoyed this article. Let’s people know that it’s not a just a job for you, but something that you’re actually passionate about. Thanks

  3. This underlying ethos is why I am drawn here every day. I don’t know that I’d have ever put my finger on it without you sharing. But once you posted it my immediate thought was “That, that right there” I even pointed repeatedly at the screen. (then my wife looked at me funny and I pretended I was stretching)

    Sure I can go read about all of this stuff so many places. Hell, look at the Unreal Sites list. But I always come here first.

    I grew up watching Tom Baker, Star Trek, and Star Wars with my dad.

    My own convoluted and difficult school days were… well probably first world problems as well. During that mess I discovered RPGs like Rifts, DnD, TMNT.

    Then I found MUDdog and King’s Quest.

    Fast forward and I am splitting all of my free time between Diablo 2, Dark Age of Camelot (screw you EA) and Stargate SG1. Sometimes, literally all at once.

    FF and I am rocking my cranky infant daughter to sleep at 2am while we watch reruns of SG1 and TNG

    FF and my toddler daughter has her own toons on DAoC. She likes to visit Jordheim and ask random people to dance.

    FF and my 7 year old daughter turns to me at the end of Star Wars: A New Hope and says “they’re brother and sister aren’t they”

    Fast forward to today and here I am looking at a calendar that marks my children’s birthdays, lots of release dates for my favorite games, and has a note on the side that lists a seed and village coordinates for our family Minecraft server.

    So, much like you Paul, what began as an escape ends up being an enhancement. Unreality gets mixed up with the Reality and you find yourself teaching your children how to cross the street and why a stealth/bow build in Skyrim can be so overpowered.


  4. Great article Paul. This kind of thing is what makes the site stand out and makes it feel more like a community. Some days it’s nice to know that “We are Spartacus” and that no one’s alone in their experiences.

  5. That was a beautifully written article, man. It’s nice to know that I’m not the only one who has felt that way about the stuff i’m interested in, which just so happens to be the majority of what is published on this website.

  6. Nice Post. I always wondered about the name and it makes total sense. Just like everyone who comes to this site, I totally agree with the unreality. As a teen who wasn’t that popular I was invested in video games. Then as I got older, they became a way for me to meet friends. I have 4 great friends that I met through my girlfriend at the time (now my wife), and almost every night we would get together after work and play Halo 2 until 5 in the morning.
    Then fast forward to a few years ago, I played games more for social reasons than escapism, but 4 years ago next month my mom died unexpectedly (like she was in the hospital for a routine check and then right before she left the hospital), I bought Lost Odyssey cause I needed something to make my brain stop. I fully escaped life for probably a week or so. My wife knew I needed a break and was ok with it.
    Now I have a two year old daughter and I’m not getting into entertainment as much as I used to, but I know that when I need it, it is always there to allow me, and others to escape the trials of life and let go for hours on end.
    Great site and thanks for sharing.

  7. Excellent article. I grew up watching Universal monster movies, kaiju and kung fu flicks, playing Nintendo, watching cartoons and Star Wars, reading sci-fi stories, the whole shebang, and I was always relatively happy when I was doing so. Around junior high I realized that other kids no longer openly liked these things and were in fact hostile towards the kid who did (me) and I tried to fit in. Bad idea. Years later I was seriously contemplating suicide having utterly failed at integrating myself with the general high school douchebag population and having a shitty home life to boot. Eventually, I got a job so I now had money to buy the things I couldn’t really get my hands on any more and I reconnected with all of the things I’d loved and thew myself into music, film, and the culture I was supposed to have outgrown. In other words: I was myself again.

    From there everything just fell into place. No more loneliness, no more laying in bed contemplating my broken home; I had stuff to do. AWESOME stuff; so I could focus on things in my life I loved instead of the things that sucked. It’s funny how something a seemingly unnecessary as fiction can entirely change your paradigm focus that way, but that’s the true power of Unreality. Again, great article, Tassi.

  8. great article, Paul. It’s not the first time I’ve thought it but after reading this I can’t help but think how alike you and I (and from the comments, most of your readers) are

  9. I’ve been following this site for about 5 to 6 years, I believe, and I love reading everything that this site has to offer. It’s obvious that’s what keeps me here. Its like a good friend who always has a good topic to talk about everyday.

    Its also because I’m going through a stage in my life where good friends are hard to come by and the only ones that stay consistent are online sites like this. Its comforting to know that even though I didn’t get to enjoy Expendables 2 with a friend at the theater I could still visit Unrealitymag to hear what they thought about that movie.

    Well, God bless and keep up the great work!

  10. Since I was first told about your site, I’m hooked up.
    It’s sort of funny to have these individuals around the world who share such similar experiences. It throws a different light on the “we are legion”. We are actually. The success of this site went way further that the fringe of people “like you – like me” because of the quality of its posts and the regularity of its updates (by the way, I do love the weekend breaks you take because it makes me craving on monday morning for the fun stuff you will have picked).
    Your site is amazing, and by the way you became my primary source of movie reviews as I know that if you liked it: my money will be well spent and if you didn’t well what the hell it’s a sci fi movie anyway there might be that one scene that is cool 🙂

  11. Love the article, Paul.

    I’ve only known about the site for a couple of years, but I keep coming back because you always seem to put a personal touch in your writing that other sites lack.

    It helps that our interests are really similar. I couldn’t begin to list the amount of things you’ve turned me onto in my time spent browsing your articles, but I thank you for every single one of them.

    You’re a cool guy and I wish you the best.

  12. I loved this article. You can tell by reading the replies so far that there are a lot of us that have similar stories/beliefs/interests and it’s why this site resonates with so many of us. Thanks for what you do, I’m confounded by how you come up with so much fantastic content and I’m always looking forward to the next article.

  13. Great, heartfelt article, Paul. You provide us with so much interesting content and you’re quite an inspiration as a human being. Keep up the great work on the site and in life. You are the man, Sir. And I mean that with the truest respect that I can convey through a keyboard.

    On a side note: When I went to see the Dark Knight Rises I stared at the screen in awe with a big goofy child-like smile on my face. And when he drove off in the flying “Bat” after the police chase I wanted to stand up and yell out, “I’m going to Toys R Us after this and buying that!”

    We all need a little escape into our favorite “unrealities.”

  14. This article is amazing. I love this blog because it feels intimate and personal. I can almost imagine the person who is writing behind the computer since many of the articles seem to reveal personal tidbits of each author’s personality and passions when it comes to media. I mean the authors actually comment in the comments section. Other blogs just seems to shell out articles and stamp names on it, so I end up not caring for their opinions.

    Anyways, I always love movies, books, and comics for a bit of escapism, but they also remind me that I am not the only one experiencing my emotions, hopes, and dreams. I mean, it’s always been hard for me to open up to other people so popping in a movie or something helps me realize that there are people out there who can truly relate to me. I am not only talking about the fictional characters within these make-believe worlds but, more importantly, about those who imagined these worlds and others who watched it. I end up relating as a normal person to the fictional character, the creator behind the character, and someone else who loves the character too. After all, I know for sure that I am not the only weirdo for obsessing over a weird comic book or whatever if someone else is actually responsible for creating it in the first place or when another person is excitedly jumping around for it.

    Alright I ended up rambling and also disclosing too much information.

    @ Harry Mandangus. I have always wanted to read Ready Player One. I tried looking for it at my local Barnes & Nobel but they didn’t have it so I guess I have to buy it on amazon.

  15. I read your website on a daily basis and I guess that one of the things I most enjoy about it is that is not that professional. By that I mean that Unreality is not just a pop culture news website, is a place with great subjective look. Articles such as this one are what make Unreality awesome. Keep the good work!

  16. Beautiful piece, Paul. I remember trolling the internet for articles on the degeneration of Heroes and finding “The Top Ten Heroes Characters I Want to See Dead.” I had yet to find an article I agreed with more. That site led me here to Unreality and I spent hours reading older posts. (This site covers movies, tv AND video games?! Score.) I became a regular lurker, then a commenter, then luckily enough, a contributor. It’s so great to get a glimpse into your inner thoughts on the core sensibility of the site. Not an overshare at all.

    It’s also awesome to get a glimpse into the inner thoughts of Unreality’s readers. Great comments, you guys. We really are all cut from the same cloth, it seems.

  17. I’ve always felt that “reality” is often clarified and enhanced with regular doses of “unreality.” Fiction, it seems, enables me to stay on course by breaking the (often) complex mess that is real life into smaller parts that can actually be understood — more or less — on their own.

    Your site, to me, has always been a celebration of fiction. Sometimes an examination or criticism, too, but there’s a genuine love for the material, just for existing, present here every day. Nothing in this article surprises me, but that’s a good thing.

    I also like that this site embraces its subjectivity (like Allan mentioned up there) instead of pretending to have some sort of universal take on the material. A little humility goes a long way, and makes it much easier to come and “hang out” here for me.

  18. Unreality (as a concept) has always had a strong attraction for me. growing up as a quiet, nerdy kid, it was always easier to run off to some fantasy land where i could have mutant powers or use magic or be something more powerful than the weak little kid i was. even as an adult, it was easier slipping away into an MMO, where i have always been a badass healer. it’s not hard to see the appeal of a world where you have the power to save the day, and random strangers you meet thank you and compliment you for your excellence.

    i’ve been following Unreality (the site) for two years now, and i read most of Paul’s articles over on Forbes as well. i really appreciate the reviews of all things geeky, and there’s lots of fun and amazing stuff out there on the Internet. it’s nice to have one solid place to consolidate all of that.

    also, it’s really comforting to know that there are others out there who have enjoyed the same forms of escapism as myself. and it’s really, REALLY awesome to know that all of these topics that were once too nerdy for daily life are now mainstream enough that we can find places to discuss with like-minded people.

    keep up the good work, Paul.

  19. Very well written. It’s always nice to find like-minded people out there in the world. Hell, my gf introduced me to Dr. Who, and I made her watch Beast Wars.

    You keep writing them, I’ll keep reading them.

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