Our Virtual Reality

Live from Mark's (in-game) yard.

Live from Mark's (in-game) yard. Nintendo/Mark Riechers (TTBOOK)

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Original Air Date: 
May 16, 2020

Not everyone has a nice, big yard to stretch out in while sheltering in place from COVID-19. But maybe you don't need one. People are using virtual spaces to live out the real experiences they miss — like coffee shops, road trips, even building your own house on a deserted island, or Walden Pond. In a world where we're mostly confined to our homes and Zoom screens, does the line between virtual and real-life space mean much anymore?

Mark and Anne in front of Mark's home in "Animal Crossing"
Video

Mark just built a new house. In fact, he built a whole town. And it's the one place we can actually visit, because it’s inside a game. He’s been taking refuge from the grim reality of a global pandemic...in Animal Crossing.

Length: 
8:35
Mark on own personal "Walden Pond" in Animal Crossing
Video

Game developer Tracy Fullerton tells us why Henry David Thoreau would play her new game. It’s called “Walden.”

Length: 
8:46
Screenshot from "Desert Bus" playthrough by Phrasz013.
Sonic Sidebar

A simulated eight-hour bus drive earns you one point. Why would anyone want to play a game like that?

Length: 
3:04
Mark playing a game in his basement.
Audio

After suffering a terrible concussion, game designer Jane McGonigal created a game to help her feel better. In the years since, it's helped nearly half a million other people overcome depression, anxiety and other mood disorders.

Length: 
12:42
The many realities
Video

How do you know what’s real? Start with your senses — if you can see, touch, hear or taste something, it’s real — right? Not necessarily, according to cognitive scientist Donald Hoffman and neurologist Suzanne O’Sullivan.

Length: 
18:13
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Last modified: 
May 15, 2020