"Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts... A graphical representation of data abstracted from the banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the non-space of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding."
The idea of a dimension having mystical effect on our own dimension is quite old. Sometimes the dimensional gateway would be a mirror or book. A computer screen is both of these.
Cyberspace just puts a modern spin on the idea.
Rather than go Down the Rabbit Hole into a Spirit World, the character puts on some VR goggles, plugs an Ethernet cable into his skull, or gets "digitized" into data. What do they see when they go online? A pretty nifty 3D world, designed as a Viewer-Friendly Interface made up of Holographic Terminals over a background full of Matrix Raining Code superimposed over Tron Lines. Not only is everything online, you can expect "surfing" from one site/database to another to be handled with all the aesthetic aplomb of a Design Student's Orgasm and to be completely lagless.
One curious alternative idea that seems to infest many cyberspaces is travel time... The Metaverse of Snow Crash has people walking to the shops on The Internet. This could be seen as the illogical conclusion to the increasingly graphical user interface design evolution from the concise but user-unfriendly command line to drag-and-drop windows and pointers and presumably to the final stages where your avatar crumples up your virtual document and walks over to the virtual bin with it. People in the future clearly have a phenomenal amount of patience with their user interfaces. Essentially, Cyberspace is stylized into a simulation that's virtually indistinguishable from real life, and less of a recreational pastime or tool.
If there are other webizens or hackers in cyberspace (not to mention AI's and ghosts), they will either be amorphous gobs of light, be completely outlandishly dressed (or have non-human avatars) because there are no physical limitations, or appear exactly as they would in real life (even wearing the street clothes they were wearing as they logged on).
Frequently pops up in Cyberpunk and Post Cyber Punk settings. See also The Metaverse, which is when society at large uses the Internet this way. Compare Platonic Cave. Also compare Hard Light, where Cyberspace can manipulate the physical world.
Anime and Manga
- The Wired in Serial Experiments Lain. It plays fast and loose with its concept of geography, and we never really find out what the characters are using to control their avatars, though there are implications.
- Completely merging organic brains with digital technology is the central theme of Ghost in the Shell. Almost every every person who works in the government, law enforcement, management, and the technology sector can directly link his brain to a computer. At some points people voice their belief that a person can survive as a completely digital lifeform, leaving any organic body behind while still retaining their soul. And this was in 1989.
- The anime series Stand Alone Complex goes even further and implies that every person in East Asia receives such an interface in their early teens. The only exceptions seem to be young children under the age of 10. It also shows civilian chat rooms that use life-like three dimensional avatars, in addition to the very simple icons that represent a person in military and security software.
- Corrector Yui is a Magical Girl in Cyberspace
- The Digital Worlds in the Anime Digimon Adventure and Digimon Tamers were Alternate Universes created when the first computer was made, according to the Official Backstory.
- The Anime .hack//Sign (and the .hack series in general) takes place in "The World", an MMORPG with a Cyberspace interface.
- Besides the coma victims, however, none of the players are physically in the network. It's just very immersive.
- The Anime Mega Man NT Warrior had everything hooked up to a Cyberspace version of the Internet, as did the Mega Man Battle Network series it was based on.
- Masamune Shirow's Real Drive is all about this.
- Ken Akamatsu has a way of depicting the internet as an endless ocean ala his first work A.I. Love You and later work Mahou Sensei Negima. Tuna is a dos attack...
- The fictional town in Dennou Coil has a virtual reality accessible via glasses that's more or less this.
- The central plot of Summer Wars revolves around Oz, a cyberspace communications network.
- In Transformers Armada episode "Chase", Sideways attempted to steal three of the Mini-Cons by dragging them and the kids into cybserspace. This episode also gave us our first glimpse of Unicron.
- The Pokémon episode that centers around Porygon has the main trio loaded into a computer. Or it would if such an episode had been made.
- Being a sci-fi series that isn't too bothered by realism, Paperinik New Adventures has to have this, of course. Apparently, super-genius extraordinaire Everett Ducklair built an entrance to cyberspace in his basement to analyze his own programs from within. Paperinik uses it for some hands-on hacking, when necessary.
- In Arcanum, Cyberspace is a pocket dimension that exists due to the belief-fueled nature of magic. As one character explains: "people have talked about info highways, web sites, and data blocks so much, some've begun to believe they physically exist. That belief became this pocket dimension."
- The classic example, and Trope Codifier, would be the movie Tron, which was made before the Internet was in its present form. Most modern cyberspace forms owe at least something to this depiction.
- The Matrix series is probably the most popular depiction.
- Also featuring Keanu Reeves, Ice T, and a talking dolphin: Johnny Mnemonic.
- The less-classic The Lawnmower Man.
- In The Thirteenth Floor, humanity creates a computer-simulated reality so detailed that its denizens become self-aware. We then discover that our universe is itself only a computer-simulated reality run by the "next level up".
- The plot of the third Spy Kids film featured the title characters traveling inside a video game.
- Inception turns this trope on its head by using nearly every single trope related to Cyberspace that it can without any computers, because the characters are dream-hackers. You still have a dimension that can affect people's minds. There are dangerous security "systems" that can hurt people in the real world. You need a team of experts to pull of a typical hackers' Impossible Mission plot, part of which is getting to the "target system" in the first place. The environment can be "programmed" and cheated, and the setting straddles the line between Cyberpunk and Post Cyber Punk. Oh, and there's a Haunted Technology subplot too.
- The Day of Wonders in the Apocalypse film series takes place within a virtual reality program, mostly consisting of a white room with the Antichrist in it to offer whoever enters it the Mark of the Beast, with the alternative being death, usually by decapitation.
- The term "cyberspace" itself was coined by William Gibson in his 1982 short story "Burning Chrome", although it is indelibly associated with his later novel Neuromancer (quoted above). The setting in this story involves computer networks whose operating system is now a virtual reality simulation of a TRON-like "world in the computer".
- Interesting in that you don't "walk" through Gibson's cyberspace... you move across a grid more or less at will, assuming you know where you want to go. There is no slow walk or fly if you don't want to admire the view.
- David Wingrove's Chung Kuo has the Shell, an entertainment system in its early stages.
- Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash is another notable example of the "cyberspace qua operating system" network and is the trope namer for The Metaverse.
- A particularly bad offender with respect to UI inconvenience... walking between sites in the metaverse takes time, and in one particularly unpleasant example a giant animated, unskippable intro flight sequence was required to visit a particular site.
- It also notes how inconvenient the general interface is; Hiro works in Flatspace (a plain 2D GUI like the one that you are probably using right now) when he gets serious.
- Tad Williams' Otherland books successfully combine Sci-Fi and Fantasy tropes by being set Twenty Minutes Into the Future, and creating Fantasy environments within the bounds of cyberspace. It's worth mentioning that travel time is normally nearly instantaneous, but specific virtual environments can be configured to simulate realistic movement, and this is considered something of a cachet of the eccentric and well-off.
- Alexander Besher's Rim trilogy starts with an earthquake which traps thousands of people's consciousnesses in the virtual worlds run by the Satori Corporation. Later in the trilogy, avatars gain sentience.
- Sergey Lukyanenko's Labyrinth of Reflections series revolves around "the Deep", a Cyberspace that allows full immersion through a series of hypnotic images that each user is subjected to before going online. The images put the user in a sort of trance where their brain "fixes" the imperfect virtual reality of the Deep by perceiving it as a photo-realistic space, allowing for full immersion. Normal People can't leave the trance on their own but some (aptly dubbed "Divers") can and their primary job is finding people who are stuck in Cyberspace and bail them out before they die of dehydration in Real Life.
- Summa Technologiae by Lem in Chapter 6 ("Phantomology") considered prospective uses of reality that can be perceived as fully real by sapient creatures, but built upon laws different from observable Universe, in particular for advancement of fully interactive forms of art, as well as equivalents of ritual mysteries (as a form of participatory art), which after all weren't always separate from entertainment. With more extreme forms that ought to cause ethical debates, like equivalent of recreational drugs (near-unlimited possibilities of abuse, especially if pleasure centres are interfaced), satisfying desires that are necessarily discouraged in civilized society, and so on. As well as possible uses that have nothing to do with entertainment. And possible pitfalls in case it's really indistinguishable from reality, in both directions — "I killed that guy, yes, but thought I was in a game!" and "I did this now! Wait, damn, it's just in a game". As well as limitations, both of content (obvious impossibility to meaningfully convert classic "static" art into interactive forms), and mind (you can't really "be" a crocodile with a human brain, you can't fully roleplay Napoleon if you don't even speak French, nor a poet if you can't rhyme, and if the standards are lowered… you'll see it).
- The show Andromeda, gives you brightly-lighted tubes, electronic sounds, all sorts of crap zooming around, and a Godzilla-sized avatar.
- Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad (based on a show called Gridman by Tsuburaya Productions) centered around this.
- The Doctor Who story The Deadly Assassin, set on the Doctor's home planet, Gallifrey, had the Doctor venturing into a cyber dreamscape called the Matrix.
- The Matrix of "The Deadly Assassin" is unique in that it's not meant for a living person to go into AT ALL. It's basically a library of dead Time Lords' neural impulses, which are used to forecast future events and figure out how to deal with them. It only serves the "alternate dimension" function because the Master has tampered with it big-time.
- VR Troopers featured virtual reality as an Alternate Universe, so things created in VR (such as Mecha-Mooks, supervillain forms, and a Monster of the Week for every occasion) could be brought into reality. "Virtual Reality" tends to resemble the BBC Quarry in most episodes.
- Fat Guy Stuck in Internet portrays cyberspace as the other dimension form of this trope.
- Although we never see it from his perspective, Moloch in Buffy the Vampire Slayer deliberately mixes cyberspace with this trope's pre-digital roots. A demon imprisoned in the pages of a cursed book, Moloch is accidentally transferred into cyberspace when the book's pages are scanned. Though he's technically still not free, the demon finds being "trapped" in the Internet to be far more empowering.
- Ghost Whisperer unexpectedly brought Melinda into cyberspace in the episode "Ghost in the Machine", in the context of the fictional social Network/MMORPG/sandbox Virtual Life. You see, there was a ghost who was in the game itself for complicated reasons... and she can "enter" the game, too, which of course is never going to be touched on again... and, um... Jennifer Love Hewitt in a Stripperiffic avatar outfit!
- The Warehouse 13 episode Don't Hate The Player involves a stereotypical rescue mission into an Artefact-enhanced VR computer game. Pete takes the opportunity to be a gladiator, Leena gets enhanced with an impressive pair of... wings, and Claudia is horrified to discover that her image has been used for an insipid princess. Oh, and the VR sequences are rotoscoped.
- Shadowrun has the Matrix, which plays this to its conclusion as nerds obviously would. Systems can use the default Tron-inspired iconography, but can be programmed to be anything; libraries with books for files and librarians for security to overgrown jungle ruins with treasures for files and angry natives for security. Deckers in turn can be anything from underage wizards with wands and glasses to BFG-toting commandos. Which leads to the awesome possibilities of Rambo clones getting their asses kicked by librarians or teenage wizards disabling angry natives with butterscotch syrup.
- Server Crash, a 4chan-made pen and paper game, is about all of humanity being trapped in cyberspace forever.
- Genius: The Transgression has The Grid, a strange realm made from people's perception of the Internet as this trope.
- Similarly, Mage: The Ascension had the Digital Web, a spiritual reflection of cyberspace heavily patronized by the Virtual Adepts.
- Werewolf: The Apocalypse has the Cyberrealm, which is pretty much the same as the Digital Web except the latter is exclusive to Mages, whereas Cyberrealm is a playground for Glass Walkers.
- Cyber Hero by Hero Games. Travel and combat in cyberspace used almost the same game mechanics as in the real world.
- Cyberspace by Iron Crown Enterprises (I.C.E.).
- R. Talsorian Games' Cyberpunk 2020.
- In Alternity, the Internet, radio, TV, the telephone networks, etc., have all been replaced by a single network known as "The Grid". While most people just connect with PDAs, "Grid Pilots" link their brain to it and walk around inside websites set up as 3D worlds.
- Narth 2000, a hybrid Steampunk-High Fantasy GURPS setting documented online, includes an extradimensional realm on the border between Astral space and the Dream Realms called "Cerebrospace", which is for all practical purposes a completely magical version of Cyberpsace.
- Rez (pictured), an on-rails shooter/rhythm action game for the Dreamcast, PlayStation 2 and the Xbox 360 based entirely around the process of of hacking into a Master Computer. Very much an example of Hollywood Hacking via Extreme Graphical Representation - the obligatory vector graphics are present and correct.
- The levels in Shadow the Hedgehog that are set in the Internet and the computer network in Eggman's base.
- The Techno Base Zone in Sonic Advance 2, and its equivalent Cyber Track Zone in Sonic Advance 3 also fit this. Though the former is Tron-ish, while the latter feels more like the physical insides of a giant computer.
- Mega Man X 4 had Cyber Peacock's level set in cyber space, X5 had the "Zero Space" final levels and the Trope Namer Zero series had cyberspace as the parallel world where Cyber Elves and reploid souls live, which is essentially the source code of reality, such that Cyber Elves do their magic by hacking cyberspace.
- The Mega Man Battle Network Series however takes this trope and runs with it, as it is an alternate telling of Mega Man where the net is the height of technology, not robotics.
- Sheep Man's stage in Mega Man 10 resembles some form of cyberspace: the walls and floor contain green dancing ones and zeroes on a black background, and one recurring enemy is a *mouse cursor* that "draws" little blue panels into existence, which then fly at you!
- Galaxy Man's level in Rockman 6: Unique Harassment is called Cyber End World. This title even fits with the use of Sheep Man's tileset in the first half and the Shadow Man projectors in the second half.
- System Shock frequently requires the player to log into a cyberspace representation of the Citadel Station network in order to retrieve passwords and disable door locks.
- Ansem the Wise from Kingdom Hearts II was obsessed with Cyberspace, as many of his inventions seen in game revolve around it.
- Roxas is trapped in a digital copy of Twilight Town where he can live as a normal teenager. He and everyone else enter the data-world physically though, not mentally, and apparently everything in that world can be brought into the real world, solid and everything. As the journal says that Ansem used ENCOM technology to build the virtual Twilight Town, and the movie Tron used a laser scanner to physically teleport Flynn in and out of cyberspace, this does make sense.
- Later, Sora enters a copy of the virtual world from TRON (the only case in the series where a Disney world is explicitly stated to be an alternate universe from that of the movie), which functions in a similar manner as the movie. However, like in the Data Twilight Town, items made in the computer world can be removed. The MCP even manages to use Hollow Bastion's Heartless Factory to materialize The Heartless from Cyberspace.
- In Final Mix+, Sora can visit the Cavern of Remembrance, where he can fight data simulations of the members of Organization XIII. Kingdom Hearts coded takes place in Cyberspace and stars a digital copy of Sora.
- In the Sly Cooper series, Bentley "hacks" miscellaneous devices by playing a retro-style shoot 'em up.
- Like everything else, this trope is used in a very tongue-in-cheek way as the setting of World of Goo's fourth chapter, "Information Superhighway". All the levels are monochromatic green-and-black until you turn on the world's Graphical Processing Unit.
- Beneath a Steel Sky sees you revisit a Cyberspace environment as a number of different users to gain clues for the "real world" adventure.
- Happens twice T 260 G's scenario in SaGa Frontier; once during a story mission and another which is the Point of No Return
- The Virtua Fighter spinoff Virtua Quest takes place in a virtual world called "Nexus". The player character, Sei, goes galavanting around in the abandoned corners of Nexus, looking for lost data. The cast of the fourth Virtua Fighter appear as ghost data called Virtua Souls, and bestow Sei with knowledge of their fighting techniques.
- Dystopia, which is set in a Cyberpunk setting, features Cyberspace as an significant part of gameplay.
- Your Commander during the tutorial justifies the techy-ness by saying:
"Your cyberdeck implant renders the network archive in a visual form, easier for your brain to interpret."
- Pokémon: Porygon and its upgraded forms were designed to be able to enter and move freely here.
- Never a gameplay element but the Nod ending of Tiberian Dawn has Nod's Netwarriors infiltrate the GDI Ion Cannon control and destroy a major landmark of the player's choice.
- The video game Ripper makes heavy use of a VR-type Cyberspace; they even call it as such, and it's a major plot point throughout the game.
- In the mod for the original Half-Life, Minvera there is a section where you are shrunk down to a size smaller than a mouse. At one point you have to clamber around in a PC. Inside are bright lights, streams of binary that you can climb and walk over and the entire section is rather trippy.
- In the second half of Adventures of Rad Gravity's Cyberia, you go inside a supercomputer to shut it down.
- In Mass Effect 3, Shepard can end up entering the Geth consensus, in which she witnesses a first-hand account of the Geth-Quarian war.
- In Saints Row the Third, the final mission against the Deckers gang involves entering the Decker mainframe via virtual reality. Both Kinzie Kensington and Matt Miller have fun with this at your expense, with Kinzie initially making your avatar a toilet and a blow-up doll and Matt putting you through a Text Adventure and inducing Interface Screw whenever he can.
- In the interactive fiction game Frederik Pohl's Gateway (loosely based on the book) Virtual Realities are fairly common and play an important part in the story. Typically, the player will have to break the VR they're in somehow - for example, by causing it to run out of memory or doing something that confuses the simulation.
- The eponymous Electrosphere in Ace Combat 3 Electrosphere is some sort of virtual reality underlying the physical realm, which only A Is (such as Nemo) and "sublimated" humans (such as Dision and Cynthia) can enter, however.
- The Non-Adventures of Wonderella: "If I know my pseudo-science, this VR helmet will let me enter the Internet to see what's up."
- Electric Wonderland depicts a future where the Internet has become a physical world. People can change forms with Digital Avatars, and the laws of physics no longer limit occurrences and abilities.
- Girl Genius has a panel with clockwork-like clankspace when a mobile Castle node hijacks Paris systems the second time.
- In the Whateley Universe, being able to dive into cyberspace is Merry's best power. It turns out she's not the only one who can do it, though, and one of the others is trying to kill everyone...
- Very prominent in the Chaos Timeline (of course, only towards the end, since it starts in 1200).
- DC Nation used this during the "J" plot. Jericho had been trapped in there for a decade with a crazy Technopath. When Jericho tried to get help. Oracle mistook him for a hacker. Queue Joey's powers misfiring and bringing Barbara into cyberspace. And then Babs realizes that there's no interface to bother with and that she's no longer in a wheelchair, making her twice as scary as she was as either Batgirl or Oracle...Babs describes it as a cross of Tron and The Matrix.
- Quest World in Jonny Quest the Real Adventures.
- Some episodes of Freakazoid!!, including his origin story.
- An episode of The Fairly OddParents.
- Futurama has the future Internet depicted as a classic cyberspace set-up, with a huge skyscraper as Google's home page, and all the porn sites in the red light district.
- ReBoot is a variation; it has the actual computer data/programs/whatnot as characters, with the mysterious, capricious, and destructive "User" as the only sign of humans.
- In other words, it is modelled after Tron.
- Cyberchase on PBS. The entire series takes place inside a world actually named Cyberspace, where sentient computer programs act like people.
- Code Lyoko. Especially the Digital Sea in Season 4.
- In TMNT: Back to the Sewers, the turtles spent a lot of time in cyberspace searching for pieces of data to reconstruct Splinter.
- Twipsy is about a courier who delivers e-mails in the Internet. About half of the show takes place in the Internet, rendered in 3D CGI graphics. It can be entered by humans as well.
- On Regular Show, Mordecai, Rigby and Pops end up inside the internet while trying to make a viral video. There the find the Warden of the Internet, an old woman on a screen who acts as a Moral Guardian, punishing those who clutter up the web with silly videos by trapping them within their own videos.