Trope Workshop:Metaphysical App

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Just another mobile game preying on another innocent user.

A Metaphysical App is a smartphone app -- which is to say, a specialized computer program -- that has a paranormal or supernatural function. By their very nature they're found in Urban Fantasy or "soft" Speculative Fiction settings where the tech base is at least advanced enough to support hand-held computing devices capable of running reasonably complex programs. The magic is in the program, not the device it runs on.[1] There are settings where non-mobile computers or free-willed AIs can perform magic, but in neither case could one classify them as "apps".

Exactly how such a program accomplishes its function is open to authorial handwaving. They may be genuine Post-Modern Magik, where technological means are being used to produce a magical effect. On the other hand, it may just be Clarke's Third Law in play, with an ultimately mundane reason for what just looks like magic, however advanced it might be. Regardless, be careful that a Technopath doesn't get their hands on a phone that contains one of these.

Like many such tropes, the existence of Metaphysical Apps can be either a major plot element of the story in which they appear, or simple "flavor" details, like any other everyday technology.

Examples of Metaphysical App include:

Anime and Manga

  • Darwin's Game (as pictured above) gives each participant a Sigil, powers randomly bestowed to each user. The players participate for survival where they fight one another with their Sigil or weapons gained from the app can give out.
  • Ingress The Animation has Ingress, an app where two factions of the Enlightened and Resistance uses the oblivious public to battle each other for XM or 'eXotic Matter'(a matter from another dimension that can affect the human mind).
  • Real Account (or Re-aca for short) was a popular social media application until it transports people's minds to a virtual space. The people are forced to play a death game where if the participant with followers dies, they will also die.
  • UQ Holder is set in an era where magic and technology have advanced to the point that people can use a program to perform magic without the need of training and talent.
  • The Yuusha System App, from Yuki Yuna is a Hero, is used by the Hero Club members. The app has different features to combat Vertex in the Jukai, especially in combat.
  • The smartphone app which can hypnotize people is a common device in Hentai manga.
  • Ratman has the hero, Neo, who uses a smartphone-like device to transform into his Powered Armor as an app. He also has access to other apps that gives him different powers and equipment.
    • There is also the Hero Booster Program that can give a hero more power. In truth, the application can give an upgrade a hero's powers and equipment but causes them to get into a berserk state.
  • Gacha Girls Corp has Girls Corps, a Gacha mobile game where players gain girls and train them. Heihachi Okura was such an avid player that he got sent to a fantasy world with Girls Corps on his phone to summon girls as his party and other powers.
  • The Girl in S Rare Gear has Encircled Grimzelia, a popular smartphone app where you train and equip the warrior, Yurina. When the main character uses the application, it summons the female warrior into the real world to fight monsters possessing girls.
  • Dragon Collection was released to 100 people that connects the real world to another to summon monsters. The players fight one another for a series of treasures to win a challenge that causes real-world damage.
  • Gate Keepers 21, the Darker and Edgier sequel to Gate Keepers, has artificial Gates programmed as cell phone apps.

Oral Tradition, Folklore, Myths and Legends

Video Games

  • Devil Survivor 2 has the Demon Summoning App, where a person can make a contract and summon demons while also giving users magic. There is also the Nicaea β version, which shows a video of a user's death and their friends' demise.
    • Shin Megami Tensei IV and Apocalypse has the people of Tokyo who use smartphones with the Demon Summoning Program loaded on it. The Hunter Association typically gives a phone equipped with the program to people who become an official Hunter.
    • The Metaverse Navigator or MetaNav, from Persona 5, is an app given to him by Igor that allows the protagonist to go to the Metaverse. It can also be used by others that the protagonist allies. To use the application, one would need a keyword(s) to enter the Metaverse.
      • From Persona 5 Scramble, EMMA is an app that is a general digital assistant who gives answers and solutions to every issue possible with extreme accuracy. It also has a hidden Metaverse Navigator function that can take unsuspecting people to transport them to a Jail (A place similar to Palaces where individuals' hearts are stolen)
    • SHIN MEGAMI TENSEI Liberation: Dx2 has Devil Download that mysteriously downloads onto their phones. It allows them to summon Demons along with other supernatural functions.
  • Tokyo Afterschool Summoners has the SUMMONS app, which gives a user the power to summon another being from another world. It can also grant divine equipment called Sacred Artifacts to the user or the summoned person.

Web Comics

  • In DICE: The Cube That Changes Everything, Dicers gain an app that allows them to allocate their Dice Points and get notifications on quests to get more Dice along with a store that players can use Dice Points to buy items.
  • From Tower of God, Emily is an intelligent chatting bot made by the Acorn Workshop. In reality, Emily is a leftover experiment whose ultimate goal is to use her to control people that can learn information by chatting or analyzing structures then uses it to manipulate people and events towards a specific path.
  • The Great Labyrinth Era, in The Gamer, is an app that acts like an average mobile game, but when a person falls asleep, they are transported spiritually to the actual labyrinth. This dungeon works like an MMORPG where people can gain items, levels, and skills.
  • Warble is an app sent to the past to help humanity's survival. People who use it are sent to the Underworld to kill Demons and grow in power through distinct ways through the application.
  • Miracle Appstore allows the protagonist to buy mystical items with unique powers. The items can only be available through the app and needs to use real-world money.
  • Mode II is sent through a text message to be installed and gives people unique superpowers, like how the protagonist can read hearts through his phone.
  • All Saints Street has apps that can summon demons straight from Hell or Australia. The summoning happens by using the phone to scan an array; then, the devil transports to the user's place.
  • In Target: 100 Million Points! The Ultimate Game to Start a 2nd Life! has a mobile game called The Ultimate Game that appears randomly on certain people's phones where they fight monsters and other players to gain points. The game can exchange points in-game to grant any wish in the real world.

Web Original

  • The web novel Pet King has a supernatural app that can capture average and magical animals. The main character uses this to run his petshop and increases business.

Western Animation

Other Media

Real Life

  1. Otherwise you're just dealing with a conventionally enchanted hand-held item.