The Art of Escapism in the Modern Digital world

It is common to look for diversions or an “escape” when the pressures of life, school, and work weigh more than what we can handle. When you’re buried in the realities of life, sometimes it feels that the only way to escape is to ignore and leave everything behind.

Escapism is a habitual diversion of the mind to a purely imaginative activity or entertainment as an escape from reality or routine. In Psychology, it is a mental diversion through entertainment, fantasy, or recreation, as an “escape” from the perceived unpleasant or banal aspects of daily life. 

Diversions for escape can be in a form of listening to music, food trips, playing online or virtual games, art & design, watching movies, joining sports activities, nature trips, and enjoying fantasy stories. These activities divert a person to move out of the working cubicle and appreciate the surroundings.

Life during the Pandemic can be very stressful, and the effects brought by it created a sudden shift to remote working and limited access to the outside world which takes a toll on a person’s mental health. For those not used to working from home, the promise of remote working only lasted for a month as a lot realize that the line between the demands of work overlaps the rest needed in the home. The Pandemic also redefines how people spend their time. Everything goes digital – from work, shopping, transactions and even spending their free time. 

There has been an ongoing trend for escapism in the last decade, its presence has been reinterpreted – from EDM beats, nightlife businesses, minimalist branding, color palette, interiors, and even different forms of activities like escape rooms, picturesque and interactive museums. 

In recent years, however, the notion of escapism is being reimagined to go with the smartphone age. Gone are the days of over the top décor; the layering of materials; and avant-garde forms to promote visual and tactile diversions for escape. The shift to digital screen makes visual satiety and satisfying emotional needs become the primary goal in Escapism. 

Escapism in Virtual World simulates a favorable world for us to explore.                                                                                                             

What better way to escape the real world than to be in a virtual one? Virtual worlds offer a distraction from the issues that we experience here in the actual world. In the advent of virtual reality, people can create entire new worlds to their liking and experience them as if they were real. These innovations allow us to even create alternate versions of ourselves, these avatars can be crafted through hair, texture, color, skin, size, and can even be mythical creatures or animals. These virtual worlds can be cities and countries that you can run and control, built upon people’s foundation which is imagination. There are even simulations of human senses, distorting our perception of the real world. Three-dimensional movies are a manifestation of how we choose to be present in a virtual world surrounded by digital characters. Virtual spaces are slowly becoming a part of our everyday lives, from our social media spheres we live in digitally, to the games we play as an escape from our reality.

Escapism in Digital Art taps into emotions and interpretations of the user to create a sense of comfort.

In the digital world, different tools are increasingly being available and accessible for people to escape the hardships of daily life. People are always seeking ways to engage in art, culture, and creative pursuits from their homes. From Timo Helgert’s Return of Nature which depicts the world reclaimed by nature due to the pandemic to the interactive wallpaper Color Push made by Zach Lieberman, the emergence of virtual designers brought a wave of digital art and renders. These digital crafts highlight the importance of art as a means of comfort. This wave in the arts and design world paved the way for the shift in the aesthetics favored by virtual designers. Surrealist-metaphysical art has now replaced the tangible “Salvador Dali-esque” aesthetics of before. This shift in aesthetics created digital pieces that are open to interpretation, escaping the mundane and offering something brighter through art.

Escapism in Nature integrates landscapes to create a compelling virtual environment to step into.

Reimagining our world through digital spaces that echoes a more refined and clean aesthetic. These detailed and mesmerizing environments create a digital landscape where viewers can step into. Surreal manifestations of light, objects, and space crafts an escape from the actual landscape we try to escape from. Bright, soft, and the general calming atmosphere these virtual landscapes offer is an escape from our reality. The integration of nature into digital landscapes has the potential to be translated into reality, but at the same time, their lack of reality creates a duality that makes them surreal and compelling. The key in creating this form of escape is a slight strangeness, too much and it’s instantly dismissed, too little and it would just fade into everyday reality. 

Escapism in History liberates us to learn and travel virtually.

While conventional travel may not be happening soon, there is a form of cultural escape that everyone can experience without even leaving their homes. Just a few clicks away, the world’s leading museums, galleries, and even national parks, can give you an escape from what’s happening around the world. Museums, galleries, and other places where we keep history and ideas physically showcased are now virtually displayed for everyone to explore. You can go see the works of Leonardo da Vinci at the Louvre Museum in the morning and look up at the suspended planes in the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in the afternoon. The pandemic may have prevented us from going out, but this form of escapism has given us the freedom to virtually travel the world from our homes.

Benefits brought by Escapism 

The trajectories of our emotions can be modified with escapism. The process of regulating one’s emotion consists of different stages, starting from the selection of a situation, it can be tailored to modify its emotional impact throughout its course. Games, in particular, are shown to have emotional benefits by facilitating emotional regulation, games that promote interceptive awareness, or one’s ability to know internal states, which help regulate emotions. In addition to the emotional regulation, games can be used for the extension or enhancement of positive emotions, just as how casual games decrease stress and improve overall mood. 

We experience different emotions and moods throughout our day. Although used interchangeably, emotions are experienced from moment to moment, whereas moods usually last longer periods. Mood management is the altering of the mood by selectively exposing oneself to different communication devices and media. Studies show that we manage our moods by how we expose ourselves to entertainment media. 

Through the consumption of media and entertainment in general, it is found to be the most effective and efficient way of changing or terminating our moods. Optimal task demand, agency, and the competency that games or virtual worlds give off are just some of the tools we can use to manage our moods; moreover, mood repair can be experienced when one’s basic psychological needs like autonomy, relatedness, and competency are met. Mood repair is not only a result of one’s distraction from negative emotions but also a product of the satisfaction of basic needs.

Cover photo from Paul Milinski

Maxine Panlilio graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture at De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde in Manila. She started her career under Dominic Galicia Architects where she worked on high profile projects such as the National Museum of Natural History in Manila. Maxine is also the Founder of Maison Panlilio, an Architecture and Interior design studio based in Manila. Her inquisitive nature and love for writing lead Maxine to explore Architecture and Design through her blog, Compendiary (

Giann Matias is a multi-faceted architectural designer based in Manila. His inquisitive nature and passion for design has led him to be part of an industry that lifts the living standards of people. An eye for design and a sucker for human-centered ideas fuels him to create unique spaces and places. He believes that the future of design is collaboration and that everyone has a chance to have a hand at defining our world. If you see him taking a break from designing and writing, you will notice his outgoing spirit, love for food, eye for memes, and being tall for no apparent reason.

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