They say that in life, nothing is certain but death and taxes. The cost of living in the real world seems to get harder each year as prices go up and the rich get richer.
We, the little people, just have to deal with it. Virtual worlds don't have troubles like ours, though. Sure, they might be threatened by killer robots, or set on a collision course with the sun, but at least they don't have to worry about taxes! Or do they?
Life doesn't come easy in video games either, but which world would you choose?
The Mushroom Kingdom (Mario series)
Ah, the land of the Mushroom people. It sounds like such a fairy tale! Presided over by the beautiful Princess Peach, it is a place of peace and prosperity, where neighbours respect each other and life is easy. Wrong. The Mushroom Kingdom is a region engulfed in a bloody civil war between the Royalists (those who follow the Princess) and Bowser's Goomba Army.
Bowser is the richest beast in the Kingdom, owning a large number of spooky castles, suspicious floating galleons, and no doubt a large stake in more than a few ghost houses. He pays his employees next to nothing while giving his children the top-level jobs in his administration. He is the 1 per cent.
The only person seemingly up for the job of toppling the mighty Bowser is a plumber named Mario. Working only for the coins he can find in the wild, this guy hunts the great beast from hideout to hideout, fighting to end his oppression.
Life in the Mushroom Kingdom is not easy; almost everything will be out to kill you. Turtles, plants, clouds, football players, ghosts, sentient bullets, giant caterpillars and even the ground itself will be after your blood. Luckily there's a solution, the glorious 1-UP! This magical mushroom bestows an extra life to its owner, but only if you can find one. To be fair it isn't that hard, they are everywhere. Hit a block? 1-UP. Run through some grass? 1-UP. Collect 100 coins? 1-UP.
"But wait!" I hear you say, "How am I supposed to get 100 coins?" Oh, don't worry, you'll be falling over coins left, right, and centre. The denizens of the Mushroom Kingdom are walking piñatas filled with gold, ripe for the smashing. You may eventually build up so much life you'll begin to long for death's cold embrace.
So on one hand, coins are plentiful and life is easy to come by. On the other hand, the actual living is tough. You are basically a mercenary, fighting for a Princess who will never accept you, against an enemy who will never give up. Being the 99 per cent is hard, #occupyworld1-1.
Quality of Life: 6/10
Hyrule (Zelda series)
Made famous from the Legend of Zelda series, Hyrule is a vast land, overflowing with lush forests, scorching volcanoes, endless oceans, deep lakes and tall mountains. Generally plagued by monsters of the evil variety, the people of this mighty land rely on the might of single swordsman to save them from their troubles. However, killing monsters has never paid the rent.
There are a few legitimate ways to make money. You can go smash some pumpkins, perform errands around the villages, help people out, or run around in the grass and hope to find some hidden treasures. There are also some shady ways, namely breaking into houses and smashing open family heirlooms looking for rupees inside. The main way you're going to make money is through adventuring. If you want to find those chests filled with rupees, you're going to have to fight tooth and nail for them and it won't be easy. I hope you like falling in lava and being attacked by giant lizards, because if you want to make money in Hyrule, you best be packing some steel, son.
With all that sweet cash you've earned, you're probably wondering what you can buy with it. I'll tell you; life itself. You can trade those rupees in for a brand spanking new heart piece, increasing your lifespan indefinitely.
There are some alternatives for the bold, however. You could spend time seeking out pieces of hearts and joining them with sticky tape, or if you manage to take down a particularly large monster, you could take their still warm heart and claim it for yourself. Ew. No thanks.
Quality of Life: 5/10
Capital Wasteland (Fallout 3)
You thought you were one of the lucky ones. Sealed up nice and tight in a shiny new "Vault" while the bombs dropped, you would probably have assumed that things couldn't really get any worse. Then you stepped outside.
The Capital Wasteland is the charred remains of what used to be Washington D.C. This desolate landscape is home to small pockets of human civilisation that survive on whatever scraps they can salvage. However, it isn't the humans you need to worry about. You'll be preoccupied with giant scorpions, mutated bears, rogue robots, feral ghouls, fire-spouting ants, demonic deathclaws and bloodthirsty mirelurks. Also, you may have heard the term "mutant" bandied around before, but you haven't lived until you've had a rocket whizz past your head from a super mutant. On a more positive note, the people of the wasteland use bottle caps as currency so you won't feel as bad for drinking so much beer and soda.
Seriously though, if you're even entertaining the thought that living in a world like this would be a good idea then you're probably some sort of masochist… or an evil scientist.
Quality of life: 1/10
Kanto Region (Pokémon)
Every time I look at my dog, I think to myself, "I wish we could go on a grand adventure. I wish we could scale mountains and cross deserts, meet interesting people and get lost in caves. I wish I could put you in a fight to the death with another animal." In the land of Kanto all my dreams can come true!
Kanto is a country filled with creatures called Pokémon. The main pastime here is to catch these animals in the wild, raise them, feed them, give them haircuts, watch them grow stronger, and then ultimately use them to beat the living hell out of other Pokémon. If you happen to get into a fight with another "trainer" and win, they surrender money to you. Seems like a pretty sweet system.
You will come across a building called a Pokémon centre in every town and city you venture through. These buildings are filled with nurses who will tend to your Pokémon's every ache and pain, fixing them up so they're back to full health in no time… for free. Yes, that's right, free universal healthcare for Pokémon. No such alternative is offered to humans.
If, for example, your opponent's Kadabra used its Psycho Cutter technique and it happens to, I don't know, miss your Pokémon and cut your arm off at the elbow, you would be sh*t out of luck. Better get used to throwing those Pokéballs left-handed, kid! The people here could not care less about your injuries; they will rob you of your cash and move on to the next fight. Unlike some other video game worlds, if you die here there might be no coming back.
The Kanto region has forgotten how to take care of itself, becoming obsessed with the training and fighting of their trusted friends. Young people are encouraged to join the battles from an early age, possibly to teach them the value of violence. Most trainers aspire to be the very best, like no one ever was. Catching Pokémon is their real test and training them is their cause. They will travel across the land, searching far and wide... to teach their Pokémon to understand the power that's inside. It is a noble dream, but I cannot condone this blood lust.
Quality of Life: 5/10
Skyrim (Elder Scrolls series)
Skyrim is a huge region set in the Northern part of Tamriel. Home to the Nords, a Viking-esque people with a penchant for cold weather, it is a harsh landscape full of hidden dangers and beautiful scenery. However, for a place where dragons roam the skies and people can shoot fire from their fingertips, Skyrim is actually a pretty decent place to live. You could decide to be the daring, adventurous type but why take that risk when you can have just as much fun picking flowers and catching butterflies?
For the adventurous among you, Skyrim has a lot to offer: Tall mountains, deep caves, forgotten ruins, sunken ships, huge glaciers, ferocious beasts and buried treasures are a few of the wonderful options available. They come with their own dangers of course, but what life isn't worth living? Summon a fire wolf, conjure up a storm, and go battle a demonic necromancer!
If you go the other route and decide you want to marry the beautiful girl in the village, buy a house, and spend the rest of your life selling mudcrab meat to the local merchant, you can do that as well. You might be attacked by a Blood Dragon at some point and hideously burned, but isn't love worth the risk? Sometimes it's nice to have the option to sit back and watch the world go by.
Quality of life: 8/10
What this all boils down to is how you want to live your life. There are obviously a plethora of options available for you to choose from, each one with its own strengths and weaknesses. Maybe none of the above appeal to you, perhaps you would prefer the danger of a zombie apocalypse scenario or a cushy life inside a Japanese dating-sim. Whatever you pick will at least lead to a memorable life. You would have to be a total idiot to choose to live in a nuclear wasteland though, I can't stress this enough. Seriously, get your act together.