Online, the vast majority of us are already starting to realize that the most impressive version of what we bring to the internet have already been put there by somebody else. Competition is hard enough. New research shows meritocracy means many people just opt out of trying to beat the best.

There’s little point plowing energy into dreaming up cool fantasies when everything has already been done, and when the opportunity costs of failing to participate in real life keep rising higher. Young people are reading fewer and fewer novels. Nobody watched the Emmys. The more you look for evidence that digital reality is a disenchanting fantasy, the more you see.

But what about play? Surely the human hunger for entertainment, especially in an era when it looks like we’ll have more and more leisure, will continue to be fed, perhaps now more than ever. Despite the superficial evidence, that intuition is likely wrong. Gaming seems more mainstream than ever.

But this is a false dawn for disappearing into someone else’s illusion. The more powerful digital advancement becomes, the more hollow and meaningless gaming life will become, and the round-the-clock consumers of such entertainment will become more like a discarded underclass.