Imagine that an experience takes you in the heart of a tree, takes you in the body of an animal or in the body of a person that is feeling pain and misery and you see with their eyes. When you are suddenly in the middle of the drama how can you call that escapism? It is clearly up to your choosing whether you want to use VR to be taken far away from the world or to be taken into the heart of being.
According to the philosophers of enlightenment in the 18th century the duty of art was to make people better by teaching them empathy. When people would watch on the stage a drama unfold, when they would see suffering happening in front of their eyes, it would change them. It would conciliate them with their own emotions and moral perspectives. When a drama was very well written and you would feel the pain, the love, the hatred and fear of the protagonist you would become that. And by going through that experience it would give you empathy and understanding for these emotions. It would make you better by transforming you to another person for the endurance of that play. You would learn how it is to be someone else and how difficult a situation can be for that person. You would learn emotions and decisions that you would not understand from an outside perspective.
That is the power that art can have over people. Artist and writers should be aware of that. You can not touch people without changing them, so you better know in what way you touch them. There is a certain responsibility in being an artist. Art is not about the artist, it is about what art brings to this world.
The word Escapism would mean in the way it is used something like „to deaden the impressions of the outward world“. To paralyze ones willingness to take part in the life process. But by a technology that has the capacity to radically confront you with this world, it is hard for me to accept the word escapism for Virtual Reality, as it can be the complete opposite. It has the possibility to let you face reality more deeply than any external event. It is a medium with which you can do whatever you choose to do. Running away from life or running directly into it.