A Total Immersion Video Game, or T.I.V., was a computer game in which the players entered a virtual reality that was indistinguishable from the outside world.
The games employed electrodes that were inserted harmlessly into the brain's frontal lobe and hypothalamus. Once the game started, the players found themselves in a different environment where all their senses seemed to tell them it was reality. Some games even hid the memory of entering the game from the player, so that they ended up playing for years without realising.
T.I.V.s were extremely rare and hard to acquire. Dave Lister described them as being as hard to get your hands on as Venus's arms or Brooke Shields's buttocks. One such game was Better Than Life, which detected all of the player's desires and fantasies in order to make them come true. When one store in New Tokyo ran out of copies of the game, the crowds were so upset that authorities had to deploy rubber nuclear weapons to quell the riots. Better Than Life was one of several T.I.V.s sent to Red Dwarf for the crew's entertainment. Lister was very excited by their arrival, but Rimmer had never heard of them (RD: Better Than Life).
In the episode "Better Than Life", the game was quite simple. Whatever the player wanted appeared instantly - food, women, cars, a successful career etc. In the novels, the game was more sophisticated. It detected your more subconscious desires and affected the memory of the player. The players forgot that what they were experiencing wasn't real, while in the real world their bodies wasted away without someone to look after them (Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers).
In "Back To Reality", the Boys from the Dwarf were convinced that their past four years had been spent in a T.I.V. called "Red Dwarf". The boys had played very badly, only scoring 4% and missing large clues to the solution. The game was very popular with other inhabitants of that world, with a long waiting list for applicants. Players were fed intravenously and wired up to machines for monitoring their vital signs. Fortunately, this proved to be a hallucination caused by the ink from a Despair Squid (RD: Back To Reality).
T.I.V.s were slightly different to Artificial Reality games, in which players wore helmets which simulated environments for senses externally.