One of the editors over at Bitmob has penned a quick editorial entitled "Virtual Memories and the Grasslands of Morrowind" that describes how particular smells, sounds, or sights will often times invoke memories of virtual experiences rather than physical ones. Fallout 3, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, and BioShock are all referenced:
When I tell my friends about the ridiculous aerial assassination I performed in Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood last night or the fantastic twist at the end of Bioshock, my choice of words is meaningfully different. Master Chief doesn't stop the Covenant. Commander Shepard doesn't beat back the reapers. I do. It doesn't matter if it's a game with a preset character with a strong personality, the ever-present silent protagonist, or even a multiplayer match. You describe it on your own terms, and I think that's pretty telling about the way we interact with games. I find myself having similar experiences all too often.
That's why I think it's perfectly acceptable, albeit slightly strange, to have flashbacks to things that didn't really happen -- because they did happen. I remember the grasslands of Morrowind just as much as I remember the chair and room I found myself in while I was playing it. Chances are a lot of you remember it, too. So some of these memories are actually shared among us. Maybe someone else out there hears Frank Sinatra and looks over his shoulder to make sure there's not a seven-foot Deathclaw rapidly closing the distance between them.