There are a number of references in Virtue’s Last Reward to various types of pop culture or other media. How do you determine which is appropriate for each situation?
I start by asking myself if doing so would be funny, rewarding, or otherwise interesting. If the answer is yes, I consider whether or not it would break immersion, and if so, whether that would be detrimental to the scene. Dropping a line from Star Wars in the middle of an emotional confession—unless it somehow ties into the characters involved—is probably not wise, since it would be at odds with the intent of the scene. Phi quoting from Good Burger during a joke sequence makes somewhat more sense, if we allow that the greatness of that particular 90s classic continues to be acknowledged into the future. There’s also the question of whether or not a given quote or reference is conscious on the part of the character, or if it’s more “meta.” The former requires considering whether or not that character would know what they’re saying or doing, and if they would say or do it if they do—a character in a medieval fantasy world likely isn’t going to make jokes about 80’s pop culture—and the later is dangerous because it has a very high risk of pulling the player out of the narrative, and/or opening it up to some very sticky questions about the nature of its world.
I usually try and think of pop culture references as little treats or secrets for people who recognize them: I try to avoid making them integral to the plot or to any given conversation, but pepper them in elsewhere so that you can find them and giggle, or say to yourself, like Cap, “I understood that reference!”