Soviet-Unterzögersdorf, surreal socialism


Reproposing an ironic vision of an out of fashion past is one of the prerogatives of videogames, which have the possibility to recreate historic systems through simulations and keep afloat memories which the fury of information mass media tends to submerge instantly. Soviet-Unterzögersdorf is the unpronounceable title of a videogame made by the austrian group of activists-technophilosophers Monochrom. Unterzögersdorf is the last satellite country of the soviet bloc, a tiny country in the middle of Austria which is still faithful to the theory and practice of real socialism. Impersonating the secretary of the party Vladislav, the player must defend the scarce supplies and repel the western cultural invasion, which takes the form of gangs of young heavy-metal fans. After a disquieting introduction, the style of the game is the same of a LucasArts graphic adventure: in the words of the authors themselves, “it was clear that an almost extinct form of computer game would provide the perfect media platform to communicate the idea of Soviet-Unterzögersdorf”. The retro and decaying atmosphere permeates every screen, the dialogues and monologues are only in russian (subtitled in german or english) and the soundtrack is composed of stately hymns broadcasted by the local radio. Everywhere, the bleakness and desolation of a collapsed economy. The humour is cruel. Comrade Vladislav never loses an occasion to show his rhetoric, praising his beloved country, quoting passages from The Capital and coping perfectly with the absurd bureaucratic system of the village. The postmodern pastiche on the peculiar soviet computing machinery is wonderful: there are a virtual reality machine running on plutonium, a mysterious “godless machine” and many other such things. With a soundtrack that includes songs by Negativland and Jazz Dance Combinat, Soviet-Unterzögersdorf is very worth the time spent playing it, but is just the first chapter of a trilogy yet to be completed and, even if can be downloaded and played for free, the authors welcome donations through PayPal to fund the development. The game (for Windows, Linux and MacOSX) is released under a Creative Commons license.

Paolo Pedercini