edited by Benjamin Beil, Gundolf S. Freyermuth, Hanns Christian Schmidt – Playing Utopia, Futures in Digital Games


transcript, ISBN-13: 978-3839450505, English, 332 pages, 2019, Germany

It might seem a curious accident that this book was published just before 2020 ushered in a tangible dystopia, but its discussion of utopia, through history, narrative, and ultimately digital games, is perhaps more important now than ever. Stemming from a homonymous Game Studies Summit held at the Cologne Game lab, this is an anthology of the proceedings of the lectures and keynotes, integrated with new essays. The first excellent introductory chapter, “Utopia Futures” by Freyermuth, outlines a short history of imagined ‘futures’ and utopia/dystopias, including the influential role of science fiction, and argues for the primacy of video games to simulate “non-existent” places and test “alternative scenarios”. From there the essays are divided along two trajectories. The first explores how utopian futures have been foretold within games, including Czauderna’s examination of “Democracy 3” possibilities, and De Wildt’s investigation of utopia, religion and conspiracy in Assassin’s Creed. The second focuses on the future of games, from Dippel’s “Ludopian Visions“ through to Hawranke’s description of ‘modding’ as subversive potential. The intrinsic capacity of games to abstract and elaborate reality in powerful space/time directions, dealing with self-awareness and imaginary speculations, is thoroughly represented here, producing an invaluable collection.