Claudia Costa Pederson – Gaming Utopia, Ludic Worlds in Art, Design, and Media


Indiana University Press, ISBN 978-0253054494, English, 280 pages, 2022, USA

The mental space of video games is a specific one. It is a virtual world in which we immerse ourselves, participate in its narrative and act according to its rules. The ‘worlds’ created in video games are usually designed to be easy to understand and thus playable, embedding cultural structures and values. The ‘utopian potential of world-making’, as defined by the author of this book, has been used extensively in the gaming subculture of the 2010s and 2020s, with a variety of individuals and groups creating new political, countercultural and inclusive experimental games. Costa Pederson borrows from Ernst Bloch’s distinction between abstract utopia conveyed by commercial games and concrete utopia conveyed by activist games. Concrete utopias are then identified in fifty different projects spanning a century and reflecting very different places in the world, especially non-Western ones. The analytical path begins with the avant-garde of the Dadaists and Surrealists, moves through cybernetics, art, media and subcultures, and ends with contemporary radical play. It describes a possible heterogeneous and liberating practice that easily builds on the social imaginary. We can ‘imagine alternate futures’ in games, as they can be ‘spaces of anticipation’ that allow us to foster social change through their relational and imaginative tools.