Dystopia vs. Utopia: Depictions of Future in Video Games

It’s taken a fair bit of time to get the idea down to something as concise as this, and a fair few iterations along the way, and to be honest I’m still not even sure if I’ll stick with it, but hopefully it’ll work itself out.

For the final project I’m thinking of looking at video games (shock horror), but more specifically, how said video games depict the future, be it through general game design, architecture, etc. Is this depiction akin to Dystopia, or Utopia? And more importantly, how closely does this depiction fall in line with the reality of our current world.

This idea came from watching Jayden play Horizon: Zero Dawn. Mostly, I was intrigued by the amount of nature present in a game about robot dinosaurs and a dystopian future version of Earth. It was something new, and I thought it could be interesting to see if there was correlations between what was happening in the world at the time, and the dystopian video games that were produced at this time. Did the old dystopian imagery of a grey metropolis covered earth start to seem a little too close to the current reality?

horizon_zero_dawn_gameplay_4k-HD
H:ZD (2017): Gameplay Wallpaper

Now bear in mind that I haven’t, as of this moment, played this game (Although that’s definitely one of my “research” avenues for this project) so any of my very rough descriptions of the storyline could definitely be not correct in the slightest. But getting back to the point…

I’m mostly interested in how, in previous years, depictions of Utopia would usually involve a return to nature, and life in abundance. And yet, the world of Horizon appears to blur the line between Utopia and Dystopia; a world covered in nature, with spanning landscapes and skylines over mountainous ranges … marred by roaming robotic creations, and the lasting artifacts of a very scientifically advanced era gone by.

For this project, I’m going to be mainly focusing on ARPG (Action Role-Playing Games), as I feel these games are the main ones to deal and focus on the sort of idea I’m looking to investigate. Some that spring to mind apart from Horizon:ZD are Fallout 4 and Bioshock. (an FPS but relevant nonetheless). Feel free to suggest some others, if you know any that might be helpful for this project.

 

Fallout-landscape
“Dystopia. A perfect world with an imperfection. The societies living in most dystopias are aware that their world is imperfect, however it is beyond their control to fix it.”

I think the thing that intrigues me the most about Horizon and it’s depictions of the future are that it seems as if the world went too far with their scientific reaches, and now the people left behind are fighting the remnants of this world, with very traditional tools, and crafted weaponry.

I’m not just planning on looking at the actual scenery in the games however, I’d also like to take a look at the design in absolutely everything the games have to offer, from the title screens to the menu options, and how these reflect and assist the overall atmosphere of the game itself. (just like Nier: Automata’s menu is directly linked to the game itself.)

(Related: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HlSpfIx3wIA – worth a watch, language warning )

NieR-Automata_201606_SS_RuinedCity_02_ONLINE-660x370
Nier: Automata gameplay screenshot

I’m hoping this will lead to somewhere informative, and let’s be real this will be an excellent excuse to play some dystopian video games, and to get to actually utilize some of my design degree, just not in the way it was initially intended. Stay tuned.

 

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