Playing Dystopia: Searching for the Neganthropocene in Papers, Please and Orwell

The way we play games and the way games play us is constantly changing. The physical shrinking of space can no longer be compensated by expansive gamescapes which otherwise provided a reprieve from diminishing access to space in 20th and 21st century childhood (Mayra, An Introduction to Game Studies). Gamescapes, increasingly, are becoming neo-explorations of “other people simulators” characterized by a suffocating hypernearing of the experience of the dystopia (Lucas Pope). Often ‘mundane’ mirrors of real-life situations, these dystopian games place the player in movement-limiting, choice-limiting challenging scenarios from where a fulfilling ending is more often than not impossible.I look at two of these dystopian games that offer covertly disruptive gameplay through alienating, often disembodied, simulation as a strategy for playing dystopia: Lucas Pope’s Papers, Please and Osmotic Studios’ Orwell. Closely engaging with issues of surveillance, digital governance, neurotechnology, illegal profiling, and ultimately, survival in a dystopia of technics, these games with their multiple endings caused by the smallest, seemingly most insignificant of differences in gameplay become.


Zahra Rizvi is a PhD. scholar at the Department of English, Jamia Millia Islamia, India. She was recently MHRD-SPARC Fellow at the Department of Linguistics and Germanic, Slavic, African and Asian Language Studies, Michigan State University, and works in the fields of cultural studies, utopia/dystopia studies and video game studies. Her research interests include popular culture, young adult participatory spaces and geopolitical issues in and of cross-platform media. 

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