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.