How Videogames Envision Capitalism’s Final Frontier, Lewis Gordon, δημοσίευση στο ArtReview [23/12/2022]
From Citizen Sleeper and Signalis to Hardspace Shipbreaker, the cosmic dystopias of 2022’s videogames provided timely meditations on stinging economic hardship
In 2022, the vast ether stretching from Earth’s atmospheric hinterland to the deepest reaches of the cosmos seeped back into popular imagination. Thanks to the Webb Telescope images, space regained its preeminent position as a site of wonder, sparkling like a prog rock album cover from the 1970s. The ‘final frontier’ also emerged as something more aspirational than it has been for decades, a potential tourist destination for those able to afford the gilded flights chartered by Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin and Elon Musk’s SpaceX companies. Space, in its simultaneously awe-inspiring and distracting spectacle, had returned.
It feels telling, then, that three of 2022’s best video games appear to share little of this wonder for the stars. Citizen Sleeper, Signalis, and Hardspace Shipbreaker instead imparted isolation, anxiety, and terror, not because of the existential dread space so often inspires but the ways in which they imagined intensified strains of capitalism might be deployed across it. As the form of blockbuster games was further consolidated, these strikingly different games – a visual novel (Citizen Sleeper), 3D puzzle game (Hardscape Shipbreaker) and survival horror (Signalis) – offered further evidence of the flourishing creativity to be found outside of the mainstream’s glare. Yet, for all their differences, each utilised distinct mechanics and aesthetics to evoke a common, seemingly immutable condition: the precarity of being marginalised. Stars may have been back in the news cycle but as inflation rose and wages stagnated, these games provided timely meditations on stinging economic hardship.
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