Ludic Prognostication: Games as sites for simulating the future


In her iconic manifesto for cyborgs Donna Haraway lays the path for a life and politics replete with augmentation of the human body and mind. While the narrative foundations of games like Deus Ex have stemmed from the work of scholars like Haraway and Bill Nichols; this paper argues that games as media today have become an ideal site for showcasing possible future incidents.

By close-reading and analysing specific ludic experiences from three games namely Deus Ex Mankind Divided, Detroit: Become Human and Cyberpunk 2077 this paper looks at how these games simulate possible trajectories of future. By using the narrative and ludic possibilities of the Deus Ex franchise, this paper critically examines how inequalities and the politics of the human body continue to not only exist but manifest in newfound ways in a universe where augmentation of the human body is widespread.

Similarly, Detroit: Become Human’s narrative centres around the price of freedom as androids built for different functionalities trace their own paths towards finding humanity. However, scattered throughout the composite experiential text that is Detroit: Become Human are news articles and feeds that talk about climate change disasters, and the geographical reorganization of the world. Lastly, by analysing Cyberpunk 2077 and the detailed world it is set in the paper will examine how the boundaries between the physical and the digital blur akin to the prediction in Haraway’s iconic piece.

An homage to Haraway’s work, this paper will look at the three prognostication trajectories from the games and argue that games with their ergodic nature, ability to offered layered narratives and offer inherently engaging experiences have incredible potential as platforms to begin conversation on key issues. Issues that are likely to have manifold consequences in the future but are not part of mainstream conversations today. Leaving us to wonder if games channelled right, could spur innovation and development the same way books did for Verne, Asimov and Clarke.