Utopias: Navigating Without Coordinates


Unity, C#, Code, Blender

Utopias: Navigating Without Coordinates is a videogame network of nine worlds, each one a personal utopia developed by a member of AAA collective.

In Utopias, you play as a lonesome genderless humanoid, who finds themselves waking from a deep slumber on the stairs of an abandoned temple. The center of the temple contains a blank tapestry, infinitely falling into a pool below. It is guarded by an imposing eye. Upon talking to the eye it orders you to inspect the nearby planets surrounding you. You venture to these neighboring planets, jumping between them. Upon each planet is a portal, through which a different utopia awaits you. Strange life forms, alien societies, ecological warfare. As you return from these portals, the temple comes to life, and the empty tapestry slowly fills with motifs from each world. You wonder what happens when the tapestry is complete...

Each world in Utopias is a site of crystallization where our ideas and how we work as a group have gathered and grown. The process of creating Utopias was a collective deep dive into things like group decision-making, the economics of care (for oneself and others), the sharing of resources and information, generating and maintaining sustainable momentum and examining personal wounds left from living in a hyper-individualized economy of scarcity.

A major motivation for our collaboration is to find alternative methods for making video games while avoiding the exploitative and creatively stultifying software industry. We think CGI should be taken out of the hands of the industry - culture should be made by people, not just companies. By pooling individual skills, we enable collective members with differing levels of technical ability to make video games collaboratively. We work without designated roles or tasks and no-one's technical or creative vision is considered more important than another's. Although we created a series of individual utopian visions, each of us worked on each other’s world, helping one another to realize them. This is our attempt to roleplay our way to utopia.

The subtitle of the project is Navigating Without Coordinates. We are uncertain if we can achieve our utopian ideals and we have come to embrace that. During the long development time of the project, we became aware that “utopia” was not necessarily a place or an idea we could attain but rather a process of trying to navigate the territory that lies between us and change. This very much describes the practical process of learning to organize a collective. Utopias is a viewport into this process.

Is a collective utopia possible?

Something that we keep coming back to as a collective is an attraction to weirdness, a poetic kind of not-making-sense. What happens if you take away the traditional narrative scaffolding? How do you respond to the discomfort, confusion, and frustration that arises from traveling without coordinates, when you don't really know where your next step will lead you? How does it feel to be lost? To be unproductive? To be unusable?

The video game is a medium tightly bound to capitalist productivity values. Built into the essence of many games is an imperative to work, attain goals and be productive. On the other hand, games are uniquely positioned to both critique the capitalist present and to simulate a possible utopian future. Maybe instead of games where we play at working (collecting resources, domesticating wild environments), we need games that help us dream. We want to make games that are like acid - a collective psychedelia, a widening of reality in times when dreaming seems impossible.

For more texts about the process, artistic goals and beliefs of Utopias be sure to check out the project page.