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Utopian post-apocalypse, April 21, 2016
When I hear the word “utopia,” I think about what regulations are required to sustain societies, and what would be required to sustain an “ideal” society. Many games written for the Tiny Utopias Jam have taken a different approach to the theme, imagining utopia as nothing more or less than a small moment set aside for decompression from daily life. Caelyn Sandel’s Tiny Beach probably exemplifies this best.
What’s interesting about the morning after is that it also presents a small moment for decompression, but rather than eliding the more difficult reality surrounding this moment, the game dwells on that reality’s harshness. We have an abandoned station, deserted desks, and nocturnal things that leave “blood and ichor” behind when they’re slain. This is post-apocalypse territory, where people must fight monsters to survive. Nothing utopian about it. The story’s society has failed, is still failing, has achieved a nightmarish stasis.
But despite that, the morning after a monster encounter is a tiny utopia, where the characters can bathe and relax and drink tea and eat cake. This utopia isn’t achieved by ignoring the world and focusing inward. The reverse: it depends on that imperfect world. Without monsters to hunt, there would be no morning after the hunt. A dangerous outside must exist for a safe inside to matter.