Fascination with Dystopian Worlds

In film, literature, and video games, dystopias have continued to be a prevalent theme. Usually following the creating of a utopian gone wrong. But why does this theme remain so popular if it is about the ruins of an ideally perfect society?

These imaginary worlds have many differing kinds of utopias and dystopias but both usually are mirror-images of each other in the opposite light. Most dystopias stem from the failed creation of a utopia and some utopias are already seen as dystopias.  Many of the literary pieces that are written about this topic explore aspects of society pushed to extremes in a perceived perfect world. In other words, dystopias explore the imaginary world of an empire that attempted to create a utopia but failed.

Dystopian literature has been seen to be very popular in the young adult age and for many reasons. One of the prevailing reasons is the idea that teens want to break out the mold that the world has set for them. As with many of the dystopian protagonists, they break free from the established status quo and try to fight back against the system. Teenagers can easily relate to this role as many do feel stifled by society to follow a specific path. It is not so much as society does not understand the teenagers but rather they feel forced to follow a specific path they have no interest in.

Ever since Trump entered the presidency, there has been an increase in sales in dystopian literature. Books like Fahrenheit 451, the Handmaiden’s Tale, and Brave New World. But one that had the greatest increase in sales was George Orwell’s 1984.  Many people who bought the books claimed that they were in an “Era of Alternative Facts”. Ever since that term “Alternative Facts” has been coined, it resonated with people in how those words were very Orwellian. This concept of Orwellian refers to the manipulation of truth that Kellyanne Conway attempted to do much in the same way that the government of 1984 does.

For those that do not know, George Orwell’s 1984 is a dystopian novel that explores the idea of a totalitarian government but everything that the people do, think and speak is monitored by the government’s public figure called Big Brother. The phrase, “Big Brother is Watching you” comes from this book and refers to how the government sees everything and, by extension, controls everything. They control the truths that the people believe and those that step out of line are reconditioned to fit back into society.

Dystopian films roughly follow the same ideas as their literature counterparts but video games have a different feel to it. Because the player is participating in the world, there is a distinct difference in feeling. Literature and films allow the audience to peer into the world of what if and see how the characters in that world experience it. In a video game, the player is part of the world and experience all of it.

Speaking from personal experience, watching/reading a dystopian world is so much more different in comparison to playing in one. Looking through my library of video games, a large section has dystopian themes. There is something about how experiencing the world in all its flaws and the drastic change in the human nature is intriguing. If not the nature of man, then the ruined state of its creations also appeal to me. The reason for me liking dystopian games can be linked to why people like looking at ruins.