The paper examines the peculiar role of the East European landscape in several contemporary video games, arguing that it signifies desolation and openness to violence, while linking both with the realization of a utopian project. Examining the post-apocalyptic or zombie narrative as a contemporary means of earnestly engaging with a utopian discourse, I investigate three games incorporating the landscape of Eastern Europe as a formal support for such an engagement: Day-Z (2014) by Dean Hall, S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl (2007) by the Ukranian studio GSC game world, and Pathologic (2005) by the Russian studio Ice-pick Lodge. Each game provides a different meditation on violence and the utopian project, using the Soviet legacy on the landscape and the zombie trope as comparable signifiers of utopia gone wrong, but equally, as supports for imagining utopia: a rock bottom, from which there is nowhere to go but up.

Download pdf