Review: The Late-in-the-Day Realisation that the Utopian Industrial Cities of the Videogames of Your Youth will Never Come Into Being

pictured: not likely, all in all

What’s being tested?

The awareness of the fact that the dreamlike metropolises that formed the basis of many of the stages or levels of several of the computer games from the late eighties to the mid nineties are not, in fact, a practical reality (for reasons including a lack of understanding of the fundamentals of social and urban development, among other things) and will almost certainly not be evidenced in reality within at least a century, if ever.

What we found

Pros: Our testers found that being able to move on from the idea that the cities that form the focus of the realisation on test will not come into being was, on the whole, a positive, given that the towns, capitals and retail outlets that do exist in this time period have most likely been unfairly judged by unrealistic standards up until the point of the new understanding. We found it easier to appreciate shopping centres and municipal car parks, for example, after coming to the conclusion that they could not and would not be ‘enhanced’ by launcher primed speedways, multi-coloured pinball bumpers or a giant fruit machine. We also felt that, while pedestrian in design and purpose, the shallow entrance ramp of a public library was, in most cases, preferable to a 360 degree loop or an unexpected spike trap/bottomless chasm.

In fact, our testers  mentioned that these idealised cities had a noticeable lack of general civic mindedness – the absence of basic commodities like shops, schools, bus stops and public toilets hint at a severe mismanagement of public resources on the part of the (largely invisible) councillors and government officials in charge of developing said fictional living spaces. We found that the majority of the resources implicitly available to the governing body in each instance were channelled into producing oversized springs, awkwardly placed conveyor belts and anti aircraft defences, even in areas in no immediate danger of aerial attack or in any need of springing things very high into the air.

As such, jettisoning the hope that such environments may one day come into being could be seen as a step in the right direction.

Cons: It was felt that surrendering the dream of living in a cool futuristic speedway city of the future would also mean giving up on the idea that 16 bit dance music might one day be piped into the streets, and that cool impractical animal-robots-with-healthy-merchandising-potential on every street corner would not soon be a likelihood. Our testers mentioned that giving up on all of this would also mean that your careers advisor was right about something. We  found that it was difficult to accept that the transient, romanticised neon electronic nightlife of each fictional metropolis would never be experienced, and that we would have to stick to going down the pub once in a while, like everyone else. We found that it was difficult to accept that, when we were 6, those lights we saw in the distance at 3 o’clock in the morning from the back seat of our parents car on the M25 really were just Birmingham.


Ultimately, we found that while the ramifications of this realisation would take some time to adjust to, we had not been unaware of its likelihood, but rather had been deferring truly facing up to it. Our testers felt that this realisation was largely preferable to realising that Gran Hated You, Driving Somewhere Isn’t Impressive and Life Isn’t Like That. We also found that there was some solace to be found in the notion that Big Robot Suits were still very much a thing of the next few years, tops, and that at least we weren’t wasting our lives waiting for the technology to Catch Wild Animals in Cruel Metal Balls with the Intention of Getting Them to Fight One Another, which would be, on balance, a bit lame.


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