Playing with the future: social irrealism and the politics of aesthetics

I.G.R. Shaw, J.P. Sharp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


In this article we wish to explore the political possibilities of video games. Numerous scholars now take seriously the place of popular culture in the remaking of our geographies, but video games still lag behind. For us, this tendency reflects a general response to them as imaginary spaces that are separate from everyday life and 'real' politics. It is this disconnect between abstraction and lived experience that we complicate by defining play as an event of what Brian Massumi calls lived abstraction. We wish to short-circuit the barriers that prevent the aesthetic resonating with the political and argue that through their enactment, video games can animate fantastical futures that require the player to make, and reflect upon, profound ethical decisions that can be antagonistic to prevailing political imaginations. We refer to this as social irrealism to demonstrate that reality can be understood through the impossible and the imagined. textcopyright 2013 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
JournalSocial and Cultural Geography
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • [aesthetics, lived abstraction, politics, popular

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