Heterotopias is a new digital zine focusing on the spaces and architecture of virtual worlds. Not an empty ode to the fidelity of digital realities, but a critical dissection of spaces of play, exploration, violence and ideology, Heterotopias aims to develop new ways of understanding games as cultural objects.

The virtual worlds we inhabit, explore and play within are innumerable. Over the past 3 decades their fidelity, sophistication and complexity has grown, each one representing, inverting and contesting the rules, structures and systems of our reality. From stage sets to ornate machines, each of these sub-realities carries with it traces of the “real world” through photographic textures, copied floor plans, stolen architectural features and distorted landscapes. They are increasingly, to use the term coined by Michel Foucault, our heterotopias.

‘There are also, probably in every culture, in every civilization, real places—places that do exist and that are formed in the very founding of society—which are something like counter-sites, a kind of effectively enacted utopia in which the real sites, all the other real sites that can be found within the culture, are simultaneously represented, contested, and inverted.’

However, these are not worlds, but objects. They may give the illusion of complete realities, but they are in fact incomplete, fractured and in some cases, unfinished. This partial, limited nature means they resemble art objects not universes, unbounded by the laws of physics. Heterotopias is an attempt to understand, analyse and explore these spaces as objects, taking into consideration their materiality, construction, mimetic structures and architectural nature. These objects are the cathedrals of our age, and like those old stone monuments to philosophical ideas, they are imbued with powerful representations of how we see, recreate and experience the world.

‘Places of this kind are outside of all places, even though it may be possible to indicate their location in reality. Because these places are absolutely different from all the sites that they reflect and speak about, I shall call them, by way of contrast to utopias, heterotopias.’ – Michel Foucault

Taking both a textual and visual approach, Heterotopias features essays, photo essays, mappings, surveys and experiential criticism. Each quarterly issue will feature the work of two guest writers, along with work of my own, building off the critical work I developed in my Kill Screen column. As these spaces express themselves through visual experiences as well as narrative, the zine will feature screenshot and photographic projects that build upon the varied aesthetics of game worlds.

The first 3 issues of Heterotopias are available now.

For updates, follow @HeterotopiasZn

For editorial or press queries contact Gareth@jumpovertheage.com