The unwinnable resistance of Oceania 2084

War is Peace. Freedom Is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength. I love Big Brother.

The unwinnable resistance of Oceania 2084
Credit: Jocher Symbolic Systems

It’s nearly impossible to exist in our contemporary political climate without having heard some politician, activist, or online talking head reference George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four—regardless of political affiliation. Orwell’s dystopian novel about living in a post-truth society controlled by a singular authoritarian Party, helmed by an omniscient Big Brother and enforced by the brutal and unforgiving Thought Police, has become an almost prophetic text. 

Using Nineteen Eighty-Four as his inspiration, designer and educator Johan Eriksson crafted Oceania 2084, “a game about resistance against a totalitarian world, ushered in by ecological collapse and authoritarian populism.” In a group of three to eight players, one player acts as Big Brother themself, while most act as members of the underground resistance in a modernized version of Orwell's original setting—complete with a nearly inescapable augmented reality "The Unoverse". There is no way for players to overthrow the Party within the scope of Oceania 2084, nor is the game an instruction manual for how to reject authoritarianism writ large. Instead, the game encourages players to maintain their humanity “despite unimaginably bad odds” and the necessity of “finding small glimmers of hope even when things seem impossibly bleak.”

Love breeds resilience and allows you to take greater risks. 

Eriksson has been developing the game over the last four years, with a free “Austere Edition” available on Oceania 2084 is currently crowdfunding for a fully-illustrated and typeset hardcover edition through May 10th. Rascal sat down with Eriksson via email to talk through the influences for creating this game, how the mechanics of Oceania 2084 mirror our own authoritarian circumstances, and the value of choosing to play even in the face of inevitable failure.