Human life is wiped out. Earth is now a golf course for the ultra-rich. That’s the premise for Golf Club: Wasteland, a 2D puzzle-like golf game from Demagog Studio - but there’s so much more beneath the surface. The game’s layered approach to storytelling and detailed worldbuilding is where it really shines, taking a swing at Silicon Valley culture, capitalism and contemporary society. As you play across the ruins of Earth, you’re immersed in the soothing sounds of Radio Nostalgia from Mars.
JAMES PARKINSON: From its very beginnings, science fiction has imagined the future, exploring humanity’s greatest ambitions, and sometimes warning us against potential dangers ahead. As time has gone on, some of those possible futures have moved into reality, like the race to colonise Mars. From NASA to SpaceX, governments and private corporations are working towards this grand mission.
JAMES PARKINSON: Mars is considered our best chance at becoming a multi-planetary species - or in the event that the climate crisis leaves us little choice, our best backup option. But whatever the billionaire’s might want you to believe, the problems we face here on Earth would ultimately follow us to the Red Planet. These are the kinds of themes explored in the game, Golf Club; Wasteland, from Demagog Studio.
JAMES PARKINSON: The game is set on an uninhabitable Earth, which has become a golf course for the ultra-rich. It depicts a rather plausible future, where what’s left of humanity has fled to a new colony on Mars, named Tesla City, only for its elite residents to make the long and arduous trip back to Earth for a round of golf. That may sound absurd, but the whole concept was inspired by something closer to home - a photo from the real world.
SHANE BERRY: And it's an incredible photograph - there is a guy playing golf on a golf green, and the entire background of the photo is a forest fire. So literally, the world is burning, and the guy's playing a game of golf. And that's where the Golf Club: Wasteland idea came, is that that's the lengths people would go to to keep themselves entertained and distracted from the reality around them.
JAMES PARKINSON: This is Shane Berry, the Audio Director at Demagog Studio.
SHANE BERRY: So of course, golf became an almost perfect medium or metaphor for the elite, because it always has been seen as an elitist sport, it's an expensive sport to get involved in, many of the golf courses have questionable ecological impact. So it became a perfect foil for a story about what would happen to the people left behind. The game is an observation of contemporary life and going, “If this guy can play golf in front of a burning forest fire - comfortably - then we really have to look at where we're going from this point”. And that was where the thought came - if we had to leave Earth, these guys would come back to play, clearly, right? Like it's writ large, like, there's a guy playing in a wildfire, in the background. He's playing his game of golf, he's gonna get his game of golf in.
JAMES PARKINSON: On the surface, Golf Club: Wasteland is a simple, puzzle-like, 2D golf game. But its layered approach to storytelling and worldbuilding is where it really shines, using audio to communicate its many narratives. As you play across the ruins of Earth, you’re immersed in the soothing sounds of Radio Nostalgia from Mars.
JAMES PARKINSON: I’m James Parkinson. From Lawson Media, this is Gameplay, stories about video games and the virtual worlds that power culture and community.
JAMES PARKINSON: The story of Golf Club: Wasteland comes from the mind of Igor Simic, the Creative Director of Demagog Studio. Igor’s background is in art and film, and the initial idea was for more of an art installation than a game. Here’s Shane.
SHANE BERRY: The game was first and foremost conceived as a work of art. The original idea was to have a game that people could play in a gallery setting, was the original concept. Not necessarily a game on a platform, but a game, like, an interactive experience that told the story about climate change, climate catastrophe. So that was the initial seed.
JAMES PARKINSON: This idea ties into the philosophy of “Constellation Storytelling”, that Igor Simic brings to his work with Demagog. A multi-narrative, multi-media approach, with several points of entry in which to explore a story. Here’s Igor giving a presentation at the 2020 Game Happens Festival in Italy.
Igor Simic: The bedrock of the whole project is the world that you build. Then you figure out, “okay what are the stories I want to tell?”. “This story is best sold as an audio thing, this story is a film, this can be an augmented reality experience, this can be VR”. But you decide on a story that is kind of native to a certain medium.
SHANE BERRY: So it was just another way of exploring telling a story or building a world. Igor and I are firmly rooted in filmmaking, that's our background is making films together, short films, and various galleries and things like that. So the approach to Golf Club: Wasteland has always been cinematic in approach, always story driven.
Igor Simic: Simply, the whole game - also I am a filmmaker, so I think in terms of montage - is a single shot, going from like a dolly shot, from left to right. And you’ve seen, probably, the film Birdman. So they hide the cuts by panning to the sky, okay? So we’ve done the same thing. So the pilot goes like this, and then when we have to shift between levels, the camera shifts to the sky and comes back down. So you get this illusion of a Tarkovsky shot or a Visconti shot.
JAMES PARKINSON: In this case, the interactive medium of video games offered a unique way to explore the story Igor wanted to tell, because the player is a participant. While you can experience the general story and enjoy the gameplay, there’s also layers of depth to discover, if you dig a little deeper.
Igor Simic: If you seek out this information, then the web of this kind of - the meaningfulness of the experience grows.
JAMES PARKINSON: Golf Club: Wasteland is built around several themes, including ecology, loneliness, post-humanism and satire. It tackles things like capitalism, climate change and Silicon Valley culture. Some of these themes are very overt, while others are more subtle. And the game communicates this story in three ways.
SHANE BERRY: So there's a visual story, there's a textual story, and then there's an audio story, over and above the sound design of the world itself.
JAMES PARKINSON: So the first layer, the visual component, is the golf gameplay itself, as you control the protagonist, Charlie.
Igor Simic: The main character of the game is this pilot, who drove rich people to Mars, but he left his family behind. So he’s guilt-ridden and he didn’t fit in with people in Tesla City on Mars. So he convinces them to let him go on a solo trip to revisit Earth. So it’s basically an hour and a half, give or take, of gameplay, where you revisit his own memories and places, you know, the coffee shop where he had his espresso.
JAMES PARKINSON: The game’s environment gives you an insight into the catastrophe that happened on Earth, as you navigate the ruins of shopping malls, museums, and crumbling monuments.
Igor Simic: So the first thing is architecture, brutalism. I grew up in New Belgrade, which is a very brutalist environment, modernist architecture. Underwritten in modernism is a faith in progress, so it’s kind of funny that everything is a disaster, while we believed in progress. So, a lot of the monuments are anti-fascist. So we thought, let’s mix anti-fascism, and Trump, and Jeff Bezos, all of that in the same basket.
JAMES PARKINSON: Golf Club: Wasteland also takes inspiration from science fiction. One of the most striking aspects of the game’s art are these pink neon signs that you see on the crumbling buildings. They evoke the cyberpunk vibe of Bladerunner, while riffing on modern culture.
Igor Simic: Basically imposing Bladerunner on Yugoslav architecture. But the neons would also tell micro stories. So the neons are memes about Trump, about politics, about American elections, about technology, about Zuckerburg. One big neon says “Digidopamine”, which is basically a mix of “digital”, and “dopamine”, which is the business model of Facebook.
JAMES PARKINSON: The story also unfolds through text. The loading screen between levels presents observations from the perspective of a mysterious on-looker, as it becomes clear our protagonist is being followed. As you progress, you also unlock short diary entries that provide more detail about Charlie’s backstory.
JAMES PARKINSON: The biggest component of the storytelling though, is the game’s approach to audio, which is doing so much of the worldbuilding. This is achieved by a radio broadcast - RNFM - that plays constantly - Radio Nostalgia from Mars.
JAMES PARKINSON: Shane Berry has a background in broadcasting, firstly volunteering at a radio station in Japan, then moving onto music production, so he was able to put those skills to good use for the game, including playing the announcer.
Radio DJ: “Hello all you Martians out there. It’s your fix for the soul. A bit of that old world flavour. You're tuned to Radio Nostalgia from Mars. Breathe easy, kick back and reminisce.”
SHANE BERRY: And so, I'm firmly rooted in making radio shows and making jingles. That was my bread and butter in the early days. And of course, then I moved into live performance and live techno production. So when all of that came together, and speaking with Igor - Igor knowing my skill set as a radio producer, and as a live performance producer, and as a DJ, it kind of made sense that we would lean into the strengths of what we do best.
JAMES PARKINSON: Combining music, announcements, and audio stories from inhabitants of the Mars colony, the radio program serves as the perfect storytelling tool.
SHANE BERRY: It's a great way of telling a story while people can do other things. And in gameplay, what better way to tell a story than to just listen to a radio show, because you don't have to interact with it. Because they weren't original concepts to have the radio have dials, like, you know, similar to Bioshock 2, where you find those little radio things lying around and interacting with them, that was one of the original ideas. But it just didn't work in that sense because now you had to do something with a radio, and it became a little bit too tactile. So this kind of hovering narrator in the background, just this non-interactive thing, feeding this information into the show, almost subliminally in a way because of the kind of ASMR approach to the vocals, lends itself to this world and to this philosophy of identity and nostalgia, and the radio is kind of obsolete in the in the face of streaming, so everything is layered upon layer upon layer of nostalgia, within mediums, within mediums, radio in the game, art in the game, which one is now superseding which, so it was very interesting to explore that and we were very conscious of that from the very beginning.
Radio DJ: “Speaking of savouring things, the Health and wellbeing department would like us to remind you that the popping and fizzing noise your dry food makes when adding water is perfectly normal, and does not mean it is contaminated or has gone off.”
JAMES PARKINSON: Radio Nostalgia from Mars is diegetic, meaning it’s part of the game world itself and can be heard by the characters.
SHANE BERRY: Initially, I wanted the radio show to be inside Charlie's helmet and unlistenable. I wanted it to be distorted, and you could hear that there was a radio show, but you couldn't hear it, and somehow maybe unlocked it later on in gameplay. But of course, it didn't work. The radio show is an integral part of the storytelling in the game. So we hinted at the diagenetic nature of the audio by blocking it out when you go underground.
SHANE BERRY: Which, for a lot of people has been a moment of like, “whoa”, like, “the radio show in his helmet”.
SHANE BERRY: So a lot of people only get it, I think around the second or third time of hearing the radio show, that the lyrics are explicitly about the world and about what's going on. And so every song is tailor made for the radio show, it's all original music. Like it's not just random songs that are just going on in the background, it's actually tied to what you're experiencing.
JAMES PARKINSON: The whole tone of the radio show and its role in the game world is also very purposely crafted.
SHANE BERRY: We had very long conversations about this, and there is a lot of thought into this. There was a lot of philosophy around the radio and its role in society, one can look at the role of radio in war. There's lots of interesting stories about, for example, the birth of magnetic tape, where the Allies couldn't figure out how the Germans were listening to pristine orchestral recordings at 3am in the morning. And they kind of reverse engineered that they somehow they had found a way of recording live performances and playing it back at almost pristine recall. And they didn't know how they were doing it. At that time, I think they were recording onto piano wires, magnetising piano wire. So there’s this long history of radio being this simultaneous mystery and a purveyor of information. So like, sometimes what's not being said, is as powerful as what's being said.
Radio DJ: “Want to keep that blood pumping? Remember, exercise is mandatory. No groans, no bones. And mental exercise is just as important. So get on down to your local rec centre…”
SHANE BERRY: The original brief - I actually have it in front of me here - Igor is very very, very eloquent. So he just sat down he said, “I want to create a realistic Mars-based radio station, complete with original interstitials, music and radio content. It must be adverts, news, sports and weather reports,”. That was his brief. And then he said, “The overall tone of the station is nostalgia, with a retro-future soundtrack inspired by artists such as Cywinski, M83, Anderson Park, and so on”. That is literally what he wrote to me, so the vision was very clear from the outset.
JAMES PARKINSON: It was also important that the world remained grounded. So the practicalities of things like space travel and the distance between the Earth and Mars were considered when developing the story. Shane made a conscious decision not to include any references to time, in order to keep things simple.
SHANE BERRY: Time is a killer in terms of experience and emotion. The less time references that you have, in terms of hard timeline, can become quite a barrier to exploring that world. Of course, the Martian calendar is extremely complex. So I do make a joke about that. I do poke fun at that, by trying to explain the Martian calendar that’s being used. And it's so convoluted and I'm saying, “Don't worry, it's easy, you'll get it,”. That's kind of like the in-joke of - and that's a reference, in itself, to the lack of time within the game, because it just became so complicated, so that everything becomes self referential.
Radio DJ: “There does seem to be some confusion about scheduling, based on the double months standard. But it’s really quite simple guys. There are now 24 months in our year, and there are two of each month; January 1 and January 2, February 1 and February 2, and so on. Each month is now 28 Sols long, except for every sixth month, which is 27 Sols long. I hope that clears up the situation. Any further queries, in writing, please, can be submitted to the Mars Coalition, for the simplification of the Martian calendar.”
JAMES PARKINSON: Golf Club: Wasteland is full of references, from science fiction literature to internet culture, and the modern space race, which anchors the story and its dystopian setting. Both the information you’re receiving and how it’s being delivered is all part of the worldbuilding that’s captured by RNFM.
SHANE BERRY: What is unsaid in most of the game is that it's not a military operation to get into space, which is what we're kind of brainwashed or kind of been led to believe, that human exploration of space will be militarised. And that's clearly not what's happening with Bezos or these multi-billionaires making their way into low Earth orbit. And so we very clearly - or not so clearly, depending on how you look at it, have a corporate structure on Mars. So there isn't a Mayor, there isn't a President, there's a CEO of Mars.
Radio DJ: “For the record, corporate does not endorse or advocate the use of psychedelic drugs, and reminds you, dear listeners, that Class A drugs are just as illegal here on Mars, as they were on Earth.”
SHANE BERRY: And so layered within that is a corporation called Omas, which is a play on the Brave New World, Aldous Huxley, Soma - which is the drink that placates the elite. So we have one called Omas, which is a play on zero mass, which is a play on the lack of gravity, which is what drives everybody to go and play golf on Earth, so again, layers within layers. And in that, they become the sponsor of the show. And in that, is the explicit reality that they are being medicated to survive on Mars.
Radio DJ: “In the interim, teams are reminded to take advantage of the half ration special on Omas, the delicious and relaxing drink that takes the edge off of everything.”
SHANE BERRY: And hence the tone of the show is, “Hey, guys, everything's fine, just relax, you know, don't revolt, don't really look at the world that you're living in right now, you know, look back, experience the now through the past, and all is good,”. So there's definitely an aspect of propaganda to the show, and that's where the tone came from.
RNFM: “Stories, memories, the good old days, original sources, authentic tales, hope, inspiration, drama. Radio Nostalgia from Mars.”
JAMES PARKINSON: In contrast to some of the serious themes of the game, the sound design is quite the opposite. Here’s Igor.
Igor Simic: The sound design is very, kind of, “slapsticky”. So our character doesn’t speak, so when he walks it creates a funny sound. So it’s a kind of Buster Keaton, silent movie humour.
SHANE BERRY: So when I saw the way that Charlie lands, I mean, he animated just nailed the weight of his, like apathy in a way, you know, when he just flops onto the ground, and he walks over to the ball, and he that plodding motion, kind of set the motion of finding a halfway point between the absurdity of the premise of the game, the relative serious the relative seriousness of the radio show, and, and balancing that, as you say, with almost a cartoonish or comical kind of sound design. That's brief from Igor. And it's something that we discussed at length where it was, again, plausible sound design, but leaning more towards the comical, cartoonish for sure, because it just lends itself to the character who himself is very cartoonish. He lands and behaves like a cartoon character.
JAMES PARKINSON: After the break, the storytelling behind the music of Golf Club: Wasteland.
Radio DJ: “Plenty more to come in "tosols" show. A show packed with stories, and music, to remind ourselves of where we are and how far we’ve come.”
RNFM: “The deepest tunes, the warmest memories, Radio Nostalgia from Mars”.
Radio DJ: “Okay, on with the show. Well, we’ve had some requests for some classical music. And boy, do I have a treat for all you classical and vinyl lovers out there. A genuine record, playing off an actual record player, on loan from a dedicated RNFM fan. So grab a tube of Omas, sit back, and enjoy some chill, neo-classical vibes, with that warm vinyl sound, right here on Radio Nostalgia from Mars.”
JAMES PARKINSON: Shane Berry produced about two hours of audio for Radio Nostalgia from Mars, including all of the announcements, stories, the jingles or station IDs, and the music. The main theme for the game is Take My Hand, featuring the artist Ana Curcin.
SHANE BERRY: So ‘Take My Hand’ came from Igor wanting us to do a lullaby. And it was originally, like, a ‘Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star’ kind of melody that I had come up with, using a very prototype version of the lyrics. And then we handed that to Ana Curcin.
SHANE BERRY: It's technically a remix of a song that existed in the 2030s. So that's about the only place where we have a vague timeline going on, is that nostalgia, not for our time, but a time between now and the future, is what the radio show is referencing. That cataclysmic transition from Earth to Mars. And this was the first song that sets the tone. It refers to the project of humanity, which is exactly what the Mars experiment would be. It would be an experiment. I mean, there's no hard facts of how it will work out there, it will always be an experiment in the first couple of years.
JAMES PARKINSON: Ana Curcin also features on another track called Two Astronauts.
SHANE BERRY: That's basically just two astronauts, an American and a Russian, arguing in space about philosophy and life, and effectively breathing the same air.
SHANE BERRY: Again, a layer upon layer, is that’s exactly what we're doing on Earth, just it's much bigger down here then up in a space capsule. So yeah, it's that just that social commentary on differences being irrelevant when you're in tight spaces, and how people would react socially and philosophically and culturally to one another, being in a cramped space. So it's like, already not even on Mars, they were arguing, but still somehow cooperating.
JAMES PARKINSON: Another track, Surveillance Love Song, was adapted from a short film Igor made called ‘Our Guardians’, and the story behind it felt like it existed in this world.
Radio DJ: “Right. How about a 21st Century love song, remixed for the 22nd? Who’s watching who? Espionage or true love? I guess we’ll never really be quite sure.”
SHANE BERRY: So the lyrics again, we found were exactly appropriate to what would be happening on Mars. In the radio interstitials, I kind of joke that you have no choice but to tell them what you're doing. And you know, everything's recorded and you're being watched all the time, which is that's how it would have to be done. So yeah, that basically perfectly encapsulates, not only a possible future, but exactly what's happening right now. This alienation, this animosity, this ambiguity of love and relationships and experiences. So it’s simultaneously contemporary and futuristic at the same time.
Radio DJ: “...but do remember that all conversations are monitored and recorded for security reasons, and you must have your ID badge and Sectional Access Pass visible at all times.”
JAMES PARKINSON: Elsewhere, the song Creatures of the World reflects on life on the Red Planet.
SHANE BERRY: A lot of people resonate with that, simply because of the lyrics. The cold, skyless dome. A man, you know, pining for love and for attention, in a steel dome, which is effectively life on Mars condensed into poetry.
JAMES PARKINSON: If you’re listening closely to the lyrics, you’ll pick up on the many layers of meaning and references behind them. But a more overt aspect of the worldbuilding are the stories that are interwoven with the music, where you hear directly from the inhabitants of Tesla City.
Radio DJ: “Our first caller calls it like it is, and was. A hard-hitting look back at the last days on Earth, from the perspective of a shrewd businessman and loving father.”
SHANE BERRY: There was a certain charm to the reality that that's what would happen, people would read be reading their notes into the microphone and there would be reading their feelings and it would be a little bit stilted because they're on the phone to you know, they're on Mars. So there were a whole lot of things where again, the plausibility became a non-issue, it was like that, that's how it would be.
Caller Number One (Chaffy): “I worked in oil. Brokering gasoline, to be exact. It’s a strange business. Probably not like what you actually imagine it to be.”
SHANE BERRY: That's all Igor’s writing and his extensive reading, and his extensive references to literature and to movies and to plays. Where I come in, is more of shaping the science fiction worldbuilding. So the stories that I contributed, were more of like, factual worldbuilding, like of what was happening when they were fuelling the aircraft, like those people have stories. And that's the Irish kid who gets to get to Mars by mistake. And that answered a couple of questions in terms of worldbuilding is, “who actually does get to Mars?”. Because the global elite need people to help them, they don't exist in a bubble. So they would take people that are not elite with them. So effectively a class system would emerge on Mars as well. And then invariably, some people will just get there by sheer luck.
Caller Number One (Mark): “I nearly missed the boat to Mars. I mean the rumours about something big happening in Alphaville had been floating for a few years, and of course, it was impossible to separate fact from fiction. At that time I barely made it through insurgent territory to this floating ghetto, about an hour away from Alphaville by motorboat....”
SHANE BERRY: Also, the reality of the people that would be sacrificed for these absurd thing to take place, to escape the world. People would - there would be countless people left behind and countless people, you know, used to get what the ultra-rich want, which is commentary on what's happening right now in the world, to be honest.
Caller Number One (Mark): “...of shipping data a monkey could understand. Imports into Alphaville were off the charts, while exports…”
SHANE BERRY: And then I thought it'd be interesting, you know, to have someone that doesn't reminisce about you know, the forests and the whales and everything like that. The desert is a very key aspect of life on the planet. So I thought it'd be funny to have this kind of bonkers, slightly crazy, you know, Earth geologist down on the south pole of Mars, you know, ranting about how people don't respect the desert anymore, even though they’re living on one of the biggest deserts in the solar system, you know? There's a humour there, but there's also a commentary on you know, that it was the desert that is helping us to understand what it's like to live on Mars, some of the Mars habitat’s are out in the Gobi Desert.
Caller Number Three (Nik): “As a geologist, it always annoyed me that the colour of Earth conservation was green. Seen from space, the majority of the Earth’s surface is blue, with the remaining 29% for land. And of that land, desserts make up one third of the land surface area. Sweeping burns of ochre, rust and gold, cream. Give me a break!”.
JAMES PARKINSON: Sometimes the stories and music are connected in a way that adds even more weight to the narrative. Like the character Mrva, who reminisces about her teenage clubbing days on Earth, which is followed by the DJ playing her favourite song called ‘Repetition’.
Radio DJ: “Okay, disclaimer out of the way, we actually have a surprise for Mrva. We tracked down that weird song in her head, and dug it out of the archives for all to hear. Grab a tube of Omas, and enjoy the ride while sipping on pure calm.”
SHANE BERRY: ‘Repetition’, again, is where we play with diegetic and tie the soundtrack to the world. Most people are realising that the radio show is a very important part of the game by around the time ‘Creatures of the World’ hits, it becomes obvious that the soundtrack is just more than music playing in the background that there is a story evolving and then by the time repetition hits and or you've reached the level in the in the nightclub and ‘Repetition’ is playing in the nightclub. And not ‘Repetition’ is pre the story before repetition is more of a talking about hearing that in a nightclub, we really anchor the soundtrack into the game at that point, which is all deliberate. And that's all Igor’s input is like, “okay, let's have a nightclub level. And in that nightclub, the soundtrack is playing”. And then it's very clear that, you know this was music that was an Earth at the time of the catastrophe.
JAMES PARKINSON: On completion of the main story mode, you’ll unlock a graphic novel that gives you further insight into the world and Charlie’s personal story. Some questions are left unanswered though, which is fitting for a game that gives you a lot to think about, given the observations it’s making.
SHANE BERRY: Essentially the ideas that are there, the exploration of the world, the problems that would be faced by people living on Mars, regardless of their status is pretty as authentic as I could make it, within the absurdity of the premise. We did think of going like, full on Douglas Adams or Terry Pratchett, you know? Like kind of full on comedy. But it turned out that if we - when we leaned in that direction, from a storytelling point of view, it ended up being too absurd. And kind of lost the pathos that was necessary to get this emotion across, because it's it's pretty serious content at the end of the day, And, at least from my side, writing the script, I realised that there was enough absurdity already, that if you just spoke about the realities of living on Mars, they're absurd already. You don't have to make them any more crazy than they are. The problems are enormous and funny.
SHANE BERRY: So these mundane things that the global elite generally can avoid, by having servants and stuff, they meet square on by escaping the reality here, it condenses the reality on Mars. They have to worry about where to pee and where to poo, and they have to worry about recycled water, things that, you know, that they had tried to escape. And that laid the groundwork for being serious, but tongue-in-cheek. And inside that is an observation, and that that is what we're exploring. The observation that come what may, people will be selfish and will you know, attempt to to entertain themselves. And then entertainment is where the radio show - so it kind of all loops back in on itself. How would they entertain themselves? Oh, they would be nostalgic for that time, you know? They would think back, “Oh, life was much better on Earth”, but they were always complaining when they were here. So what really changes if we move to Mars? The word that kind of underpins the whole game is ‘irreverence’. So there was an irreverence to the situation going, “Yeah, the problems don't leave when we leave, they follow us. They're going to follow us to Mars”.
JAMES PARKINSON: Demagog Studio’s storytelling approach embraces many artforms. While Golf Club: Wasteland, the game, exists on its own, they also released the entire RNFM radio program as an album. So it’s almost presented as a concept album or radio fiction. Three animated music videos, or short films, were also published on YouTube, and Igor Simic has ambitions of developing Golf Club: Wasteland into an animated Netflix series. Outside of the digital world, Igor even created real life versions of the game’s pink neon signs, which have been featured in various gallery installations under the project Wasteland Neons.
Igor Simic: “So my idea was, “let’s have five neons, shedding their pink light onto everyone, so that it all kind of looks like a Bordella”. So here you have ‘Ministry of Loneliness’, but LOL, laughing out loud is shining. So there is an actual department in the UK for loneliness. ‘Weltschmerz’ is this German word that suggests this kind of melancholy, in face of the suffering of the world, and your inability to do anything about it.”
JAMES PARKINSON: There aren’t too many games that directly address the climate crisis, and speak to the issues of contemporary society. But for me, Golf Club: Wasteland has really made me think about the world we live in, and the possible futures that lay ahead. Climate change is a divisive issue for people, and they’ve reacted negatively towards the game. But Shane is very clear that they’re not preaching here.
SHANE BERRY: We're simply using existing contemporary assets and re-contextualising them in this absurdity. And the absurdity itself is plausible, and some people - like the way people are reacting to the game, it says more about them than it does about the game, right? Because there's so much density involved in what's being presented in the game that, yeah, it is a golf game, of course it is. And people tend to forget that Charlie is not a great golf player, he's an amateur right? So just bear that in mind when you're playing it. There's a depth there as well to consider.
SHANE BERRY: So the commentary is more like, looking at the contemporary world, and you know, just making science fiction out of it. But it isn't really, it's not science fiction. And again, we were very conscious of not leaning into like Armageddon porn, as we were saying, like, it's not it's not about celebrating or wishing this happens. It's just simply, it is happening, this is an observation. And at this point, if you want to be on the optimistic side of things, it is technically, I wouldn't say reversible, but there is stuff we can do about it, for sure. But if we don't do something about it, you're going to go play golf in a wasteland for sure - if you’re one of the lucky ones.
JAMES PARKINSON: Thanks so much to Shane Berry from Demagog Studio. And thanks also to the Game Happens Festival. All the audio you heard from Igor Simic comes from his Game Happens presentation on Constellation Storytelling. Golf Club: Wasteland was initially released for iOS and Android in 2018. It’s now available for PC, PlayStation, Xbox and Nintendo Switch. Each copy of the game also includes a digital version of the soundtrack.
JAMES PARKINSON: Gameplay is a production of Lawson Media. This episode was written and produced by me, James Parkinson.
JAMES PARKINSON: The Gameplay theme was composed by Breakmaster Cylinder. Our artwork is by Keegan Sanford. And you heard select tracks from the Golf Club: Wasteland soundtrack, and additional music from Epidemic Sound and Breakmaster Cylinder.
JAMES PARKINSON: You can follow the show on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook at ‘gameplaypodcast’. You can also join our community on Discord. And the best way to help the show grow is share it with a friend. You’ll find all the links, episode transcripts and further reading on our website, gameplay.co. Until next time, thanks for listening.