Panopticon Pandemonium: new video game brings to life Jeremy Bentham's unrealised prison
9 August 2016
Researchers from the UCL Knowledge Lab, DARE Collaborative, the UCL Centre for Digital Humanities and the Transcribe Bentham project have launched a game which sees the first virtual construction of a working Panopticon, the prison reform system envisaged by philosopher and reformer Jeremy Bentham.
The game, 'Panopticon Pandemonium', incorporates real research findings in a simulation of the Panopticon penitentiary, a circular 'Inspection House' with prisoners' cells arranged around the outer wall and a central inspection tower. As prisoners would not be able to see the inspection tower, they would assume that they were always being watched. Bentham believed that this would modify their criminal behaviour.
Created with game developer Duck Duck Zeus, the game sees the player, assisted by Bentham himself, act as governor of the prison - balancing economies of the social benefits of Bentham's vision-happiness, rehabilitation, work-against the functions of discipline, punishment, and surveillance, while also ensuring that their Panopticon is orderly and profitable.
Professor Andrew Burn, UCL Knowledge Lab, led the project and said:
"We hope that the game will help the public, as well as UCL students and prospective students, to experience Bentham's controversial vision in an exciting, engaging way.
" "We hope that the game will help the public, as well as UCL students and prospective students, to experience Bentham's controversial vision in an exciting, engaging way.
"We're also pleased about this collaboration between expertise in game design at DARE and the UCL Knowledge Lab, and world class scholarship in the Transcribe Bentham project and the UCL Digital Humanities Centre."
The game forms part of The Bentham Project, which is the world leader for Bentham Studies.
Dr Tim Causer, Senior Research Associate, The Bentham Project, said:
"That the Panopticon was never actually built, and that Bentham never got to try his hand at prison administration, was probably for the best, but this virtual recreation of it does provide players with some idea of the competing economies that the Panopticon inspector would have had to manage."