UCL Faculty of Laws


Panopticon Pandemonium: New videogame brings to life Jeremy Bentham’s unrealised prison

19 July 2016

Bentham Game

The Bentham Project, based at UCL Laws, in association with the Institute of Education, the Centre for Digital Humanities, and independent game developer Duck Duck Zeus, have launched a new videogame exploring one of philosopher and reformer Jeremy Bentham’s most controversial ideas.

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. The prisoners would assume they were always being watched, which Bentham expected would modify their criminal behaviour and instill a love of work, to avoid the punishment for any breach of the prison’s discipline.

No prison which adhered to Bentham’s design has ever been built, and Panopticon Pandemonium sees the construction—virtually—of a working panopticon for the first time.

The player, assisted by Bentham himself, acts as governor of the prison and has to balance 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.

Dr Tim Causer, Senior Research Associate, The Bentham Project, UCL said:

‘We are delighted to be involved in Panopticon Pandemonium, and we hope that the game will provide a new and novel way of exploring and engaging with one of Bentham’s most enduring and controversial ideas.  

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.  

We’re thrilled to see the game realised’.

To find out more about Bentham, visit the Bentham Project website.

Download the game


UCL Bentham Project

Founded in 1958 to produce the new scholarly edition of the works and correspondence of Jeremy Bentham, the influential jurist, philosopher, and social scientist, the Bentham Project is the world centre for Bentham Studies. Current volumes of The Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham being prepared for publication include his writings on political economy, and convict transportation, colonialism, and the history of Australia.

Amongst other activities, the Bentham Project also runs the award-winning crowdsourced transcription initiative, Transcribe Bentham, which invites volunteers to help transcribe the vast collection of manuscripts written and composed by Bentham; as of July 2016 volunteers had transcribed over 16,000 manuscript pages.

Duck Duck Zeus

Duck Duck Zeus are an indie game developer based in South London, UK. Comprised of four individuals who met at London South Bank University in 2008, after one collaboration they discovered that they would become the best of friends.

In 2015 and after many trials and tribulations the team decided to band together despite obstacles in both geography and lifestyle, to strive to pursue a career in self-published video game development


The DARE Collaborative (Digital | Arts | Research | Education) is a research partnership focused on the digital arts in education, led by the UCL Institute of Education and the British Film Institute. Its remit is to promote conversations between researchers, children, educators, cultural institutions and the creative industries; to develop cross-arts research projects; to build partnerships with museums, galleries, concert and film venues, schools and companies; and to advise on Arts and Education policy.

UCL Knowledge Lab

The mission of the Knowledge Lab is to understand and to develop digital technologies to support and transform education, and beyond. Based on research evidence, we devise new pedagogies, design and implement innovative digital media and smart technologies for teaching and learning, and inform policymakers and educational stakeholders.

UCL Centre for Digital Humanities

Founded in 2010, the UCLDH is a cross-faculty research centre, bringing together a vibrant network of people who teach and research in a wide range of disciplines. UCLDH draws on UCL’s world-class research strength especially in information studies, computing science, and the arts and humanities. The research facilitated by UCLDH takes place at the intersection of digital technologies and the humanities. It produces applications and models that make possible new kinds of research, both in humanities disciplines and in computer science and its applied technologies. It also studies the impact of these techniques on cultural heritage, museums, libraries, archives, and culture at large. Since its inception, UCLDH has been involved in many ground-breaking research projects, some of which have won major awards.