Radical Alternate Futurescoping: Solarpunk versus Grimdark

A design and research workshop at Academic Mindtrek 2023 to explore radical alternate futures of climate action 

Intelligent Games and Games Intelligence (IGGI) PhD researchers Prasad Sandbhor and Sarah Masters invite you to participate and co-create mock-ups of play experiences dealing with eco futures and climate action in solarpunk and grimdark themes.


3rd October 2023 (9.30am – 5.00pm EEST, 7.30am – 3.00pm BST, 6.30am – 2.00pm UTC)


In-person at Academic Mindtrek 2023 Tampere University, City Center Campus, Pinni B 4115

Online on an invite-only Discord+Zoom set-up

The workshop is aimed at game designers, researchers, students and anyone enthusiastic about creating solarpunk and grimdark play experiences! 

Seats are limited for both in-person and online tracks. Register here.

If you are attending in-person then in addition to filling this form, you also need to purchase yourself a ‘Workshop Pass’ (29€+VAT 24%) from the Academic Mindtrek website

Read further for more information about the workshop and the organisers.


Designing social and political futures through an ’eco’ lens is becoming popular in the media with movements like solarpunk and genres like grimdark. However, there are fewer studies that explore their potential in designing critical games and play experiences for climate change education, communication and engagement. Solarpunk and grimdark are two extreme ends of the spectrum of alternate climate futures. While solarpunk presents a hopeful technological utopia, grimdark uses a more nihilistic setting. 

In this workshop, we plan to bring together people with diverse backgrounds to collaborate and co-create mock-ups of play experiences following solarpunk and grimdark themes. The workshop will take its participants through a series of exercises enabling a critical, rebellious and radical approach to their design processes and conclude with a critical reflection session. We believe that it will be a novel opportunity to explore and investigate the potential of playful and rebellious eco-envisioning or ’ecopunk’, artefacts in terms of their aesthetics, rhetoric and emotions as they get created side by side.


Prasad Sandbhor, Serious Game Designer and PhD Researcher

Prasad Sandbhor is a serious game designer and researcher. He studied Toy and Game Design as a part of his masters degree in Design and went on to work in the industry for 8 years. He has designed digital, tabletop as well as hybrid serious games in diverse areas such as education, healthcare, entrepreneurship, social safety, accessibility and sustainability. He teaches game design and user experience design at Universities in India and England. Prasad is presently pursuing a PhD at The University of York and the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Intelligent Games and Game Intelligence (IGGI). His research explores the potential of group- based games as tools for sense-making of climate action among young adults.

Sarah Masters, Artist, Indie Game Developer and PhD Researcher

Sarah Masters is a post-graduate researcher with The University of York and the ESPRC-funded IGGI (Intelligent Games, Games Intelligence). They are an active part of the games community, with an MA in Indie Game Development, which explored eliciting anxiety and hope for climate change reflection in games. As an artist, writer and person who makes games, their research focuses on aesthetics, emotional experiences and critical game design for climate change engagement, reflection and creative activism, exploring the punk in game design with grimpunk, mosspunk, lunarpunk and other emergent storytelling methods.

Schedule and Details

Note for in-person participants – Coffee and water will be available free of charge at the Academic Mindtrek 2023 conference. Participants will have to plan and fund their own lunch. There is a cafeteria at the venue, and other options are available nearby. 

Schedule in-person in Tampere EEST
Phase 1 – Introduction

10:00 to 10:15. Coffee Break

Phase 2: Conceptualisation

12:00 to 13:00. Lunch

Phase 3 Mockup Jam

15:00 to 15:15. Coffee Break

Phase 4: Critical Reflection and Discussion

Schedule for online participants UTC
Phase 1 – Introduction

07:00 to 07:15. Coffee Break

Phase 2: Conceptualisation

09:00 to 10:00. Break

Phase 3 Mockup Jam

12:00 to 12:15. Coffee Break

Phase 4: Critical Reflection and Discussion

Information and Games

What is Solarpunk?

Solarpunk is a literary, artistic and activist movement pursuing the dreams of a sustainable earth where humans and nature cohabit in a harmonious way. As the Solarpunk Manifesto [1] speculates a “post-scarcity, post-hierarchy, post-capitalistic” world that prioritises “environmental sustainability, self-governance and social justice”.

Solarpunk Games

Solarpunk Futures a storytelling boarg game where you imagine new solarpunk worlds

Games with Solarpunk traits currently in development

Currently in development Spilled, clean the waters from the oil leak and see updates from game developer Lente on Twitter!

Currently in development Synergy, a survival city builder!

Currently in development ReFresh, restore your town in this cozy game!

What is Grimdark?

Grimdark is a pervasively bleak, brutal and nihilistic setting, but the genre offers opportunities for an introspective kind of future envisioning.

Eco-Grimdark Games

Frostpunk What will you do to survive? A 4X strategy where you need to build in frozen wastelands.

Death Stranding Deliver hope by connecting the last of the survivors in the sixth and final extinction event (arguably Hopepunk but on the grim side)

Grimdark Games

Warhammer “In the grim darkness of the far future there is only war”

Darkest Dungeons psychological stress, paranoia and a turn based RPG


Prasad Sandbhor at The University of York with iGGi at [email protected]

Sarah Masters at The University of York with iGGi at [email protected]


Click below to register!


[1] A. Flynn. 2014. Solarpunk: Notes toward a manifesto. ttps://hieroglyph.asu.edu/2014/09/solarpunk-notes-toward-a-manifesto/2014/09/solarpunknotes-

Data Policy Statement

This workshop is run by researchers at the University of York, UK. The University of York adheres to the General Data Protection Regulation and Data Protection Act 2018. More details regarding this can be found on the University of York Data Protection Policy Page.

The registration data collected will only be used to co-ordinate the organisation of the workshop and will be deleted after the completion of the workshop.

If you are dissatisfied with the treatment of your data, please contact the University’s Data Protection Officer. In line with the University of York charter, which states that we advance learning and knowledge by teaching and research, the University processes personal data for research purposes under Article 6 (1) (e) of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).