Happy to forward my thoughts on video games for academic puposes!
I think most games, particularly sci-fi orientated games have more in common with the imagined futures portrayed in movies more than they offer up anything wholly original. Neon lit Bladerunner cyber punk is a popular aesthetic, soon to be done on the grandest scale with Cyberpunk 2077. Cyberpunk by its very nature seems to be dystopian with clear limits put on humanity’s development personal and otherwise. The two most recent Deus Ex games are perfect examples of this, with augmented persons creating divide in society - representing similar divides that have plagued humanity through the centuries.
In terms of originality Prey and Fallout spring to mind, but serve up a retro-future that branched off at different junctures in history. In many ways these futures are ‘impossible’. Fallout the 1950s, in which the US embraced atomic power as well as the weapons it created. Prey from 1960s in which Robert Kennedy wasn’t assassinated and was allowed to continue his ‘progressive’ agenda that fuelled the moon landings and led to the lunar space station of which the game takes place.
Fallout started out as a series that was highly anti-war and a scathing indicement of the silver age, a world where the happy go lucky attitude of 50s maintained despite much of the world being reduced to an radioactive wasteland. Future apocalypse is always a mainstay in games with large open worlds, you perhaps don’t need as much work populating a wasteland with features rather than living breathing city. However, I think the more recent Fallout games from Bethesda have put alot of the old spirit aside in favour of giving players power fantasys and nuking your friends. It’s a series whose power has devolved quite considerably. Selling both the happy go lucky attitude of the atomic age along with the havoc it presented.
Prey offers up a more interesting and recogniseable future. The lunar station you explore feels like a real place even to the point it has a HR and marketing department you can explore. I guess the whole mimic presense does relate loosely to cold war dynamics, with humans ultimately looking for means to understand the aliens who can take our shape and how they can be brought under our rule and used for specific purposes. There is the prevalence of collecting resources and using 3D printers to keep yourself better equipped for the adventure.
As others say Horizon: Zero Dawn offers up a more original future, where nature has regained it’s place, yet much of the wildlife have been replaced by these mecha-stand-ins that rule over the humans who have been forced into a hunter gatherer society - still plagued by the same old human tribalism. Enslaved: Odyssey to the West was another game that had similar ideas, a kind of colourful post apocalypse where the remnants of humanity fight the robots that created their demise.
In terms of imagined futures, I think there maybe something in some of the Call of Duty games - most notably the Advance Warfare and later Black Ops game that is set in the near future. I believe that Advanced Warfare had a level set in Iraq where it is a shining technological city. Also Infinite Warfare, which probably has one of the most realistic depictions of what a war across planets might look like. At the same time, it’s a fairly standard but suprisingly grounded parable of war, in which soldiers are sacrificed for the greater good.
I remember with some of these COD games, the developers seemed to be very close with actual developments in the US military - so it seemed authentic to a degree (outside of the Michael Bayisms). Infinite Warfare had some interesting parts inbetween the regular missions, in which you were able to walk around your ship - not too different to an aircraft carrier but everything was very self sufficient again with the 3D printers and media being channelled directly into your ship. One of the characters was a robot with artificial sentience, a capable special forces soldier who was programmed to come across as more human across it’s demeanour.
Related to this, though more fantasical, I think the Titanfall games offer an interesting vision of the future albeit with the old space civil war trope that is very Star Wars/Serenity. Though the second game has a very standard story, the first game involved an MP campaign in which a plucky group of rebels did battle with a bunch of mercenaries employed by the corporate overlords. Titanfall was an upgrade to the original COD formula, with improved mobility whilst on the ground as a soldier and the ability to call in a hulking mecha battle tank. There is an interesting dynamic in the background of Titanfall. The first game involved you selecting human characters in the multiplayer, but in the 2nd game there was more and more, your characters were more augmented to the point that some of them were the same robots you were fighting against. It was a cool little nod to the fact that humanity was gradually being phased out to actually fight interstellar wars. It’s another game where robots are subject to the old terminator fears but at the same time your robotic partner in the Titanfall 2 game is out to protect you and shows concern for your safety to the point that when he sacrifices himself to save your character it’s like losing a friend.
Bit of a ramble…