An elite boarding school in Vienna, housed within what used to be the Hapsburgs’ summer residence. The form tutor is an old-fashioned and despotic man. What could anyone hope to learn here that they could actually use in real life? Till Kokorda has no time for the canon or for this snobbish environment. His passion is gaming – specifically the real-time strategy game “Age of Empires 2”. After his father dies, Till’s hobby becomes a financial imperative. Although nobody at the school knows it, Till is an online celebrity at the age of 15 – the youngest Top-10 player in the world. But how real is this kind of happiness? In 2020, his final year at the school, nothing goes the way Till had expected it to, either at school or in life.
At first glance, Tonio Schachinger’s “Echtzeitalter” is a school story. At second glance, it is much more than that: a social novel that describes its hero Till’s coming-of-age at an elite Viennese boarding school where future key players are prepared for life with reactionary rigour and according to the ideals of the educated bourgeoisie. Till escapes from this repressive environment – embodied by his diabolical teacher Dolinar – into the world of gaming. With subtle irony, Schachinger mirrors the political and social conditions of the present: brute force issues forth from educated pupils. The world of computer games offers a place of fantasy and freedom. In a narratively brilliant and contemporary way, the novel negotiates the question of the literature’s place in society.