Virtual reality—it’s the hottest thing in the tech world. But how can we use VR in academia? What can VR teach us about how we live in our own bodies? And how can we use VR to teach others about the experience of living in different kinds of bodies? Using Oculus Rift technology, 2014-15 5CollDH undergraduate fellow Coralie Pardo is building a game that teaches players about the ubiquitous nature of race and gender, and how they permeate even seemingly neutral interactions. In her own words:
Hi! In this post, I want to share with you the different stages my DH project has undergone, where I find myself now in the process, and what I hope to achieve in the next coming weeks. First, let’s start off with the basics, what is my DH project even about?
Like most creative ventures in life, my project started as a small idea that grew with increasing guidance and support. At the beginning of the Five College Digital Humanities Fellowship, most of my ideas and articulations about my DH project remained in my head. I knew what I wanted to get out of the project and I knew what tools I was going to use, but I didn’t know how to bring it to life. I spent so much time thinking about the ‘big picture’ that I couldn’t bring together the smaller details. Though at the January DH meeting I was given project feedback and advice, I left that meeting with the post-baccs feeling overwhelmed and asking myself, “Where do I start?”.
Since the January DH meeting, I have played games that explore ideas of coming to consciousness, of unconscious, in regards to race and/or gender, and of themes, such as passing, that manifest from race. I have also been involved in dialogues about language, its use and implications and its relation to power, as well as conversations about gamer experiences and observations. These recent experiences have helped me identify potential routes I want the actual gaming component of the game to take.
The setting of the game could be anywhere (college campus, ship, another planet, an island, etc.). The main character (you the gamer) is a hunter of sorts. He/she hunts people that do not belong in a society, that are considered menaces to a society but, the tricky part is, on the exterior everyone fits. Those who know that they will be ostracized for being their true selves blend-in, or as some people say, pass. All the while, the main character is also being hunted for passing, but is unaware that he/she is even passing! The main character learns more and more about parts of their identity each time they finish a job (not necessarily killing) of exposing. The hints are provided through interactions: implicit racism, mircoaggressions, and explicit racism that leave the character confused or that goes unnoticed. I will make use of a mirroring technique to put side-by-side moments where the main character felt they had power over someone and acted upon it in the ways mentioned above and times that characters in the game acted that way towards the main character. This route then, plays with the notion of being and identity and how society has a way of policing a person’s ability to Be, without their knowledge. And, how societal norms are, often times, so ingrained in an individual that they no longer can distinguish who they are and who society tells them to be.
What happens after?
Do you win?
Is your exposure your loss?
Do you win through loss?
Where is the moment of revelation? Self-reflection?
How does language play a role?
My next steps include: 1) writing the actual story and dialogue interactions, 2) making the actual visual content using Oculus Rift, 3) collaborating with people who code to make characters and scenes, and 4) get feedback, let people try the game out!
Thus, to end, I am excited about the direction that my DH project is going and the progress I will make in this coming month!
Carl “Ott” Lindstrom