Game worlds offer radically different versions and visions of reality. But can they help us address the complex issues of the digital age? The video game Playbour: Roleplay Reality asks questions inside the virtual environment. Amsterdam-based, Czech-born performance designers, The Rodina, held a performative lecture as part of the Coded Matter(s) lecture series at a FIBER Weekends event. The duo also designed a catalogue for the exhibition States of Play: Roleplay Reality, that took place at FACT in Liverpool.
FIBER Weekends 2018 is a new, decentralised art event dealing with emerging developments in audiovisual art, electronic music, performance, creative coding, and advanced technologies. Designing ‘space’ in virtual worlds is a concern for designers, architects, and graphic designers. This created space can be used in various ways and provides inspiration for critical thinking about the (real) world.
Roleplay has existed for centuries — from reenactments to modern improvisation theatre and tabletop games like Dungeons and Dragons. The power of roleplay could be said to exist in the encounter with the other. As we act and are acted upon during this encounter, our sense of self and the other may shift. Roleplay in video games can vary from single to multiplayers, from text-based narratives to free-form interactions as part of non-linear plots in 3D.
These alternative worlds are often perceived as a means of escape for the player, an immersion into another sphere. But today, the make-believe is increasingly hard to separate from reality. Fact and fiction have always been blurred, but in our ‘post-truth’ era, how truth is established and by whom is increasingly murky. The virtual is also more intertwined with our bodies — from the smartphones to which we are so attached, to our online avatars and prosthetic devices. The interplay between the real and the virtual is inescapable.
Especially in these post-pandemic times, it is important to think about how to design and use our virtual-world reality. Using digital tools for all kinds of activities, the ‘gameworld’ has entered our workplace, our family and elsewhere.