Digital Embodiments Project

I think that digital embodiments like avatars can be very useful in combating stereotypes and promoting empathy, but only if they are researched and implemented in a methodical and careful manner. For example, if the differences in an avatar are superficial and don’t impact gameplay (however interactive that gameplay might be), then they won’t exactly do much of anything for the player. A good example of this is shown in the video game The Sims, where in the semi-realistic world the game creates, you could be a 7 foot tall blue person and no one would bat an eye. I think that technically the Digital Embodiments projects fall into this category, if only because the project is unfinished. If the project is finished with, say, NPC interactions and in-game objectives (and collision detection), I think the game could provide interested parties a chance to step in the shoes of different individuals in the conflict. Otherwise, it’s really just an exercise in model making,

Historical Critique of St. Paul’s Cathedral Project

The Virtual St. Paul’s Cathedral Project by North Carolina State University is one of the most in-depth projects I’ve seen in this class. There are literally web pages upon web pages of information on the research and development process behind the experience, and as such, it is extremely accurate to its source material. As an academic tool, there is little wrong with the project. That being said, the project’s main issue is in the accessibility and interactivity in the final product. Users can only fully experience the project when they are in one location, for starters (and I’m not fully sure if the installation is still running today). Furthermore, the final product (which I am presuming to be the digital model of the church and a sermon) cannot be fully understood (at least, to the level the creators want) without supplemental lectures and other tools. Also, in terms of interactivity, there virtually isn’t any, other than listening and watching the video. While this piece may work well in a museum, and offers a lot to learn, it’s not an interactive piece of media like Walden, and so I don’t think anyone outside of academia would actively seek out this product.

A Child’s Shoe

Gressenhall was one of a few workhouses that provided these shoes to the paupers in their care instead of giving them an allowance and letting them fend for themselves. Despite coming from the late 1700’s or early 1800’s, these shoes resemble modern day work shoes quite a bit. They appear to be made of brown leather with slightly raised heels (the newer shoes have heels made of rubber, but the older shoes’ heels may be made of wood). The laces are made out of leather as well. The material of the shoes, even to this day, is considered both durable and waterproof, although it’s unclear exactly how waterproof these older shoes are (current leather boots are treated with chemicals to be more water resistant).

The children’s shoes of Gressenhall are much more plain in color and decoration than the shoes of their peers. They also are of a different material: some shoes would be made of linen, cotton or even silk. Another thing to note is that the heel of the boots is rather low. This is another signifier of class; the richer the person, the higher the shoe’s heel. The fact that this idea was passed down to even the youngest of English people shows the extreme class stratification for English society at the time.

 

Men’s Boots & Shoes | Official Dr Martens Store. http://www.drmartens.com/us/c/mens.

“Girl’s Tie Shoe.” Girl’s Tie Shoe – MAAS. https://collection.maas.museum/object/239340.

“Pair of Silk Satin Buckle Shoes Wiith Buckles.” Pair of Silk Satin Buckle Shoes Wiith Buckles – MAAS. https://collection.maas.museum/object/239900.

Styles, John. The Dress of the People: Everyday Fashion in Eighteenth-century England. Yale University Press, 2013.

“Cobbler_replica_child.JPG.” Google Drive. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1ebOhl4TLRr_GIywjQ3z9qBzA_Zu6yrWC/view.

 

Passage of The Great Reform Act

The Great Reform Act (Often referred to as the Representative of People Act of 1832), was an legislation which changed the way Britain’s electoral system was managed. The electoral system was notoriously corrupt; several constituencies did not have secret ballots, and furthermore, certain members of Parliament could buy votes in their parish. The Parliament of the time was not representative of the people it was required to cater to. Paupers could not vote in most parishes, and even worse, there were constituencies like Manchester that had not had representation of any kind for 80 years.

There had been internal attempts to reform the system in 1831, but the House of Lords shut it down. This rejection of the people lead to widescale riots in most major English cities. Although all types of Englishmen participated in the rioting, the lower and middle classes were the ones who had the most influence on the passing of the Great Reform Act. Due to the French Revolution, King George IV was concerned that there could possibly be a similar revolt in the country. After several months of unrest with 300,000 pounds of physical damage (around 31 million today) as well as scores of arrests and executions, the Great Reform Act was passed into law in 1832. The law allowed for all men with at least 10 pounds of property to vote in elections, as well as fixed some of the issues surrounding bribery and unrepresented districts, but most paupers were prohibited from voting because of the property requirement.

Coulson, Ian. “The National Archives Learning Curve | Power, Politics and Protest | The Great Reform Act.” The National Archives, The National Archives of England, www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/education/politics/g6/.

Butler, J.R.M. “The Passing of the Great Reform Bill.” Questia.com, www.questia.com/read/72380627/the-passing-of-the-great-reform-bill.

Recreating Bottom-Up History in Digital Forms

One of the hardest things to do when developing historical video games is telling stories from the bottom up. It’s (relatively) easy to make a game about a war or a large scale conflict like a revolution because those concepts are simple to code. However, the more abstract aspects of a person’s condition are not so easy to build. Peter Christiansen mentions non-binary ethics as a way to overcome one facet of this, but I think the more important thing that video games struggle to impart is the emotions involved in historical stories. It is one thing to tell a player that “this event is sad” through audiovisual effects or have the character feel sad in the narrative, but it is another to impart those feelings onto the player, and I think that should be the goal of historical games, especially those that deal with stories of the marginalized.

A way to prevent this would be to move away from the more traditional video game genres for historical games, like FPS (first-person shooters), action adventure games, and simulation games. By default, all of these game genres aren’t really meant to be story-driven. But there are other genres, though perhaps less exciting, that could make interesting historical games, like RPGs, visual novels, and even point-and-click adventure games. These genres of games are built for world building and character study. One of my favorite games, Sunset, is a point-and-click adventure about a black maid working for a disgraced politician in the aftermath of a military coup, and another, That Dragon, Cancer, explores a father struggling with his son’s last moments with cancer. While not strictly historical, these games delve far deeper into the individuals and the world around them than a game like Verdun (which I’ve also played) can, with the bonus of telling stories that aren’t often told.