Digital Embodiment: The Importance of Character Design

After playing as different avatars and exploring the worlds that the Digital Embodiments project created as historical representations of Lakeport and Soweto, I found that which avatar I chose did affect my personal experiences. For example, when I chose the black female slave avatar at Lakeport Manor, I was slightly cautious and worried as I explored the world. I felt a little bit uneasy and uncertain of the world I was in, and I questioned whether or not I had permission to enter certain places. When I chose the white male plantation owner as my avatar, this uneasiness went away.

However, while this did affect my thoughts and emotions while I explored the game, I still would have explored the world in the same way each time, regardless of which avatar I had chosen. Although it’s clear that which avatar I chose had an effect on my experience, I feel like this effect wasn’t nearly as strong as it would have been if it were in combination with a storyline or plot in which I was clearly treated differently depending upon my avatar.

Ultimately, I think avatars are important in having players think more about the physical attributes they have and how that may affect the world they are in. At the same time, I feel like it is much more important that when trying to create historical accuracies, the way in which the world “makes” them explore should reflect their avatar’s physical characteristics to some degree. At the very least, I think that the way in which the avatar is treated by its environment should change depending upon the avatar’s physical characteristics.

Walden, a game: Critique and Evaluation

Overall, I found Walden, a game to be very intriguing. I really appreciate the layout and setup of the game—the users are able to look around and find information about things at their own will. In other words, users have the freedom to show interest in what they please and aren’t really forced to do much.

While I don’t think this works for all types of historical games, I think it works really well for this one. It’s a really neat game of survival and balances player freedom with historical information. I think it does a good job of articulating its goals—I gathered that the purpose of the game is to survive as best you can while learning about your surroundings and the life of Henry David Thoreau.

At the same time that I find the game capturing my interest, I think it does indeed lack a few things. I think the game would be much more exciting if it introduced some of the following: side quests, side goals, and leveling. I think that in order to keep a user’s interest, the game could introduce a better way in which the character could improve over time. I understand that things such as building the house encapsulate this idea, but I don’t think it does so on a high-enough scale. For example, if it wanted introduce this (in a historical way), it could have fishing, building, and even philosophy skills that the player could level up over time.

Large Tables

The locations and uses of large tables in the English workhouses during the 18th and 19th centuries are able to provide us with information about the differences in lifestyle between those in charge and the working poor. The stories of two particular tables, one located in the governor’s room in the workhouse of Assington and the other located in the parlour in the workhouse in the parish of Staplehurst, help to highlight these differences.

I don’t think that the stories behind these large tables show in anyway that the workhouses were pernicious, but they definitely show that they were fairly institutionalized with disparities in power between those in control and those working, where only minimum care was provided for the latter.

Museums could help to contextualize this by showing, for example, a model to help visualize the difference between the cramped wardroom with a few smaller tables and the governor’s room with the large table in Assington. The same could be done with the table in the parlour in Staplehurst, as the use of a large table in such a room would have been for leisure time and socializing, something that not many poor workers had. Additionally, showing actual replicas of the large tables and what they would have been used for in comparison with smaller tables cramped with workers would also help to contextualize and explain the significance of large tables in a museum.

Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations

Adam Smith was a prominent 18th century moral philosopher who, along with David Hume, established a “civic morality” that was an insightful alternative to the traditional moral codes adhered to by most people. Specifically, Smith stressed that there is a strong distinction between “empathy” and “sympathy.” The former is a person’s inclination to respond to the pain of others, and the latter is the true commitment that one makes only after they take a step back and reflect first.

Additionally, Smith also emphasized the distinction between “feudal” and “commercial” civilization. The feudal civilization consists of prayers, warriors, and workers, while the commercial civilization consists of landowners, laborers, and capitalists. In commercial civilization, people can voluntarily participate in various clubs and societies thereby having the opportunity to discover what independence and liberty truly is.

Smith believed that with the proper effort and sympathy, the middle class could become “natural aristocrats.” However, he also believed that most laborers lack the time and desire to be educated, and therefore can’t appreciate that their interests are harmonious with society at large. Smith was most cautious of capitalists because of their inclinations to pervert public interest and demoralize laborers for personal benefits. Much of what Smith believed speaks contrary to John Locke’s belief that the poor are to be blamed for the situations they are in, as Smith seemed to think their unfortunate situations are a product of social dynamics.

Finally, Smith believed that the key in defending society against problems that arise from both types of civilizations is the social and ethical wisdom gathered by those participants who are independent-minded and make decisions about their own lives voluntarily. Ultimately, Smith’s works contributed to the decline of mercantilism and the rise of free trade and laissez-faire economics.

 

  1. Fideler, Paul A. Social Welfare in Pre-Industrial England. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.
  2. Gee, J. M. A. Adam Smith’s Social Welfaire Function. Scottish Journal of Political Economy, 1968.

Advantages in Understanding History Through Video Games

I definitely agree with the majority of the thoughts and ideas stated in “Discussion: Historical Accuracy and Historical Video Games?.” I don’t think that a video game can be completely historically accurate in the sense that it represents events exactly as they happened in the right chronology.

I do believe, however, that video games may, in some cases, be great tools that can enhance one’s understanding of the past. I also think that for some people it can be an even better tool than textbooks, historical artifacts, etc., due to the fact that some people really just don’t like to read things about the past off of a page from a textbook. For these people, playing a video game with some sort of historical accuracy in which the player has some sort of agency can be much more engaging and a much better tool.

Video games can also provide a better contextualization, as a video game has the potential to provide a complete visualization of the world and setting in which the history took place. While this visualization may not be completely accurate, it provides a sense of completeness and allows the players to think about the world in different ways. By also playing an active role in the events of a game, people can almost place themselves in the world created by the video game and try to feel and understand what life may have been like in such a setting.