Superficial Embodiments in Lakeport and Soweto

The Digital Embodiments projects for Lakeport and Soweto have the main purpose of re-creating the historical environments of Lakeport and Soweto for the player to explore. Before entering the simulation, the player is asked to select an avatar that will represent them in the game space. These avatars represent historically typical figures for each environment that would, historically, have filled different and often opposing social roles.

However, upon interacting with the environment for more than a few minutes, it becomes abundantly clear that the physical appearance of the player’s avatar is nothing more than a generic skin. Despite the various avatars’ drastically different racial and social positions within the world that is being re-created, the player’s actual role is completely unchanged. At Lakeport Manor, the black, female slave is functionally identical to the white, male plantation owner. In Soweto, a student can do everything an officer can do. While these characters would comprise entirely different roles in history, they are identical in terms of the simulation’s functionality.

This is not to say that there is no merit to these digital re-creations. There is much to be gained from immersing a player in the environment and allowing them to explore freely and without restricting game mechanics. This implantation makes the environment much more accessible to people who would be otherwise unable to experience it in 3D space. However, the lack of depth beyond the physical appearance of the player’s avatar detracts from the overall meaningfulness of the experience.


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