States of Play: Roleplay Reality
FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology), Liverpool
22 March – 17 June 2018
Who’s building the online world we’re roleplaying in?
FACT’s first major exhibition of 2018 explores the world of gaming, of creating virtual worlds and the avatars living in them. Featuring work by artists, independent and industry producers and platforms, Roleplay Reality delves into gaming’s $230 billion economy, exploring how we create online identities (and how they differ from our own), game development and the lack of representation, gender and race roles in gaming. The exhibition wants visitors to ask, ‘Who is in control of this virtual world I’m in, and how is it affecting the real world I live in?’
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds will be exhibited in a gallery for the first time. The online multiplayer game sold more than 24m copies in 2017 and is now available on PC and Xbox One. It has only ever been previously shown at expos but will be shown alongside works by artists in FACT’s Gallery 1 and 2. Other works include Larry Achiampong and David Blandy’s FF Gaiden: Control (2017), a work commissioned by FACT and filmed at HMP Altcourse prison exploring the experience of veterans in the criminal justice system; David O’Reilly’s Everything (2017) an award winning video game letting you choose to be one of 3,000 playable characters, from a flower to a star or a caterpillar; Jordan Wolfson’s Real Violence, which uses VR to challenge perceptions of violence; artist Reija Meriläinen’s Survivor (2017) an artwork and video game negotiating the power play in social interaction, where the object is to survive; and Angela Washko’s The Game (2017), a dating simulator starring pick up artists and exploring men’s rights activists, anti-feminists and “seduction” coaching communities online.
The works and games curated all reflect the function of roleplay in gaming, the creation of an avatar, and how that spills from the virtual world in the the physical world running parallel to it. Roleplaying allows us to assume a new identity. Yet this also raises questions about who is creating the online world, and how their perceptions, experiences and politics might affect the virtual world we explore. According to the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) the industry itself believes workplace diversity is important (81%) it is overwhelmingly white (71%) and male (79%) and straight (86%). When we create avatars and roleplay in a world created by an industry that is unrepresentative of society, do we create online worlds that damage the ambition of a diverse and equal physical world?
“With this exhibition, we want to explore games as a fertile space in which to reflect and reimagine the world rather than simply escape from it. And ask questions like: How do the roles we play reflect our realities, and even more importantly, how do they shape them?”
Exhibition co-curators Lucy Sollitt and Lesley Taker
Artists include: Larry Achiampong and David Blandy (UK), Reija Meriläinen (FI), Rindon Johnson (US), Kimmo Modig (FI), Jon Rafman (Canada), Werkflow (UK), Angela Washko (US), Jordan Wolfson (US), Pinar Yoldas (TR), as well as a wide range of independent and industry games such as, David O’Reilly Everything, Porpentine Howling Dogs, and Bluehole Studios PlayerUnknown’s Battleground. The show will also feature design work by The Rodina (NL) and Chiara Stephenson (UK).
States of Play: Roleplay Reality is a collaboration with Crafts Council, UK around the ways in which play shapes our lives and the world around us. The exhibition at FACT serves as a second chapter to States of Play: Part 1 (presented at Humber St Gallery in Hull, June – September 2017) which focused on traditional games and their contemporary development.
FACT is supported using public funding by Arts Council England, and Liverpool City Council.