Walk In My Shoes
Digital games allow us to spend some time outside of ourselves - to play as someone else in a situation that is not our own. We’re generally used to games where this is an empowering experience: we play a capable hero facing larger-than-life challenges. But what about simulations that are smaller-than-life?
Walk in My Shoes presents a collection of contemporary games from around the world, offering players to walk not in the shoes of the superhuman, but rather in those of the disempowered, the marginalized, and even the subhuman. The artists in this exhibition, each in their own way, explore simulation as a way to empathise with the other, by embodying the image of the other.
Featured in this exhibition are games that reenact personal experiences of their makers; games focused on sympathising with marginalized social groups; and games offering non-human experiences - playing as animals and even lifeless objects. Apart from empathising with the game subjects, Walk in My Shoes wishes also to examine whether playing as them may evoke in us a fresh outlook on our own place in the world.
As the yearly games exhibition of Print Screen Festival, Walk in My Shoes wishes not only to explore a particular theme, but also to represent a zeitgeist in the medium. The collected games mark a few growing trends in the games world, particularly the rise of the weird simulator: simulation-focused games with subjects that are provocative, fringy, or subversive. Other notable trends present in the exhibition are social-commentary game, and the auto-biographical game: both seem to appear more and more in contemporary game culture.
Curator - Shalev Moran
Programmer - Tomer Blushinsky
Created by Might and Delight
The game puts the player in the role of a female badger, leading her cubs through the forest in search of food and shelter for the night. Shelter offers an experience of parenthood that is explicitly not human, alien, animalistic: primal protective feelings, stripped of identity or the cultural context we usually assign to parenting.
Please Knock on My Door
Created by Michael Levall
This still in-development game draws on Levall’s own experience of suffering from depression, but reflects on a wider array of mental struggles. The excerpt presented here deals with loneliness and phobia, mixing figurative images with minute details. This is perhaps the most timely game in the exhibition, representing both the growing movement towards autobiographical games, and the rising interest in themes revolving around mental health issues in games.
Robot Vacuum Simulator 2013
Created by Sebastian Røed Mangseth
Mangseth, under the moniker of Stolidus Simulations, exposes us to the existential horror of our electrical servants by putting us in the role of a roomba- like device cleaning a small apartment. The slow pace of the game and melancholy music provide an atmosphere that is antithetic to normal game conventions, allowing the player to shift into a contemplative mood. While post-humanists may indeed empathise with the robot crisis, others may claim we have no way to tap into the phenomenology of a lifeless object. Still, RVS2013 acts well as parable for the slow grind of repetitive manual labour.
Created by Molleindustria and Jim Munroe
Paolo Pedercini (AKA Molleindustria) created this short narrative game, depicting one day in the life of a USAF drone pilot, as a commentary on real-life contemporary warfare and on the toll it takes on its most emblematic figure. But it may also be read as a subversive depiction of the most emblematic game hero: the western elite soldier. Gamers are generally used to being put in the shoes of unflinching and capable fighters. Here, Pedercini offers an image of the new elite soldier: detached, traumatized, and doubting his own actions.
Created by Hannes Hummel, Nathalie Martin, Philipp Carbotta, Ilja Burzev, Onat Hekimoglu, Volker Zerbe
Perhaps the most straight-forward ‘empathic simulator’ in this exhibition, Outcasted puts you in the shoes of a homeless beggar, panhandling in a busy street of an unnamed western city. “Based on a million true stories” is how the developers introduce the game, and it indeed aims to convey a universal feeling of neglect and alienation, made even clearer when juxtaposed with the soft, bright colors and sound design. But this game also has a direct social goal: to draw our attention to a class of people who sometimes seem invisible in our daily life.