At one point in your life, you may have tried chemically altering your hair, tried on a pair of pants that were way too tight, or focused more on fashion over function. All for the goal of achieving a specific look.
Many of us partake in these practices to achieve a standard of beauty in modern society. Too often, we do so without considering why, the social costs if we don’t, or what physical and mental harm these activities are causing every day. Some would argue that beauty is purely for the benefit of those who are gazing upon it, disregarding the discomfort of the ones who have to achieve it.
To give others this distinct understanding, game designers Amanda Dittami and Blair Kuhlman teamed up to create “Gone From an Age: A Fitting“, a motion controlled game that asks players to contort and perform for an audience, in what Kuhlman calls “a cross between a game of Twister and Vogue magazine.”
Currently, Dittami and Kuhlman are working hard on tweaking the game with a design team, local dancers, and fashion designers to get the game ready for “Off The Beaten Path“, a traveling art exhibition that aims create a dialogue about violence against women through various forms of art. To fully participate in a powerful way, the team has launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds.
Both designers (Dittami on the left, Kuhlman, right) spoke with me over email about how game design impacted their lives, what they hope to achieve with A Fitting, and what’s next for the unique, motion controlled game.
PLAYING WITH DISCOMFORT
Have you ever done something uncomfortable in the name of perceived beauty?
Both designers expressed the unique challenges and pressures beauty standards create. As the pursuit of beauty becomes more commonplace in society, we become less critical of the practice and why we chose to participate in the first place. As someone begins to play A Fitting, they will become directly aware of the physical discomforts that beauty calls for.
In the game, you take on the role of a performer in front of a large mirror. Inside of it, an eager audience awaits your contortions and poses. Players are asked to perform a series of ever-complex poses and are showered with praise and adoration when executed well. If you fail to perform or just flat our refuse, the audience jeers and complains. Regardless, the goal is to make players self-conscious and exposed both physically and mentally.
Amanda talks about how this self-reflection is compounded when the game is played with a real audience, much like the experience they hope to have at Off the Beaten Path,
“There is a different feeling that you get when you play it outside of the comfort of your own home. When there are other people present to watch someone play, the experience becomes even more interesting, especially if they are strangers. A Fitting features an audience that prompts the player to do the poses, and judges them according to the player’s performance.
A live audience adds another layer to the pressure on the player.”
Ultimately, the designers are asking players to look at themselves and society.
In Amanda’s words, “We want players and onlookers to think about the issues the game confronts them with. We want people to be aware of the seriousness of the subject matter but also reflect on the absurdity of the act. Body image is a very complicated subject and there is a lot of grey area.
We want people to discuss these feelings, relate it to their lives, and help them determine how they feel about.”
One of the ways A Fitting hopes to confront the complexity and gravity of discussing body image is through the power of player choice.
Blair explains, “As a designer, [choice] is the most intriguing, exciting, and frustrating part of the medium. It allows the player to explore a situation from multiple perspectives or ignore it completely. This freedom can be invaluable if your game is dealing with social issues.
Creating an environment that encourages the player to explore and act on a situation from multiple perspectives can be a great way to flesh out complex social situations and challenge preexisting ideals.”
Gone From an Age: A Fitting is currently in development and looking for funding through Kickstarter.