What Can a Body Do?

Overview

In this project, I developed a game inspired by Sara Hendren’s book: What Can a Body Do?
In the introduction of this book, Hendren states: “In a social model, it’s the interaction between the condition of the body and the shapes of the world that makes disability into a lived experience, therefore a matter not only for individuals but also for societies” ( Sara Hendren, 2020) and it motivated me to explore environments and opportunities that could surpass the limitations of our current space. Therefore, I decided to create a game and maybe explore this space using VR headsets.

This gameplay is on First Person Shooter view on Unreal Engine.

Discourse

During this project, I had two different but paralleled sentiments in my mind. The First one, as I stated above was inspired by Sara Hendren’s quote. What I interpreted from that reading, is that disabilities are defined based on the environment, not the shape or structure of the body. It is the space that is disabling us, and maybe if we change our environment, we wouldn’t have to identify our condition as a disability.
Furthermore, when I was in Iran, I had the opportunity to work with dyslexic kids. For this reason, I wanted to explore how text is demonstrated in virtual reality. Knowing that I can not design a platform that would benefit children with dyslexia at this time, I decided to first explore the VR environment. For that, I started by choosing one paragraph.

The notion that helped me choose my paragraph was the events that are currently happening in Iran after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini. Women are fighting for their rights on the streets, knowing they can be killed or imprisoned by the Islamic Regime troops at any time. As an Iranian woman, I know how hard it is to fight against all the sexist and misogynistic ideologies, and it is an everyday fight to stay a free human being. That is why I chose this paragraph from the book “The Power of the Powerless” by V√°clav Havel.

“The post-totalitarian system touches people at every step, but it does so with its ideological gloves on. This is why life in the system is so thoroughly permeated with hypocrisy and lies:¬†government by bureaucracy is called popular government; the working class is enslaved in the name of the working class; the complete degradation of the individual is presented as his or her ultimate liberation; depriving people of information is called making it available; the use of power to manipulate is called the public control of power, and the arbitrary abuse of power is called observing the legal code; the repression of culture is called its development; the expansion of imperial influence is presented as support for the oppressed; the lack of free expression becomes the highest form of freedom; farcical elections become the highest form of democracy; banning independent thought becomes the most scientific of world views; military occupation becomes fraternal assistance. Because the regime is captive to its own lies, it must falsify everything. It falsifies the past. It falsifies the present, and it falsifies the future. It pretends not to possess an omnipotent and unprincipled police apparatus. It pretends to respect human rights. It pretends to persecute no one. It pretends to fear nothing. It pretends to pretend nothing.”

Process

I divided this paragraph into 13 sections. Moreover, I decided to write these 13 sections on 13 different walls in the game. Because I wanted to show that by breaking down every barrier, it will get easier to accomplish your dream, I made every wall thinner than the previous one. Therefore, as the game continues it will get easier to break down each wall. At the end of the game plan, we have a small light and an open sky as a symbol for freedom.
I developed this game in Unreal Engine. Although I did not have any previous experience with coding and game development, I found Unreal Engine very convenient and easy to understand.

Because I didn’t have any idea what the virtual world looks like, I started by experimenting with Hub and tried to grasp the basic rules of the virtual world.

Me trying out the VR headset for the first time

In addition, I wanted to make this game in VR space so that the player could break down each wall with their fist, but due to limited timing, I was not able to achieve that. That being said, this project is still in progress, and hopefully I can develop it in a way that is compatible with VR environment.

Reflection

For the past 6 weeks, I have tried to ignore the events in Iran. Although I was in mourning with the people we lost and scared for my family and friends, I tried my best not to let it effect my work. Working on this project and having a space to have a talk about your work and your state of mind at the same time, gave me the opportunity to address my concerns and approaches in an unconventional way. I believe designing this game gave me a better understanding of the virtual world and it capabilities, and a different perception of the reading.

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