Still from Survivor, Reija Meriläinen, 2017

States of Play: Roleplay Reality show, from 22 March

FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology), Liverpool, 22 March – 17 June 2018

How can we use, and make, video games which truly explore our contemporary collective imagination and anxiety? Featuring work by artists Larry Achiampong & David Blandy, Rindon Johnson, Youngju Kim, Reija Meriläinen, Kimmo Modig, Porpentine, Jon Rafman, The Rodina, Chiara Stephenson, Angela Washko, Werkflow, Jordan Wolfson and Pinar Yoldas. An immersive, experiential and participatory show, States of Play: Roleplay Reality focuses on the independent and industry (AAA) games to readdress the way the format is used. Feminist titles created in the aftermath of gamergate, post-colonial retellings of well-known stories, artists who place you in the uncomfortable position of voyeur: the playable games, and artworks in this exhibition explore how we can really play with the format, and the preconceptions by which it is surrounded.

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

https://www.fact.co.uk/