The following posts trace my investigations of networked VR through a creative partnership between The Center for Integrated Media and High Fidelity.
Considering High Fidelity, a VR sandbox game, as a performance interface allows for an expanded approach to embodiment, translation, choreography, social media, and glitch.
The first decision a player makes is what body to inhabit; there is a marketplace of avatars to choose from. The choice of representation emphasizes the type of interaction that is customary in video games – ie limited and prescribed. The beginning user is offered a menu of limited body types, genders, skin tones, and clothing. A handful of mannequins and robots are alternatives to normative human characters, instead falling into science fiction tropes and art class clichés.
The savvy user, though, can model and rig their own avatars and accessories and upload them to this networked world. This is how the world’s democracy becomes complicated: all users can fly and change their size at will, but without the skills or resources to author or purchase a custom body, users are forced to represent themselves through a series of curated choices. For a game this is nothing new, but as a site for art and therefore a potential forum for criticality, this hierarchy stands in sharp relief.
High Fidelity is no more problematic than any other mechanism for experiencing content in the art world, but the utopian promises of today’s VR hover like the ghost of Coachella Tupac behind it.