The Design of Virtual Space

We were fortunate enough to attend a talk tonight with Sir David Adjaye about the making of the National Museum of African American History and Culture - the new museum of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. It was deeply fascinating and linked a lot into what I had studied at UCT with regards to the psychology of space.

Sir Adjaye spoke about how the building was built as a metaphor for a house, with the deep past being put underground "in the basement", the present being in the "living area" of the main floor and the upstairs being focused on dreams and explorations. He spoke about a lot of things that I can't cover all here now, but it got me thinking about the fact that as game designers, we're designing digital spaces and we need to be cognizant of how our spaces we design tell different stories. We're a lot more aware these days of visual representation of different groups of people, but do we give those same people the same digital space?

How we treat spaces tells us about how we treat people. Space is generally linked to wealth and status. The wealthiest people have the biggest spaces. Compare the space between houses in a wealthy area to those in a poorer area. Also notice how close people stand when they are used to having a lot of space compared to those who are used to being in crowded spaces. The space different gendered people take up physically on public transport is another example. But also the space society allocates the different genders: Sports fields for "boys" games are much larger than sports fields for "girls" games (think basketball vs netball).

How can we as game designers be responsible designers and incorporate learnings about these sorts of things into what we produce?

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