A game about embodying animal perspectives

Alex Duncan

Every Creeping Thing is a game about embodying, or trying to embody, different animal species. It is a 3D game in three parts, each depicting the perspective of a particular creature: a fish, a fly, and a larva.

This project was a way of exploring the topic of the relationship between humans and the rest of nature in a digital game. There is a paradigm that goes very far back in the history of Western thought that creates a hierarchy between humans and the rest of nature. Humans, in this conceptualization, have dominion over nature.

Fish perspective

The fish perspective, looking up at a fly above the surface of the water.

Animal avatars in digital games are typically stripped of the alterity of their ontology in order to make the manipulation of their digital bodies easier for the human player. The player can then use the animal body to overcome obstacles and dominate the environment. There is real violence in this representation of animals, as it reinforces the paradigm that justifies their exploitation.

Fly perspective

The fly perspective, looking down at the fish.

It seemed imperative to challenge the conventions of this representation. I decided to foreground, rather than efface, the act of embodiment. To do so, I tried to embrace the perceptual alterity of the animal I’m depicting and the disorientation that comes with experiencing this perspective. I tried to make the player aware of the two bodies in play, their own and their avatar’s, by using control schemes that mirror the animal’s form of locomotion. I also wanted to evoke that there are these whole other worlds of experience going on beyond the player, that these animals have their own relationship to the environment, and that their ontologies are entwined.

The larva perspective, smelling for food.

The larva perspective, smelling for food.