Shapes and Ladders is a video game that shows how systemic racism and sexism can exist through the metaphor of climbing a career ladder. Players can play as a circle, square, or triangle, for which game mechanics have been designed to reflect real life inequalities different populations face. For example, a circle is more likely to encounter workplace sexual assault, has access to fewer coins, and performs a second shift in childcare. Some shapes are more likely to contract COVID or have a deadly encounter with the police. All the while, players must find health insurance, earn enough coins to maintain quality of life, and pay off student loans. Players do not choose their shape—they are born into it. The video game is designed to allow players to cultivate empathy through a first person simulation of structural inequality. It is my hope that these insights can inspire players to spark change in real life.
Creator: Ani Liu
Art director: Andrea Li
Art director: Michelle Lim
Technical director: John Ahloy
Intern: Anoushka Mariwala
Ani Liu (US) is a research-based artist working at the intersection of art & science. Her work examines the reciprocal relationships between science, technology, and their influence on human subjectivity, culture, and identity. In her project-oriented practice, each work involves a deep dive into a new body of research, resulting in new modalities of thinking and making. Reoccurring themes in her work include gender politics, biopolitics, labor, nostalgia, and sexuality.
Michelle Lim (MY) is an experiential designer based in London that co-founded liim studio with Andrea Li. Together, they design engaging online and offline experiences that bring people together in the present.
John Ahloy (TT) is a student at Princeton studying mathematics and computer science. He is a hobbyist game developer that has worked on personal projects for over 4 years.
Andrea Li (HK) is an experiential designer based in London that co-founded liim studio with Michelle Lim. Together, they design engaging online and offline experiences that bring people together in the present.