I was never good with crowds, even before they came with the risk of deadly respiratory infections. But I'll make an exception for the wonderfully colourful ocean of jittering bodies strolling, shopping and strutting their way through this gorgeous hand-painted field.
We Dwell in Possibility is a free gardening sandbox from Robert Yang, a queer game developer (and previous PC Gamer contributor) whose work is best summed up by Hard Lads—a pixel-perfect recreation of iconic viral video British lads hit each other with chair. Working with cartoonist Eleanor Davis, his latest is a bit more gentle but no less interested in the politics of naked bodies.
A very hands-off experience, We Dwell places an open field in front of you. Clicking and dragging will plant flowers, while a parade of nude strangers begins to trickle in—slowly, at first, and then in floods. Sometimes they'll arrive carrying decorations that, once popped down, will influence their behaviour. Stereos will make them dance, trees might give them hats, big cop hats will turn them into "Tories" that chase others about.
You can remove unsightly objects yourself by dragging it off the side of the screen. But sometimes, one of your visitors will steal something away whether you like it or not. Maintaining your ideal garden takes constant vigilance.
It's a joy to watch these "peeps", as Yang calls them, interact and flow around the space in a way that immediately recalls Michael Frei's crowd sim Kids. But in an explainer accompanying the piece, the Yang notes how he tried to infuse We Dwell with a more political bent.
"As the player, you must indirectly negotiate all these decisions with the Peeps, who bring their own politics and desires into the garden too," Yang writes. "For example, there are police in this game. They wear cute little rainbow flags. Should police exist in this garden? Liberal players might try to ‘balance’ a police presence with ‘limited gayness’, queer players might prune all the police entirely and Tory players might engineer a cringe garden consisting solely of police and high street retail, etc."
We Dwell in Possibility was created as part of the Manchester International Festival's Virtual Factory installation, preceded by a museum tour inside Fortnite Creative by LaTurbo Avedon.