Technology Body of Mine wins XR for Change award

Body of Mine wins XR for Change award

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Body of Mine, a virtual reality experience about what it’s like to be a trans person, has won the XR for Change award at the Games for Change Awards.

Developed by solo creator Cameron Kostopoulos, Body of mine is a powerful experience that focuses on “body dysphoria,” or the feeling people can get when they sense a misalignment between the body they were born with and their gender identity, Kostopoulos said in an interview with GamesBeat.

The honor is in recognition of the empathy the app can create when people experience it. Kostopoulos, a former USC master’s student, said it was gratifying to receive the recognition for Body of Mine.

Kostopoulos said he came out as gay and it was difficult for the family as well as for himself.

“I grew up in a Baptist family in Texas, a very unacceptable environment. I was kind of forced out and lost contact with my parents. At the same time, many of my trans friends were going through a transition phase. My roommate – she had top surgery. One of my friends – he got pregnant. And so all these really interesting stories were around me,” Kostopoulos said.

Kostopoulos said he was thinking of the isolation such people can feel when they come out.

“I wondered how we can use VR to build safe spaces when such spaces are hard to find in the real world,” Kostopoulos said.

Cameron Kostopoulos accepts Best XR for Change game at Games for Change 2023.

Kostopoulos spent the next year learning how to make a game and teaching himself Unreal Engine.

“Basically just spending a lot of nights and putting a lot of passion into Body of Mine,” Kostopoulos said. “Then a year later, it premiered at South by Southwest and won the Special Jury Prize and it’s only been on the rise ever since,” he said.

More festivals are coming. The experience came out on the HTC Vive platform and uses the Vive Pro eye trackers and body sensors for full body and face and eye tracking.

Body of Mine is a full VR exploration of gender dysphoria, he said. It lets you inhabit the body of the opposite sex you were born with. You can interact with your fake body. And then it plays videos of trans people telling their story in interviews.

“It combines all this immersive technology with real interviews with trans people so you can get a glimpse of gender dysphoria and trans identity and what it means to be human,” said Kostopooulos.

Kostopoulos added: “Gender dysphoria is the misalignment between your gender identity and the body you have. So someone who identifies as a woman and is born as a man would have gender dysphoria around their masculine presenting body. So gender dysphoria is the reason people have gender reassignment surgery, or take hormones, or it’s the reason many LGBT youth or trans youth struggle. So it is a very intense feeling of not being one with your body.”

The experience

Body of Mine is on the HTC Vive.
Body of Mine is on the HTC Vive.

You put on the VR headset and motion trackers. Then you step into someone else’s body, as if you were inside a giant human ribcage. You look up and there is a beating heart, lungs and a chest cavity. When you look at it, if you’re a Cis man, a woman’s body moves exactly the way you move, like looking into a mirror.

“It blinks when you blink, and touching different parts of the body will play different stories,” Kostopoulos said. “If you touch your chest, you will hear an interview about top surgery. Or when you touch your hair, you hear someone talking about a wig or a haircut, or about shaving your head. Different parts of your body have different stories and so you can interact with them and discover them.”

The body also moves into a garden-like experience, where the heart becomes a strawberry and all.

“It has the message that we come in all these different shapes and bodies and expressions and colors, but we’re all still human and we also glow with the same spirit,” Kostopoulos said.

Science fiction feel

Coincidentally, I read about this kind of experience in Ready Player Two, Ernest Cline’s science fiction book. In that novel, Cline describes a kind of future YouTube where people upload their experiences from sophisticated bodysuits. Those VR-like experiences will enable people in the future to understand what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes. That is exactly what Kostopoulos was after.

“Gender dysphoria is one of those experiences that you can’t really communicate with film or traditional games. There is no other medium that can explain an artist better than a full-fledged VR experience. Because by literally inhabiting someone else, you can get a very visceral response,” Kostopoulos said. “By looking down and seeing tattoos you don’t have. And so that’s the best environment in which we can talk about these really sensitive issues.

With the attention the app has received, Kostopoulos is now creating a non-profit company called Kosto, which will own Body of Mine. With this XR production studio, he wants to bring the experience to more platforms. More projects are underway. Kostopoulos thinks there was no other way to tell this story without using VR in this case.

“It will be the start of a very long journey,” said Kostopoulos.

Body of Mine wins the Best XR for Change game.

Ultimately, the goal is to help people who don’t understand what gender dysphoria is gain a better understanding of it.

“We spend a lot of time in politics discussing trans toilets or sports, and we don’t really talk about gender dysphoria and what being trans means. And so this experience tries to give people a safe space where they can connect to these stories on a much more visceral level by embodying a gender that they don’t identify with. So for Cis people it allows for a much more intimate and deeper understanding of dysphoria and being trans,” Kostopoulos said. “You literally stepped into someone’s shoes and that’s how you got the identity. And then, on the other hand, we also want to design it that way for transgender people, who live in a very homophobic household. We wanted to design the way in which the experience could evoke gender euphoria.”

Kostopoulos said it would be interesting to show it to people in Oklahoma at an event. Kostopoulos hopes it could be a way to convey what it’s like to be trans to people who aren’t as open-minded.

“So this puts you in a very special place where you’re freer to explore without judgment and ask questions and try to understand the politics and bigotry of the outside world,” Kostopoulos said.

During his acceptance speech, Kostopoulos said he hoped the award would bring more understanding to gender dysphoria.

Disclosure: The event organizers paid our way to New York where I’m moderating a session. Our reporting remains objective.

GamesBeat’s credo in covering the gaming industry is “where passion meets business”. What does this mean? We want to tell you how important the news is to you — not only as a decision maker in a game studio, but also as a fan of games. Whether you’re reading our articles, listening to our podcasts, or watching our videos, GamesBeat helps you learn about and have fun with the industry. Discover our Briefings.

Shreya Christinahttp://ukbusinessupdates.com
Shreya has been with ukbusinessupdates.com for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider ukbusinessupdates.com team, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.

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