An Existential Doll-Making Game About The Future Of Bodies

Ship of Theseus is a straightforward game. You are given dozens of body parts with which to design and construct an android. Mixing and matching pieces until you settle on a unique creation is a lot of fun. But Ship of Theseus is also a meditation on the human body and what it means to modify our own flesh.

Ship of Theseus gets its name from one of the most famous thought experiments in history. If Theseus sets sail on his boat and slowly replaces the wood planks through repairs over the course of his journey, is it still the same boat? It's a interesting abstract question, but when you apply it to a person, it's pretty weighty.

Ship of Theseus packages this existential question within the frame of a doll- making game. You have a selection of different heads, arms, legs, torsos, and other body parts to mix and match when crafting your android.They cover a wide spectrum of aesthetics, from punk pieces brimming with spikes and hard edges to anime-inspired pieces with hearts and angel imagery.

You put them together in a free-form fashion, selecting from a menu of numbered parts.

Science fiction has approached androids and body modifications from similarly diverse angles. Ghost in the Shell posits a world where minds can transfer from body to body, allowing people to swap genders or leave diseased bodies behind.

Games like Deus Ex or Cyberpunk 2077 use designs that emphasise a clash between metal and flesh. Ship of Theseus accounts for all of these images and allows players to creatively explore whatever visual design they want.

We're getting closer to cyberpunk-esque body modification in the real world. Pioneering individuals are testing out advanced bionic prostheses, even if there are barriers to the people who could most benefit from them receiving them. As technology develops, we'll be forced to think about the nature of our bodies more and more. Ship of Theseus is mostly a fun dress-up game, but it's also a relaxing way to think about what might come next in the real world.


Comments

    Ship of Theseus gets its name from one of the most famous thought experiments in history. If Theseus sets sail on his boat and slowly replaces the wood planks through repairs over the course of his journey, is it still the same boat?

    I think it was @zombiejesus that once put that question to me. My response was "it depends".

    Seriously, is it the same ship? It depends if identity is tied to the physical or identity is something separate and the physical is no different to a jacket or a pair of pants.

    Or to put it shorter, tell me what identity is, and I'll tell you which ship is the Theseus.

      That's the point of the question, it's not so much that an answer exists, but that trying to answer it makes you consider what identity really is. The logical follow-up questions then show how even when you think you've settled on a consistent answer, there are still things that bust the rule.

      For example, if the identity is not kept when all the parts are replaced, then you have to ask what percentage exactly is when it happened? Or, the fact that almost every cell in our body is replaced over a span of years so does that mean our identity isn't kept either?

      On the other hand, if identity is kept, what exactly is it attached to? And if the old parts are all reassembled into a ship, physically the exact same combination of the exact same parts that held that identity before, what identity does it have now if the one it used to have has moved on?

      It's one of my favourite classical thought experiments, alongside the Epicurean paradox.

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