Anna Anthropy’s 2012 book Rise of the Videogame Zinesters was eye-opening, both as a criticism of certain aspects of games culture, and as a herald of very real, very important change . This change that Anthropy refers to is one of representation – after decades of social, financial, and technical factors severely limiting the number of non-straight cis (white middle class) men making games, the emergence of accessible, freely available game-making tools is changing things for the better – allowing new people to take the medium in valuable, largely unexplored directions.
In 2012 we also saw Dys4ia, a game about gender, society, and Anthropy’s experiences with hormone replacement therapy. And if Rise of the Videogame Zinesters is the theory, Dys4ia is that theory in practice. Like a great number of other games released this year, it’s an indication of just how much we’re missing, just how important it is to have many different kinds of people making our games. Because they talk about things that game developers traditionally don’t talk about, and they talk about them in ways that other game developers can’t. And, if we can steal a line from the cover of Anthropy’s book, it’s an indication of “how freaks, normals, amateurs, artists, dreamers, dropouts, queers, housewives, and people like you are taking back an art form”.
Dys4ia isn’t just important because of what it represents, though. It’s also important because of how incredibly good it is. Its handful of short one-screen vignettes where interaction is simple and considered – alternating between imitations of events in Anthropy’s life and visual, interactive metaphors that explore her thoughts and emotions. And these simple scenes come together to a compelling, insightful story of the creator’s internal and external reality.
It takes five minutes to tell a meaningful story about the creator’s life. I’d recommend it just for that. But even more, it does it with a colour and skill that is extremely rare. It’s certainly worth experiencing, in other words.