The Trans Horror Game – Location, Location, Location

So after the sudden jump in readers when I posted my ideas for a Trans Horror game last week (readership was up 1000%! (yeah but 10 times 1 is 10) shut up!) I have decided to carry on with it for a while, see if it gets any traction. If it does, I may start a Kickstarter or other crowd funding enterprise to get it off the ground.

So toady I will look at locales for a Trans Horror game. The best Horrors use locales which tie in thematically to the central themes and ideas, or play on peoples fears. They can also play on a cultures own fears to great effect, British Horrors tend to be based in Cities thanks to characters like Jack the Ripper who made Cities dangerous places. Americans on the other hand tend to set their Horrors away from Cities, thanks to the difficulties of small towns as they spread West. So lets look at some places to set a Trans Horror game.

City

You might question this a little, but bear with me. Cities a full of people running around shopping, working and socialising. But what if it was empty? Trans people often feel alone in the world, although this is becoming less prevalent thanks to the internet. It is still a very common feeling feeling when first coming out to yourself, that you are the only one. So by having a City which our mind tells us should be full of people empty you can draw on this loneliness. Also, Cities are always safe for Trans people, public stabbings can and do happen, regardless of whether people are watching. Slurs can be hurled at you from all directions from a faceless mob. Which brings me onto another City design, one full of people, but people you cannot see clearly. All you can see is their staring eyes which burrow deep into your soul because you dare to be different.

 Mental Health Hospital

Or an Asylum to most folks. This works really well not only because they are already creepy places, especially Victorian ones, but they play on the common misconception of Trans People. If you don’t know what that is its that we are all insane lunatics who need locked up. Ok, some are decent enough just to think its a mental illness and we need counselling, but the idea is the same. Given the often clinical nature we are examined by others, especially the media (the ever hated “So have you had your penis cut off yet?”) being somewhere actually medical can tie into this idea. Literally the player could be being inspected and scrutinised for their appearance and genitalia.

Graveyard with Church

This obviously has connotations of death and religion. Death clearly wraps into the violence suffered by Trans people. It also brings to mind Trans peoples own suicidal thoughts and tendencies, as almost one in two attempt suicide (myself included). A world surrounded by those lost and bearing this them would be incredibly heavy and dark, so I think caution would have to be taken, however a Graveyard offers other tie ins. The religious aspects such as cross shaped tombstones, a church and even an overbearing priest can all be used to bring to mind the fact that the religious right wing tries to prevent Trans people being themselves. It would sort out a villain and a world all at once.

These where just some quick looks at different worlds and how they could help to bring forward some themes surround Trans issues. This list is not exhaustive, and was kinda quickly written. I am open to more ideas and will look into this a little more myself as time goes on. Perhaps this game will see the light of day in the future.

Halloween Special! (In November)

So maybe this is because it was it was Halloween on Friday, or perhaps because I have thought about this before, but I have come to the conclusion a Trans Horror game would be distressing as all hell. And really, you want a Horror game to leave a lasting impression on the player.

Now first off, no I do not mean a game were the villain, monster or ghost is Trans. Too often when Trans people are represented in horrors or thrillers they are killers. Just look at Silence of the Lambs or Psycho. In both cases the killer assumes a female identity, supposedly due to mental anguish or some such. Often defended as simply “Men who wish to be woman,” which is a commen trope about Trans Woman, they only help to drive the stigmaof Trans people as “mentally ill.” In games, I think the closest I have seen is Yutaji the Flesh Mage from Draken: The Ancients Gates. He is supposed to be completely mad although he does not don a female identity, merely wears woman’s skin.

Yutaji

This guy was terrifying. The game wasn’t even supposed to be scary!

No, what I am talking about is a horror game which bases the world, challenges of that world and its major themes on issues facing Trans people. With that goal in mind I have thought of some issues and how they could be explored in a horror game context. Warning, things are about to get personal and maybe a little emotional.

Control

Probably one issue common to all Trans people is control. Society tries to force us to behave like the gender we were assigned at birth, or when they do accept us force us to act in a stereotypical manner for our Gender Identity. Even Trans people try to control other Trans people, by telling them they are not truly Trans or their identity unless they have SRS. So how do we explore this in a game? Games have the unique opportunity to be Active Experiences, giving the player control over what they see, so we must break this! Some games already toy with this a little. In Wolfenstein: The New Order, a brilliant moment early in the game has you at the Mercy of a Nazi official. You have no idea what she will do, you can only pick pictures. And honestly, it is one of the scariest segments of the game. But obviously a game where the player has no control is just one long cutscene, so how do we give the illusion of control, while taking it away? Some ideas I have include giving the player a map which depicts a large open world, yet they are confined to a narrow path. Doors are locked, walls crumble to prevent passage, and horrors stop you from exploring that cool looking tower. A eerie idea I like is the idea of a stair way. When you step on it and travel up, it goes on as long as you move up, but when you turn around, you are still standing at the bottom.

Rejection

Another one common to all Trans people, as our families and friends abandon our new found selves. A little more difficult to convey in a game, but it could still be done. Characters, people just out of reach, behind locked doors, walking away constantly. A simple method, and I certainly think I need to think more on this one.

Violence

Sad to say, but Trans people, especially those of darker skin (gah I hate using that phrase, can anyone think of a better one?) are at an extremely high risk of violence. I am thankful I have gone a year nearly full time and only been called “Ugly.” (by a man whose face was falling off, ooh burn) But how do you show violence in a game? Oh wait, that’s what games have been doing for some time. The difference here is of course the player will not be the one dishing it out, but receiving it, and being helpless to stop save to run away (when Trans people defend themselves, they are often arrested, because sometimes the only to stop someone killing you is to kill them). This would result likely in some kind of muscular monster, that stalks you, and you only choice if you bump into him (yes him, as its usually men who attack us, although woman do too, especially TERFs) is to run. Other possible options include the very world trying to attack the player, so they must be on a constant look out. Even then, they may not see it until its too late.

Sexual Harrassment and Rape

Now we get to really shit stuff. Just like violence, Trans people suffer rape to a high degree too. Sometimes it is “corrective” to show them they are wrong. Really, as I have only had to deal with sexual harassment, not sure I would feel comfortable tacking rape without doing lots more research and speaking to those who have suffered it so as to do it properly. Still I think the comic by Erin Lindsey, Venus Envy has had a very interesting way of depicting the horror of it.

Venus Envy

The first time we see any hint of sexual assault, and its terrifying. It comes out of no where. Read the whole comic, its very good.

Misunderstanding

So most people don’t understand Trans people, as is easily evidenced by looking at media portrayals of us. Ironically, bringing in the stupid stereotyped idea of a Trans person could help here. A mirror held up to the player, telling them this is what they look like, when we can see they do not. It helps to perhaps show anyone who is Cis the horribleness of being told you are something you are not. How to make it scary and gamy though? Potentially a room full of these mirrors, which the player must destroy, potentially while avoiding the ire of that muscle bound monster.

So there we go, this was just a wee look at some issues facing Trans people, and how to gamify them in a horror context. This is in no way a complete list, and I am not really a horror enthusiast, more a casual admirer (I am scared of butterflies, how well do you think I do in horror games?). Also, being Trans isn’t all oppression and violence. There are a lot of awesome bits to it to, like being yourself, and speaking honestly, getting the right bra to turn your pecs into boobs rocks!

A little Change

Sometimes you just need to have a little fun. This blog has generally been very serious but that changes today with the first videos appearing on my YouTube channel! Don’t go search me up on You Tube yet, to few videos, and another person has a very simular channel name, so all their videos appear. However if you look for the Video Title you can find them easy. Of course I will make it even easier by having it below!

Whats Wrong with the Games Industry and Female Characters, Visible in Searches for this Blog.

It has been months since I have come here, and for those who pay attention, sorry. Some may notice I have removed a couple posts, well more on that tomorrow.

Any way, I decided to check the search terms being used to find this blog. They are mostly fine, stuff like “saints row 5” or “change soldier in warface” but one very long entry caught my eye. It read “it would be funny if you could make the female soldiers on cod ghosts to wear bikinis.” Ugh. Now I tried to see how easy I got linked to because of this. I certainly wasn’t on the first 5 pages of Google, so whoever this was either used another search engine or really dug to find me.

Lets deconstruct this, as it really points out a major flaw with how the games industry, and many male gamers (many means a lot, not all), view woman.

Firstly, I am slightly mystified by “funny.” What is funny about women in bikinis? If you asked this of what ever, please do enlighten me, because I fail to see the humour value. Do you go to the beach and die of laughter? Is there something about a barely covered woman that tickles your funny bone? Ok, that last bit just grossed me out a little (think and you’ll get it). Anyway, what about it makes it funny. I presume it would be the daftness of the concept of woman running into battle wearing a bikini, especially on snowy maps. It smacks a little of Arthur and his knights riding imaginary horses throughout the entire Monty Python and the Holy Grail film. Yet, why is it funny for just the woman to be in bikini? Why not also the men? Could they not wear Budgie Smugglers? That’s a Banana Hammock for you Americans. Certainly Mount Your Friends thinks so, in a deeply disturbing wash my mind with bleach kinda way. But then again, seeing men run into battle nearly naked, or even completely, is often reserved for the ultimate of badasses, think the Beowulf and 300 films. So in what way is it different for woman?

Well that brings me onto my next point, its for the process of ogling them. There really is no other other reason for it. Look to games like Dead or Alive: Xtreme, a game made for the sole purpose of getting all their female characters in bikinis, or Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Sqaud, which combines my least two favourite things, Zombies and needless objectification. Ok, both of those are Japanese examples, but the make a lot of them (don’t even get me started on the Vampire/Demon/sun-allergic beat-em-up where you strip the baddies, although many of them are male… um I have no idea if that balances out now in my head). Sex sells. Why? Unfortunately, for all that our society is still making progress on the equality front, straight, white cis-men still have the highest disposable income. No offence if you are by the way, it certainly isn’t your fault, society as a whole still needs fixing. Back to my point! Most white, straight cis-men will be drawn to a game even more if it has even a little sex appeal. So games will often cater to that. Is it wrong? Yes. Will it ever stop? Unlikely. As long as “it would be funny if you could make the female soldiers on cod ghosts to wear bikinis” is still a phrase games will likely answer the call.

I can hear someone now (hopefully not anyone reading this blog) “But Emily (have I told you my name yet? Well I have now) didn’t you previously say you were ok with nudity as long as it serves a purpose? How is this any different?” Well my imaginary MRA sounding chum, My description of purpose was more or less aligned towards how the audience should interpret what is being shown to them. I do mention how arousal can help convey emotions, and nudity, or near nudity, can be used to convey this. However, in COD: Ghosts, you are in a war zone, shooting baddies, who in return are shooting you. You should feel exhilarated, pumped up, alive, not running around aroused. If you were playing against me, you wouldn’t get much of a look, as a large hole would be were your character’s eyes used to be. Of course you wouldn’t be playing against me, I’ll be of playing something decent while you sit around drooling over a bunch of polygons.

Would you Like to Play a Game?

If so then here is a link to my game in development, Duel Wield! I built it as a web player so it should work no matter what system you are running (Let me know if it doesn’t).

So what is it? Well I wanted to learn some simple coding, so it is nothing more than top down shooter, with a little difference. The reason it is called Duel Wield is that you little character (that delightful red circle currently) has not one, but two guns! Ingenious, isn’t it? OK, it’s a working title, but what are you gonna do? The character, henceforth Gunslinger, can fire in two directions at once, currently done by moving the mouse closer to them. The closer the mouse is to the character, the wider the stance for shooting. Other wise its your typical fair, use WASD or the arrow keys to move, point in the direction to shoot with the mouse and click to shoot.

This is very early Alpha Stuff, so criticism is both warranted and sought. I’m not inviting you to simply yell “This is shite” all other the posting section. What I want are genuine critics of what can be improved, like “the whole duel wield thingy is kinda weird to use” (which I realise, and plan to find another control method for it, suggestions?). This is going to be a survival game when fully built, although I do have ideas for a rather silly story and things down the line.

Oh, I do know you can’t die. The funny thing is you do lose health, it just doesn’t do anything yet.

 

NOTE: I have since removed the game as I am working on a professional project, and my Drop Box is full.

I Sold my Soul and Ideals, Only to get Insulted

I recently applied for a job in the games industry, with the biggest company in Scotland and arguably one of the most successful in the world, Rockstar North, creators of the Grand Theft Auto Series. I was even asked to attend an interview, though I can’t talk details for obvious reasons. I was excited, it was a huge possibility for me and could have lead to great things. I didn’t get it. It was a shame, because I really enjoyed meeting them. They were nice and friendly, well except one who seemed to avoid my gaze and not really look at me. I have no idea what he was thinking, but I do worry that it wasn’t nice.

Anyway, as part of the prep for the interview, I was asked to play GTA V. Not really an unreasonable request, but I got a little worried. I was torn between two issues. I really wanted the job, and so I should strive to play the game, but I swore not to buy the game because of its content. I of course didn’t tell them this, it was because I had no money and time as I was undertaking my Honours year at University (which as you should know was met with difficulties).

The reason the content made me swear not to play the game was because it was so insulting to so many groups, and Rockstar had also decided to include Trans characters. Not in a good way of course. Really this is all old news of course, Mitch wrote a brilliant piece on it for Gay Gamer, Bad Trans Jokes covered it in game and beyond and of course there was the Game Spot article in which Carolyn Petit dared to mark down a game for being misogynistic. So the issues were not only within the game, but also the community of fans. It painted a rather nasty picture which I did not really want to get into.

I’ll admit, the game looked amazing, and reviews (including Carolyn’s) all talked about the great gameplay within the game. I even watch videos of some one playing it, and was thankful when they released a video defending the GameSpot review.

So I decided to borrow my sisters copy, and used various sources to avoid problem areas. I did not wish to see the Trans Characters or go to the Strip Club. I successfully avoided them and found myself having fun, with only the issue of Trevor’s introduction. So after the fairly positive experience of the interview, I bought the game when it went on offer for £25, which was almost half its usual price. Then I spotted more issues.

While I had been avoiding the Strip Club, the game started to spawn me in it when I changed characters. Then I went and did a stupid thing. I checked the Fame or Shame Website. “Dancing Trannies,” “She Male Bop” and LGBT ais changed to LBGT so they can crack off the “joke” of it meaning “Lady Boy’s Gigantic Tits.” This is beyond poor stereotypes, this is blatant insults! She-Male and Tranny are insults, and I am no fan of Lady Boy either. I know “Trainnies” also appears on the Gay Bar’s windows, but this is a relatively accurate depiction of how some Gay men think it isn’t a slur (Rupaul for example (TW: to prove a point, the title of the linked article contains an anti gay slur)). Of course the media shares this idia, but to include along side She Male and Lady Boy is less a shout out to poor media representation, its actively taking part, especially considering all the other offenses. Also, the change of LGBT to LBGT for a joke about “Gigantic Tits” sounds like some silly school yard thing, were the very mention of Breasts, Penises, Anuses or Vaginas is funny. This is Carry On levels of puerile and I would know having enjoyed them as a silly young idiot.

Now I suspect that Rockstar does not have a single trans staff member. If they do they are either too spineless to call out this nonsense, too frightened they may loose their job, spoke up and lost their job or was silenced because all this was “too funny.” I don’t know, I certainly never saw any, although I wasn’t looking. I slightly worry if my own Trans Status had anything to do with not being accepted despite my skills from a Games Course. I again can’t know, but my request for reason as to why I did not get a job has gone unanswered, which does not alleviate these fears. Here is the funny thing though, if they didn’t there is a place not too far away were they could have gone to check their jokes, or even talk to some trans people to get some real experience. Rockstar North is situated in Edinburgh, and Edinburgh has a LGBT Centre for Health and Well Being, and pretty much every Month Trans Woman go their for something called Tea Time (there is one in Glasgow too). I have been to a couple, and they aren’t far from the Train Station. Neither is Rockstar North. In fact they are both walking distance away! Here is a map showing each location, with some directions!

Map

Not exactly miles away, its not even one!

With such easy access to Trans People who could have told them that what they would be doing is insulting, why didn’t they use this valuable resource? The could have made some brilliant jokes about Trans people were we are still legitimate people, not things to gawk at or be disgusted by. I’ll give you this brilliant one I found for free:

How do you find the Transsexual in a room full of Drag Queens?

Look for the girl in a t-shirt and jeans.

I just want to point out before signing off, I am not saying Rockstar is a big evil corporation. My fears of not getting the job for being Trans are as yet unfounded, and I would rejoice at being proven wrong. I just don’t like the insulting manner of Trans inclusion and have suggested how they may in future prevent such issues.