Tag Archives: Transgender

Magic, The Gathering just got a lot more awesome for me.

I have always been interested in Magic, The Gathering. I even played a little of the video games to  gain some understanding of it. The variety of possible play styles, and the fun ways of making cards interact was more interesting to me than Pokemon or Yu Gi Oh. I actually considered starting a deck, but had no one to really play with. Now however, they have added a card and character to their Mythos that makes me think I shall find people to play with.

Magic card art is very well done.

I love this image, it looks awesome

Alesha, Who Smiles at Death. Cool name, but its how she gets the name that is awesome. She is Magic’s first Trans character, born into a clan that favors glory in battle, she had no name until she gained her first kill. Seen as a young boy, she calls herself after her grandmother, and no questions are raised. Here is an excerpt of when she claims herself.

“It had been a day like this, a battle very much like this, when Alesha won the right to name herself. With blood running down her back where the dragon’s claws had raked her flesh, she pulled a spear from a dead man’s back and plunged it into the beast’s mouth, up into its brain. The spear shaft splintered, but the dragon died in an instant. She didn’t remember if she had been afraid as the monstrous head lunged at her.

What she remembered was the panic that came after. Earning her war name had been her only goal. When the fight was over, she stood silently among the other young ones who were boasting of their accomplishments and the bold, grisly names they would choose. Headsmasher. Skullcleaver. Wingbreaker—Gedruk had been among them. Some of them, mostly orcs, boasted of their ancestors’ deeds and spoke of their pride in adopting those ancestors’ names. She had been so different—only sixteen, a boy in everyone’s eyes but her own, about to choose and declare her name before the khan and all the Mardu.

The khan had walked among the warriors, hearing the tales of their glorious deeds. One by one, they declared their new war names, and each time, the khan shouted the names for all to hear. Each time, the horde shouted the name as one, shaking the earth.

Then the khan came to Alesha. She stood before him, snakes coiling in the pit of her stomach, and told how she had slain her first dragon. The khan nodded and asked her name.

“Alesha,” she said, as loudly as she could. Just Alesha, her grandmother’s name.

“Alesha!” the khan shouted, without a moment’s pause.

And the whole gathered horde shouted “Alesha!” in reply. The warriors of the Mardu shouted her name.

In that moment, if anyone had told her that in three years’ time she would be khan, she just might have dared to believe it.”

Notice something? Even though this bit is at a stage where she would have been seen as a young boy, the writer kept the correct pronouns. Its more than can be said of most media, which often ascribe Pre-Transition accomplishments to our dead names (our names given to us that we stop using) and use the wrong pronouns for anything Pre-Transition. The whole thing is very well written, and perfectly places issues with identity into a fantasy setting. Indeed, Alesha deals with one Orc’s own issues with his identity, but in another way. Said Orc originally leers at Alesha for berating him for failing to kill a dragon and not gaining a chance to claim his name and who he is. The Orc tells her “You tell me this? A human boy who thinks he’s a woman?” Its harsh, but the story expertly plays upon it.

Alesha surprises the Orc with her ferocity, smiling as she single handedly takes down a Dragon, allowing her to point out to him she knows who she is.Through out the battle, Alesha watches the Orc and sees while he never went for a killing blow, he saved others and provided openings for them. By the end she calls on the Orc tell his battle story, but he claims to have none, and hence no name to claim. So Alesha asks those around him, who all talk about his bravery in saving them from certain death, or providing openings for a killing blow, whilst never actually killing something himself. She scolds him again for not knowing who he is and reminds him she knows she is no boy. The Orc then comes forward and calls her Alesha, Who Smiles at Death. Read the full thing here.

Its a brilliant story, that helps to show the importance of self determination, and even deals with how societies ideas of what identity is meaningful conflicts some people. Alesha and the Orc are Opposites. Alesha knows who she is and claims regardless of the views of others, the Orc probably knows who he is as well, but is conflicted as it goes against the Clans ideals. He strives not to be the killer, but to aid his friends, meaning by their laws he would never gain glory. Yet he is as glorious as the others. It is a well played story that deals with identity well by actually removing the issues of self determination from the Trans person. Frankly, I think its amazing.

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.

Want to Break the Gender Binary in games? Play Saints’ Row 2

Saints Row 2

A Trans-Inclusive Game?

If you read this article on Mitch’s Gay Gamer archives you’ll find me briefly taking about Saints’ Row 2. I really enjoy the game, and personally think it is the best open world crime-a-thon I have ever played (GTA 4 bored me and I didn’t play GTA 5 for these reasons). It does have a few issues of course. It can be more than a little misogynistic , uses racial stereotypes and basically glorifies crime.

However, for all that these problems exist, they are balanced out by not being the major focus of the game. There is so much to do in Stilwater that the issues rarely crop up. There are never brought to the front, unlike GTA 5’s torture scene, so you could be forgiven for not noticing them as something else far better is going on.

Anyway, back to the main reason I came to right this post.  Saints Row 2 offers an insane level of customisation. Far more than its sequels. Not only is your character and vehicles customisable, but your gang, Tag (spray-painting on walls)and Cribs can all be modified to some degree. With the frankly brilliant character creation system, which you can use at any point during the game for $500 in game money, comes a wealth of ways to experiment. Saints Row 2 is the only game I can name, that allows female characters to have beards, males to have breasts and actually create a Transgender character. You see, the first section asks you to pick your character’s sex, which limits you to, nothing. Your characters sex does not limit any of the options, the only thing it controls is whether your character has eyelashes (slightly annoys me because I had massive eyelashes even before identifying as a woman). TY=he next page offers you the body shape controls, which is masculine at one end, with broad shoulders and crotch bulge, and feminine at the other, with wide hips and breasts. Everything else is likewise open, so you can make muscle-bound bodies, fat bodies, strong jaws, soft faces, shaved heads, long flowing hair, beards or clean shaven. Your sex don’t matter, you could be totally androgynous. Even picking a voice is totally free an you can choose how your character acts from a wide variety of movement styles, taints and compliments, some being very camp and feminine, others more brutal and macho.

The Binary Breaking doesn’t just end within the character creation however. Once you are in the game you get access to stores with a wide variety of cloths. Again, being male doesn’t prevent you from wearing a female clothes, and vice versa. You can dress your character how you wish, and the brilliant thing is that it has no bearing on how your character is perceived. Unlike the Fable serious, where dressing in the opposite sex’s clothes will result in you being considered funny, in Saints Row 2 no one bats an eye lid. While it was likely added for humour, it has actually made it probably one of the best inclusive games as far as Gender Binary Breaking goes.

I would really suggest buying this game, the experimenting with how you want to present yourself isn’t really available to such a degree anywhere else digitally. I know that it was probably where I first began to experiment with my gender, and because it is entirely digital, you don’t have to worry about people seeing you and becoming nasty. Once you gain confidence, you can take it beyond the game, but it stills acts as a good starting point. The story is also really good, better than its sequels, so while you are there you can also enjoy the rest this brilliant game has to offer.

My Experience with Suppression of Trans Culture

Sorry, ages late, but my Dissertation was due. Brings me to my first point actually. You see, as a student of Computer Games Design, it has been drilled into me that the next great avenue for games are Serious Games. Serious Games are games which have a purpose beyond being fun, they could educate you, influence you or even help physiotherapy. Its actually a really cool field, partially due to the challenge and also because you get a real feeling you are helping people.

So, in my Honours year, the year I began my Transition, I decided I would try to build a game to help the Trans Community. It was a cool idea, and instantly a hit with my chosen supervisor and fellow peers. Mitch (god people are gonna think I fancy him at this rate) embarked on a similar exercise, but on the LGBT community as a whole. It looked like it was gonna be groovy. I drew up a brief idea, and began to write my proposal. Other staff members heard about my project and were very interested. I even got in contact with a local Trans Youth group to help me design the game. The man in charge was very interested and really looked forward to me meeting them to begin drawing up ideas.

There was just one hurdle. The Ethics Committee (insert scary thunder here). I had to be careful, as they could cancel my project if they felt it was unethical. I made sure to inform them the Trans Youth Group was ready willing and able to be a part of the project, and I even tried to figure out how to get my criminal record checked for working with under eighteens. The difficulty was the University only gave guidance for Government Organisations, and the Trans Youth Group was a Charity. They didn’t know, and as far as they were concerned it was a non-issue. So I asked the Ethics Committee for help.

They originally did not respond, till I gave them a second Email. Here was the response;

“I am afraid that the committee cannot approve your Ethics application as it stands. The subject you are addressing is considered a sensitive subject and the ethical issues are complex, and unlikely to be resolved in the timescale required for an undergraduate project.”

So I was told no. After creating an entire proposal, almost nine weeks of work as I started early because I felt so keen to do it, I was told no. I tried to get Trans issues into a game somehow, a long too and fro got me nowhere. Trans issues was a blanket no go zone. The line of it being “too sensitive” carried on throughout. Then, Mitch had his project halted too. We both had to radically shift our projects, mine became recycling. I was obviously livid, and believed that this may well have been discrimination, especially due to the difficulty of getting information. I read the guidelines, got in contact with Groups to help Trans People, I was ready to fight to bring back my project. then I learned something. Many projects were cancelled. My initial though was the Ethics Committee was covering their skin, however I eventually dropped this to focus on my work.

So my school work continued, with me feeling really rather upset at not being able to do what I really wanted too. Then the module Series Games Design came up and I got excited. I could try again! I had to work with a team however, and I was unlikely to persuade them. However my concept could still be pitched, and the Lecturer could pick which they though was best out of all the teams ideas. So I created a brief, which outlined the basic idea of a game where you have to do battle discussions and mini games to learn about the issues that face Transgender people. My lecturer liked it.

The Clients did not.

According to the clients who also judged our ideas, Trans issues was not a broad enough topic to build a game around. Apparently I would be better suited to just do bullying in general. Sweep the Trans stuff away. Who would play it aside from Trans People? People, that’s who! The game was specifically designed to let the player see it from a Trans view point and a Cis view point, and so people could learn what they perhaps do in their own lives that may be anti-Trans. It was designed to be used by both Trans People, and Cis People.

Guess this is just something I’ll have to get used to. Either my ideas are to icky, or they just won’t be attractive to your typical Male Heterosexual Cis Gamer.