Posted by: bracehare | September 15, 2011

Adapting a life-experience to a game

My life experiences are an eclectic mish-mash of horribly boring and extremely depressing.  Therefore I am in an awkward position when trying to draw from my life experiences in order to create a game.  Can a compelling game really be made about working as a fry cook while attending a community college?  Conversely, would a game about the personal and social difficulties common among transgender people be perceived as anything other than off-putting?  While I’m certain I could create a game about my middle school and high school experiences, I must cynically conclude that the most which the average person would take out of it would be a lower impression of me; there is after all an innate human tendency to view people who experience hardship as deserving of it.  The same could be said of the two month period that followed my coming out to my parents and my subsequent ejection from their homes, during which I walked an average of 10 miles a day while searching for work, and endured many other hardships.  The major hobby I have had for the bulk of my life has traditionally been Dance Games, which are themselves a video game and hence would make for a questionable sort of subject for a different video game.

I think my best bet, then, would be to try and be as abstract as possible.  Certainly, most people are fundamentally not receptive to any account of a transgender person (provided it is actually given by a transgender person), and outside of an academic context there is little disincentive to prevent people from being explicit in their disregard.  However, distilling an experience down to its core logical nature and replacing the original objects which occupied the formula with new, less culturally and symbolically loaded ones is something that is agreeable to most people.  Anyone can understand abstraction.  Where people lack competence is in applying it to its particulars.  For instance, you can get most people to agree with the sentiment “people should be left to their own devices, provided they are not harmful”, but you can’t get people to agree on what is or isn’t harmful since there are any number of other premises which people might differ on, coherently or not.

I could easily make a game, though, where the core mechanics actively sabotaged you at every turn.  A platformer that informs you “press a to jump”, and then you press a and your character starts running backwards.  “What is the point of this?” a reviewer might ask.  Another helpful gamer might reply “it is obviously about dyslexia”.  Close enough, I guess.  Trying to communicate a concrete point in any form is much like playing poker.  People will interpret based on their own premises, however insane, and these will differ from person to person.  So you take aim, perhaps, at the most common set of premises, to send a message which will be interpreted as you wish by most people.  How could I get an idea about my life across to most people?  I can’t.  By nature I’m invisible.  All of the symbols which might point to me are currently owned by other groups (gays, for instance.  If I were to show up to class in a dress I would be interpreted as “cross-dressing”, not as a transgender female, because gay people have appropriated the symbolic meaning of a male-bodied person in a dress).

So maybe I could make a game about being invisible?  Critics would still think it was about someone else though…

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