Trans people. Not often found in mainstream games, and if they are, you don’t even know about it, à la Birdo. Games journalist Laura K, a trans woman, recently released a game called Acceptance, a project made to give the non-trans passer by an insight as to what it feels like to have a persistent weight of dissatisfaction with yourself. I am personally not a trans person, and I have to say, this game really did open my eyes to some otherwise unthought of struggles.
The game begins by asking which gender you are, male or female, and once you have chosen, it immediately evokes in you a taste of that constant dysphoria cisgender people often do not fathom. It insists that you are not the gender you perceive yourself to be. An extremely clever implementation that well establishes the rudimentary mind set of a person who cannot abide by themselves. It nearly makes you feel guilty for poignantly choosing the wrong gender, the simple act of recalling what gender you are seems almost as a provocative remark, as the game’s narrator quickly rebuttals this, and says that you must eventually give up this notion and surrender to pressure, as if you’re almost stupid for saying what you are. A seemingly far-fetched notion, that trans people live immersed in a world so inherently adversarial, but when you think about it, this happens. This is really what its like, from the very start.
Once you realise that your body is not the gender you chose, it is easier for the player to relate to the character, as the narrator reminds you that the character is just as dissatisfied with their gender as you are. As you become more and more invested with the character, the underlying compassion is in parity to the pain you feel for your character not being the way you want him/her to be. This kind of narrative technique is more effective than that of games like dys4ia, which are less relatable as they only show the journey of transitioning from a man to a woman, but Acceptance exhibits the experience to both genders. Acceptance also shows to the passer by, the difficulty of otherwise menial tasks for trans people. To the ordinary cisgender person, you get dressed in the morning primarily to keep warm, or to flaunt your sense of fashion, but to the trans person, you dress yourself to hide the person you were born as, to hide that person you don’t agree with, and subsequently to hide the shame that is intrinsically attached to it. It’s the revelation of these small things turned sinister that help build a world so different from the player’s, and creates a melancholy yet immersive experience.
At points in the game, you are given a choices screen, which looks as such:
The interesting thing about this screen is that the most desirable option, ‘accept’ is unclickable. A sad reminder that shows that, for trans people, acceptance is not really a tangible option. You can never fully accept or assume the body you’re in, but that the closest thing is to ride against the suicidal undercurrent and continue. The art design shows a deeper layer to this screen, the messy myriad of options also shows that these kind of thoughts are always bouncing around a trans person’s brain, that thoughts of acceptance are always accompanied by thoughts of giving up as well. Even the notion that you could ‘give up’ so early on in the game emphasises the chronic ennui some trans people face every day. As well as this, the fact that the options screen remains exactly the same every time goes to show that satisfaction, for some, can never ever become any more palpable. Unlike dys4ia, in Acceptance, you never convalesce. It hits harder than dys4ia, but it also just as real a representation on what it’s like to be trans.
The game doesn’t represent what every day is like for a trans person, but it represents what one of the worst ones can be. Ultimately, the dynamic of looking like one thing but feeling another leaves you in some sort of inescapable bottomless gender abyss, where you can keep falling and straggling behind forever and ever as long as people don’t accept you, but you can get yourself out only through the worst possible means. A sad, but much needed game. It’s very short and is well worth your time if you have it.
Here are some links:
Laura K’s Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/LauraKBuzz
The link to the game: http://laurakindie.itch.io/acceptance-jam-for-leelah-entry
Laura K’s twitter: https://twitter.com/LaurakBuzz