Micro Essay: Performing Identity with Anna Anthropy

By Lauren Hannough-Bergmans

Anna Anthropy’s article “The Problem with Videogames” and game Dys4ia feature narratives foreign to the world of videogames. Instead of presenting a game that services the young male audience usually targeted for optimal videogame sales, Anthropy broadens the net to include various gamers with various interests. Anthropy’s article and game Dys4ia deal with the being outcast by the videogame industry or society as a whole. In her article, Anthropy addresses the need for different types of games produced by different kinds of people. Likewise, in Dys4ia Anthropy encourages the gamer to engage with a game outside of the typical videogame structure. In publishing “The Problem with Videogames” and Dys4ia, this artist-author combats the normative view of video games and the typical identities of videogame protagonists.

Anthropy encourages the videogame industry by diversifying its audience and employees. Currently, the video game industry is stuck in a vicious cycle that allows it to produce games for young males “who are eventually driven to enter the videogame industry and to take part in the creation of games” (Anthropy, 7). This makes for a homogenized industry that produces one kind of game suited for one audience, where “men [are] shooting men in the face” (Anthropy, 3). Though enjoyed by some, these games exclude women as characters and players, and other players searching for different expressive outlets. Anthropy advocates for the development of games by non-programmers, whose games will likely “challenge the industry creatively” (Anthropy, 19) and produce a more rich body of work. As a popular, rapidly developing culture, videogames should portray characters with a multitude of backgrounds, sexual preferences, and experiences to become universally appealing. Anthropy’s own games Calamity Annie and Dys4ia break the boundaries set by major videogame publishers and their elite audiences by featuring female protagonists whose goals are not to shoot or serve others but to confront personal issues.

Dys4ia, released in 2012 is a game that guides the player through the physical transition of a transgendered person while challenging the typical videogame form and protagonist. Most videogames feature an overly masculine man carrying an obscene amount of weapons. In Dys4ia, an autobiographical game by Anthropy, the protagonist appears as a small, pink, pixelated, somewhat anonymous female shape. The player is provokes emotionally as the game presents the various obstacles of Anthropy’s experience with hormone replacement therapy. This game is not an action packed, explosive, first person shooter game. It removes the trappings of expensive videogames and replaces them with an emotional journey that promotes a social dimension. Instead of overt violence, Dys4ia features the embarrassment of shaving, various medical visits, familial encounters, harassment, and emotional trauma. If nothing else, Dys4ia proves that videogames need not include violence, or adventure for that matter, but can explore human experience in an emotional and personal way.

Both “The Problem with Videogames” and Dys4ia by Anna Anthropy represent the diversity that the videogame industry requires to become universally appealing. Thus far, the videogame industry has limited itself to an audience of young males and effectively ignored all other demographics. In both works, Anthropy encourages the development of new, creative games to address different scenarios, and to attract new audiences. Dys4ia, just one example of a game outside the norm, can be one of many helping to diversify a homogenized industry.

Works Cited

Anthropy, Anna.  “The Problem with Videogames.”  The Rise of the Videogame Zinesters. New York:Seven Stories Press, 2012. 1-21. Print.

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