Gender Theory and Gaming in Dys4ia

Jamison Lightfoot

The video game Dys4ia presents a particularly interesting contribution to both the perception of video games as narrative/artistic medium, and gender with respects to the rhetoric surrounding gender reassignment procedures. Video games as a medium have been burdened throughout the course of their history with parallels being drawn towards film, television and other narrative structures. As Robert Elbert remarked, video games could never reach artistic merit because of the lack of authorial control over the users experience. (Anthropy, 2012) Dys4ia aims to combat this theory by providing the user with an interactive experience that both lets users feel in control, while still receiving the rhetoric of the designer. Instead of using traditional methods of exploring a theme such as society had been conditioned to understand through film and television, video games (Dys4ia) use interactivity with predetermined outcomes to explore the message. Games such as this do not rely on conventional cinematic tropes such as cut scenes and breaks from the diegetic experience. Instead the game is meant to be experienced, and the “story” that filmmakers thought video games lacked is instead told through the users every experience and interaction. Just as in film, game designers can be auteurs, exploring both their style and personal message in all of their works. Anna Anthropy, uses this theory to combat the medium of gaming itself, a traditionally sexist and heteronormative dominated space. As Jensen and Castell state, the aim of feminism in gaming culture is not to “victimize” or “chastise” but instead“…to unlearn the stereotypical assumptions, and challenge covertly stereotyped concepts (such as “competition”) that have thus far driven gender research in this field…” (Jenson/Castell, 2008, 25) By addressing these issues through the medium she is able to break the rhetoric that is indoctrinated in the gaming community. The gameplay is supposed to be jarring on every level. With classic 8-bit graphics and self made sound effects, the user is constantly reminded of the medium that they are using and the process of making the game. Taking in to consideration the games “retro” feel, it seems like  juxtaposition when such relevant and contemporary issues are being explored. Dys4ia is a game that is not only meant to be played, but to be understood. Unlike some games that focus on in game experience, Dys4ia challenges the viewer to become an aware observer in both the virtual space and the ‘real world’.

Works Cited

-Anthropy, Anna. “The Problem With Videogames.” Rise of the Videogame Zinesters: How Freaks, Normals,

Amateurs, Artists, Dreamers, Dropouts, Queers, Housewives, and People Like You Are Taking Back an Art

Form. New York, NY: Seven Stories Press, 2012. 1-21.


-Jenson, Jennifer and de Castell, Suzanne. “Theorizing Gender and Digital Gameplay: Oversights, Accidents and

Surprises.” Eludamos. Journal for Computer Game Culture 2.1 (2008).


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