Frustration from the lack of Frustration in Dys4ia

wesley clarke

In the chapter “The Problem with Video Games” Anna Anthropy advocates for more accessible game-making software so that people of diverse backgrounds and experiences, across many different communities can make games. She argues that a ‘zine-like’ video game culture would ultimately serve both players and producers better, by providing content for any demographic of people, and allowing creative people to create games on their own terms, free from exploitative and stressful environments that plague many large game developers.

I agree very much with the ideas in this chapter, but I feel it does not give enough due to more traditional venues of game-making. YouTube is used as an example of the model being proposed, claiming that YouTube is a medium that is superior to television, but both mediums exist simultaneously. More and more often television shows produced by private cable networks and lauded as art, and are taken very seriously by many critics and fans. I don’t think that Anthropy is suggesting that larger game publishers be extinguished, but I think that she sells them short by not acknowledging the kind of positive content that larger scales of production are capable of as well (although her other criticisms of the closed circuit homogeneity of both the content and staff of large developers is extremely valid.)

I think Dys4ia is an interesting game, and I think that it is valuable conceptually, especially as an example of the ideas expressed in Anthropy’s chapter, but if the goal of the game was to expose the player to feelings of discomfort and frustration stemming from gender dysphoria, I think that it largely fails. The majority of the mini-games are too straight forward and are used only to carry the narrative and failing to utilize the mechanics as an emotional tool.

In the first game, the payer must fit a shape into a hole in the wall that doesn’t fit. This is a very powerful design, and I think it would be extremely successful if the player were allowed to actually grapple with the impossible puzzle, but instead, as soon as you touch the wall, the game is over. In the game where you are trying to get to the toilet, why isn’t it difficult to avoid a confrontation with one of the women? I think in general the inability to ‘lose’ many of these games is their weakness. I’m not suggesting that players should repeat a game they lose, but that a player could fail a mini-game, and continue regardless.

The one game I did appreciate was the waiting-room in the clinic. This game brought so much more attention and thought from the player, where the objective is unclear, and there are multiple points in the map that a player could perhaps interact with. I was personally confused that I could not sit down on the chair, and I explored the entire space, eventually realizing that the only thing to do is to be nervous and wait. This mini-game is exactly what I wanted from the larger game, there is so much opportunity for the mechanics and the space of this game to make the player confused, frustrated, and uncomfortable, but in stead the majority of games are face-rolls that last only a few seconds.

Reference:

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.

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