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The game begins with a black computer screen with a pink emoticon heart <3 at one side. You click on the heart and a text appears telling you that you have a marker so that throughout the game you can draw a series of symbols and signs on your skin. You are also reminded that nothing you do during the game is either good or bad. The procedure of the game is similar to the "Choose your own adventure" books: you read a text on the screen and some words are options – hyperlinks which take the reading-game forward. In this story there is a transsexual woman trapped in a futuristic and dystopian city governed by a cruel empress who you have to serve. It is a power system of thought – yours, embodied in a character who you love and hate at the same time. Throughout the story you only have the option of going into the street to drink poisonous potions in a distillery, meditating at the side of a polluted lake, taking hormones to change sex, building the things that the empress orders you to and repeatedly crossing paths with the ghost of a past love. Sometimes the game asks you to draw symbols on your skin which represent: break-up; a relation with the abyss; circular thinking; new beginnings; how you are feeling now or sadness. During the game you don't win or lose anything. When the game ends you have simply taken the decision that you can according to what you felt, moving through a story that has –literally– left its mark on your skin. With those we love alive is a text game about our relationship with power, but it is above all a game about our relationship with love. This text game, like many others, is made by a programmer from Oakland called Porpentine.
On their website there are lots of games and free software for cross-dressing and feminizing your computer or animations such as Trans Cyber Ritual, which is a progress bar to view operations such as: Healing trauma emoticons / Detecting glitch identities / Scanning estrogen.exe.
Porpentine is a programmer working in digital but also with everything that has to with the physical body. It sets out from and aims for that with, for example, With those we love alive, the game described at the beginning of this text.
Porpentines’ way of working responds to material (from the precarious) and political conditions (trans identities) that are reflected both in the content and in the strategies of its circulation. These are processes that deregulate both productive logic and the functions and consumption of computer games.
The games basically involve the reading of a text whose final aim is to manage the loss of power. Fictional stories changes the role of the player and the writing-reading format, characters are trapped in situations that question their identity (who are you?), position (from which point?) and their agency (what can you do?).
The main tool for the creation of these games is Twine, an open-code free software for creating non-linear, interactive stories. They set out from the obvious advantages of open code and free software: they can be modified, they have an active community, they are free, etc. the fact of being text with hyperlinks to which sound and images can be added offer broad possibilities for narrating, using words to shape situations and experiences in life that can be shared.
The accessibility and ease of their production and circulation (all you have to do is access them from a browser without installing or downloading anything)make them available to communities and individuals who are rarely represented in online games or in their production and diffusion.
To cite some other programmer in the Porpentine line, we should mention Merrit Kopas, with games such as HugPunk (a hug simulator in a queer, urban environment with fluorescent pink pixels) and Ana Antrophy with DYS4IA, a game about the hormonal process for gender reassignment. Both authors give talks, workshops and share tutorials about programming and computer games in an attempt to change the roles in digital culture, creating a community where the emitter and receiver share the same lifestyles and experiences.
The title Games for girls (and all the others) is a reference to one of the section of the Porpentine games and despite being inclusive it marks out a specific position: here the central character is not a hero or a guy with a gun. Games for girls (and all the others) are games where there is nothing to win, with characters and situations that represent personal experiences, hormonal lows, emotional instability, precariousness, trauma and desire. They are basically charged with a homologation of the main computer games that is as visual as it is conceptual, with low resolution aesthetics, self-narrative and the aim of the game which is more to do with poetics, breaking the win-lose dichotomy.
Just to mention finally that October (when this is published) is the international month for trans depathologization. It is a fight and a process which intersectionally advances and finds in areas such as digital games other forms of representation, participation and communication that are more inclusive and horizontal.
"A desk is a dangerous place from which to watch the world" (John Le Carré)