Activist Games

A screenshot from Auntie Pixelante's Defend the Land. Women in white dance in a field; the caption implores you to find the impostor who has a penis!

A few items from the past month that I wanted to bring to our readers’ attention:

First, Auntie Pixelante has created a game called Defend the Land, which is a satire of transphobic “women-born-women” policies at music festivals like MichFest. It was created in response to a self-identified feminist posting a list of names and other identifying information of trans women who attended MichFest despite of or in protest of the policy. Auntie writes:

obviously i was fucking pissed off at having to interrupt work on my new game to have to worry about the safety of fellow transwomen at the hands of self-identified “radical feminists.” so i took a four hour break to make this game about defending the land from trans wolves in womyn’s clothing. (it took four hours because i made it in stencyl.) it’s a FIND THE HIDDEN OBJECT game. the hidden object is a penis. (there’s no violence or slurs in the game, if you have a hard time dealing with that stuff. but this is a game about transmisogyny, and we should all have a hard time dealing with that stuff.)

Border House author Denis has some in-depth analysis at GayGamer.net. This is definitely an important game to check out.

Our second item is another game Denis wrote about recently for GayGamer, Molleindustria’s Phone Story, an iPhone game that tells players about the human rights abuses that go into making the device they are holding and further shows through gameplay how the player is complicit in the process. The contrast of the cartoony style and minigames with the disturbing subject matter and horrifying actions the minigames represent makes for effective satire.

The game was only available on the iTunes App Store for a few hours, but Denis was able to grab the game, and a video is included in his post. According to this Gamasutra interview with the developer, the game was carefully designed so as to comply with Apple’s guidelines, but it was pulled anyway. However, the game is now available for Android.

In the Gamasutra interview, Molleindustria’s Paolo Pedercini explains the team’s goal in creating this game:

“We don’t want people to stop buying smartphones,” he notes, “but maybe we can make a little contribution in terms of shifting the perception of technological lust from cool to not-that-cool. This happened before with fur coats, diamonds, cigarettes and SUVs — I can’t see why it can’t happen with iPads.”

Lastly, Kill Screen has an interview with Dr. Michael Baran, creator of a game called Guess My Race, a 2011 Games For Change finalist. The game asks players to choose a person’s race based on just a photograph. It is inspired by exercises Dr. Baran did with children:

I took pictures of hundreds of people at Election Day—I just took pictures of whoever let me, and laminated them, and used them to make little games for kids, just like cards: Sort these people into groups by who looks the same and who looks different; tell me about this group; what makes this group different from that group? I did these little games that were kind of like cognitive psychology experiments, and tried to be really systematic; be inspired by academics but make the research fun to figure out what kids know about race.

The fact that the game is quite difficult shows how race is socially constructed and that you can’t necessarily tell someone’s race by how they look. The game is available for iOS devices.

13 thoughts on “Activist Games”

  1. “Defend the Land” is brilliant and fucking awesome. It’s always preferable to reach an understanding with your… adversary, but the truth is that these individuals have been flipping us the finger for decades, and that’s probably not going to change. It’s nice to see someone shove it right back at them.

  2. Oh wow, I must play this. I hate those transphobic radfems, they remind me too much of Republicans.

    More of this in general actually.

          1. Does finding the penis count as winning? I felt it was a fair parallel to draw; you keep on looking for penises, but whether you find one or not the outcome is horrible, and there’s an endless supply of happy spinning pixel women. Same as in Hey Baby, whether you shoot the street harassers or not, you soon lose satisfaction and the harassment goes on and on and on.

    1. “they remind me too much of Republicans.”

      Actually, that’s not too far off from the truth… if you examine the arguments they make against the inclusion of trans women at the festival, it’s just gender essentialism wrapped up in fancy jargon. They’ve pretty much moved so far to the left that they’ve come back around on the right.

      But hey, it’s not like gender essentialist ideas are at the root of women’s oppression and the basis for treating us like second-class citizens… oh wait.

      1. A lot of it is more straight forward conservatism too, as lot of their feminist principles were devised decades ago before transsexualism or modern scientific concepts of gender were unveiled. Because they’ve held so strictly to them, there hasn’t been room for evolution. It’s like if atheists had very specific ways in which to be an atheist, they’d probably be conservative too. Dogma is the issue, I guess.

        (also I decided to change my name, as I realised this one was left over from, ironically, leaving comments on radfem blogs…)

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