Re: On Transgender Characters

Logo for Dys4ia, a game by Anna Anthropy

Dys4ia by Auntie Pixelante is one of many games that feature trans characters and narratives.

This is a response to David Gaider’s post, On Transgender Characters. If you’re more the Tumblr type, you can read this same response here.

This isn’t a question of what videogame culture is ready for. As an employee at a AAA games company, you are speaking about what the AAA industry is ready for, without even realizing it.

The mainstream industry’s inertia is caused by the people who pull the purse strings—the publishers and the shareholders and the CEOs. Most of whom are straight cisgender white men. They’re afraid of change for two reasons: 1) They’re worried it will hurt their profit margins, and 2) They themselves are afraid of things that don’t appeal to them personally.

Outside of the industry, meanwhile, in the land of videogame culture, people have already been producing games with transgender people, people of color, and women. While the AAA industry keeps churning out franchise sequels and New IP with the Same Old Gameplay.

One more thing: The “videogame culture” you are speaking of is specifically the one you, as a cis white male, are most familiar with: the cis white male gamer culture. I am most familiar with trans women gamer culture. We’re the ones who felt betrayed by the brothel scene in Dragon Age: Origins. We’re the ones who kept on playing DA (though fewer in number this time) despite that, only to get backstabbed again. We’re the ones who are quickly getting fed up with AAA games screwing us over for a cheap laugh or ignoring us altogether.

[Publishers are] afraid of change for two reasons: 1) They’re worried it will hurt their profit margins, and 2) They themselves are afraid of things that don’t appeal to them personally.

We certainly have our own specific interests, but, being women, we’re also a part of a larger gaming culture: women gamer culture. The ones who make YouTube videos about overusing the damsel in distress trope, and get rightfully angry about sexualizing female characters to ridiculous extremes. We get horrible representation and women in refrigerators all the time, and despite that we trudge on. Why? Because we’re gamers.

And you know what? We are ready for transgender characters. We’re dying for them. We’re ready for women leads, whether they’re trans or cis. We are ready for this. You, the developers, publishers, and producers, are not.

You still define “gamer culture” as “the group of people that can’t handle trans people or women as main characters”. When trans people and women are a part of gamer culture. So we will continue to produce the games we want, the games we need, according to our own means. And the AAA industry will continue to excuse itself from its own audience, and become irrelevant over time from its own inertia.

We are ready for transgender characters. We’re dying for them. We’re ready for women leads, whether they’re trans or cis. We are ready for this. You, the developers, publishers, and producers, are not.

That irrelevance is already showing itself in the negative reactions to the next console generation, because the industry is failing not just women and minorities, it’s failing gamers as a whole right now. There’s a reason entire consoles are being Kickstarted into existence, and why developers are circumventing traditional publishers to get their games made and distributed. The publishing money wants to stay in the hands of cis white men, and the rest of us aren’t having it.

Enjoy your bubble.