Dys4ia is an autobiographical game created by designer Anna Atrophy. The game functions as a series of 16-bit mini games that tell an interactive stories about challenges faced by transgender people. The challenge of Dys4ia does not come from enemies or puzzles; it is trying to feel empathetic towards someone with whom you probably couldn’t relate otherwise.
The challenge that faces Dys4ia is to make a seemingly alien lifestyle something that anyone can understand and relate to. In this respect, the game succeeds. The game revolves entirely around the day-to-day struggles of a transgender person. Functioning less like a traditional game and more like an interactive narrative, Dys4ia makes empathizing with transgender paper very accessible.
Listening to Anna’s embarrassment at having to shave her face or be referred to as “sir” or “Mr.” showed the frustration of transgender people. Everyone feels insecure about their physical appearance from time to time, but to constantly feel as though you are stuck in a body that does not correspond with your gender identity sounds soul crushing.
As the player navigates the life of Ms. Atrophy, they experience distinct spheres of the transgender experience, including personal, social, and medical aspects. Through each encounter, a sense of alienation and powerlessness is pervasive as the player listens to those in unable to understand what Anna is coping with.
Dys4ia is not completely bleak. As the game progresses, soon Anna starts to experience (slowly but surely) positive changes in her life. Things start small, like the beginning of breast development or having the nerve to correct people on how they refer to her. Eventually, the player is left with a beautiful sentiment of feeling optimistic and being on the right track to developing into the person one is meant to be.
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