By: Paul Eres

On: March 10th, 2012

Dys4ia is a new game by Anna Anthropy / Auntie Pixelante, developer of REDDER, Mighty Jill Off, Calamity Annie, When Pigs Fly, and other games, and who is also just about to release a book on independent game development, Rise of the Videogame Zinesters. Dys4ia is an autobiographical game about transgenderism and hormone therapy. The music is by Liz Ryerson. From Anna’s blog:

“dys4ia is the story of the last six months of my life: when i made the decision to start hormone replacement therapy and began taking estrogen. i wanted to catalog all the frustrations of the experience and maybe create an “it gets better” for other trans women. when i started working on the game, though, i didn’t know whether it did get better. i was in the middle of the shit detailed in level 3 of the game, and at the time i had no idea what the ending would be; it was hard to envision a happy ending.”

My friend Jeanne Thornton, who wrote or co-wrote some of my games (namely Immortal Defense and Saturated Dreamers), and who is the editor of Anna’s Rise of the Videogame Zinesters, requested I try out the game and review it. I was going to do that anyway, as I had heard of it a day earlier from Madamluna‘s Twitter, but probably not as soon as I would have otherwise; Jeanne said that the game would save the world and was important. But I was thinking something a lot of you are probably thinking—and I thought this even before I played the game (but generally knew what it was about)—do you um even know what you are asking? That I subject *this game* to frontpage TIGSource comments?

Anyway, the game is pretty good, as autobiographical art games go (e.g. if you’re expecting zero interactivity or walls of text you won’t find that). There’s a variety of short mini-games in quick succession, a bit like WarioWare. Each of the little games is well done, easy to understand, and a creative use of combining the topic and videogames, I enjoyed playing it just to see all the different ones. If you’re a game dev who wants to see art games done right, where the mechanics actually tie in to the theme, this is a great example. I enjoyed it more, qua game, than the similarly autobiographical game Keys of a Gamespace by Sébastien Genvo (forum discussion here), which dealt with pedophilia, but that’s just because that one was in the form of a slow-paced adventure game made in AGS rather than a fast-paced collection of mini-games made in Flash; as far as the autobiographical content goes, I felt both were similarly expressive and interesting. Another similarly autobiographical game is Aether by Edmund McMillen and Tyler Glaiel, which dealt with the loneliness of a child.

So yeah, I considered not writing about this game, because of the comments it’s sure to get here, because it’s one of those indie games that doesn’t actually need TIGSource to bring attention to it anyway (it was frontpaged on Newsgrounds and has had 17,000+ plays in one day), and because I basically don’t know anything about transgenderism (and that is in spite of having had five different transgendered friends over my lifetime, one of which was the first game programmer I ever met, who my parents knew before I was born). But then I read through the Newsground comments about the game and thought both “well the comments can’t be worse than some of these” but also “at least some people like it.” And one of the things I do know is that one should if something has both good and bad results, or is both liked and hated, it’s the good results, or the people who like it, that matter.

  • http://about.me/ortoslon ortoslon

    reading guide: skip the 2nd and the 4th paragraph

  • Anonymous

    hahaha, i guess my article itself was a little too “autobiographical”?

  • http://about.me/ortoslon ortoslon

    make a game about anticipating trolls, then we’ll talk

  • Anonymous

    that game already exists: dungeon crawl stone soup

  • Somebody

    I almost considered not writing about it. But then I accidentally too much article.

  • Anonymous

    woe to a generation who sees 4 paragraphs as too much to read

  • dE

    Seriously, was all that “frontpage commenter” hate really necessary? All you did was piss in the wind with those two paragraphs and drag the art-game into it.
    In all honesty though, Tigsource should get rid of the comment function altogether and point to the forums instead. Why? Because no matter what people write here, it will be automatically labelled as “frontpage comment”.

  • dE

    Seriously, was all that “frontpage commenter” hate really necessary? All you did was piss in the wind with those two paragraphs and drag the art-game into it.
    In all honesty though, Tigsource should get rid of the comment function altogether and point to the forums instead. Why? Because no matter what people write here, it will be automatically labelled as “frontpage comment”.

  • http://twitter.com/AutumnSolace Solace

     Even after reading all I really gathered was ‘Newgrounds frontpaged game’ ‘About transgenderism’ ‘uncertainty about putting it here’

    I still have no idea what the game is about.

  • Anonymous

    oh, i don’t hate frontpage comments at all, i find them entertaining. it was a joke for added entertainment value. so no, it wasn’t necessary any more than any joke in any article is necessary

  • Anonymous

    part of that is intentional. i didn’t want to spoil it because it takes only a few minutes to play anyway. i could have gone into each individual game, but that would be a spoiler. e.g. there’s a part where you play “breakout” in analogy to “breaking through walls”, and there’s a part where you shave which plays a little like pac man without ghosts

    so basically i was talking around the game rather than about the game to avoid the issue of spoiling it, because i wanted people to play it without too many expectancies. auntiepixelante didn’t write much about the game when she posted it in her blog, either

  • Toom


  • Anonymous

    thanks, will edit it

  • Bergam

    woe to the author who writes three fourths of a review solely about himself

  • Anonymous

    oh, if i were writing it about myself i could have included so much more! -that’s not a bad idea, though, i should try a tim rogers style article on tigsource one day

  • dE

    You’re in a really odd mood today.

  • Josef

    Dear RinkuHero,

    I thought it was a nice game, pretty personal (which is not always a bad thing) but I always find short games like these interesting. It’s almost more interactive fiction than a game, although the boundaries between the two are pretty blurred as it is.

    And I do have to say young man, I was impressed when I read your paragraphs! It made me hope that you would consider adding capitals to your comments. But alas, as I clicked “read more” I could not conceal my disappointment.
    But I’m sure you will change your mind soon and that delicious shift key will be too tempting for you to resist.

    Speaking of autobiographical games, perhaps you should make a game about deciding to write only in lowercase?

    Best regards,


    XXXXXX (Yes, precisely)

  • Anonymous

    hahaha, i didn’t know you know me well enough to know my regular mood(s)

  • Anonymous

    hmm, not sure about that young man part, i’m one of the oldest indie devs (although jeff minter and chris crawford are older)

  • DEnamed

    Don’t know your real-life moods but since this is the internet, I’ll go by those moods instead. Generally: Helpful, friendly, occasionally controversial.
    Today: Smug. Holier than thou.

  • ( ՞ਊ ՞)

    Brevity is the soul of wit.

  • Anonymous

    hmm, i don’t really think of those as “moods” exactly, more like personality traits, but it’s interesting to see how differently different people see me

    i’m still not quite sure where you got the smug / holier than though part from tho, unless you mean the joke about frontpage comments? it’s sort of a long-running joke about how bad they are, i don’t actually feel superior to the people commenting (especially since i’m often commenting as well and would include myself in with the rest of the frontpage comments). but yes, i don’t treat the comments seriously, and do find them entertaining. for instance i once spent an hour reading through the comments to that visual novel about handicapped relationships just for entertainment value. i find the comments actually more interesting than the articles themselves (no offense to derek and the other editors), and a big part of the reason i read the frontpage

  • Jeff Kirchoff

    Geez dude, give your readership a little bit of credit.

  • Anonymous

    i think i lost that while reading the 191 comments to katawa shoujo, or more recently the comments to the igf announcements article. also as mentioned in a comment above it was a joke; i wanted to write about something besides the game so as to avoid spoilers, and that was one of the things i used

  • Josef

     Oh my! It appears I have made a frightful mistake. I did not realise you were in actuality less youthful than I implied you were.  The rounded, virile letters of your full lowercase gave me a false impression of wide-eyed youthfulness and the naive energy of the next generation. It seems I made a dire and avoidable mistake.

    I have embarrassed myself in the public arena. Oh what a bumbling fool I must look to the spectators and commenters! They are likely snickering and ruthlessly mocking me (And quite rightly!) even as I type these words.
    As I have disgraced myself to this degree, I will not make an appearence in these comment sections again.  A self-imposed exile of sorts brought upon by my own public shaming.

    I might however, strive to watch you sleep and glue my collection of shift keys to your face in order to fill the empty void that will be left over.

    Once again I apologise for my blunder and sincerely hope you have not suffered any embarassment or mental issues as a result. I hope this does not get in the way of your capitalisation progress.


  • Guest

     “That game already exists. It is Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup.”

  • Anonymous

    you should apply to be a tigsource editor with that type of writing style (haha)

  • DEnamed

    I don’t think the joke worked that well and seems to be exactly the reason it came across as smug to me.
    To me it read something like this: “In essence, you’re all retarded and I really don’t know why I bother, gosh look at how silly and useless you all are. But a friend asked me to so I’m gonna post it, so you frontpage idiots can screw up like always”.

    You didn’t mean that, as you said it was meant as a joke. And I apologize that I didn’t get the joke, despite being around long enoug to have experienced the legendary art-debates of yonder first hand (oh the joy).

    The point of my criticism in different words:
    Thanks for the post. The frontpage getting news is a great thing and I only wish to encourage you for more. I also just wish your next posts could skip on attacking your readers. Even if it was meant as a joke, there’s a fair chance people won’t take it as one.

    And if that doesn’t make sense its fine, my words rarely do. :P

  • Anonymous

    yes, i can see what you mean, but as a side note i don’t think the prediction was inaccurate — the comments to this entry so far have not talked about the game at all, giving the impression that nobody played it and people are more interested in drama (of course this could have been a self-fulfilling prophesy but it’s a common result even without prophesy. for instance, edmund was in the hospital once and there was a post here asking for well-wishes and/or donations, and it turned into a bunch of trolling where people were saying that they wish he would die, etc.)

    also i didn’t mean to make fun of the *readers*, but rather the *commenters* — the two are distinct in that the vast majority of people who read the articles here don’t comment. often i try to write for that “silent majority” because catering to the vocal minority isn’t a great thing, either in game journalism or game development. comments tend to have a negative selectivity bias because those satisfied with a game or article don’t have as much motivation to write about it than those dissatisfied with it

  • Anonymous

    also regarding closing comments and just using the forum for comments, i don’t like that idea since i think some people are more truthful when anonymous, but i like the idea of doing both — e.g. having a “comment” thread in the forum about a frontpage article. for instance, there’s no dys4ia thread in the forum right now, so it might work to start one and link to it in the article too

  • http://about.me/ortoslon ortoslon

    “distinct” implies that the vast majority of people who comment don’t read

  • Anonymous

    true — perhaps i should have said “do not have complete overlap”

  • Align_right

    Heeelp! I don’t like tight spaces

  • Bergam

    can’t.. breathe…

  • http://twitter.com/ellaguro Liz Ryerson

    thanks for the mention, Paul! glad to see people are enjoying this game :)

    btw I’ve uploaded the soundtrack here, for anyone who wants to hear it:


  • DEnamed

     You know, a mirror thread to each comment thread might be a good idea.

    I like good discussions but its sad no one takes comments serious enough for one :p

  • ASmith

     It doesnt sound like you’ve ever read any of the front page comments

  • Snow

    Good point, but then there should at least be some moderation to clean up the troll comments.

  • Anonymous

    yeah, but i can’t seem to moderate them (i’ve tried but it seems only derek has that power, or else the disqus plugin in wordpress is broken)

  • Lilo

    Interesting, like most Auntie games, sort of fun for a while.  I had no idea he was a guy; I just always sort of figured it was a lesbian who needed to have every game as full of personal agenda as a South Park episode.

    Knowing it’s a dude definitely helps to put things in perspective. 

    Anyway, thanks for the article.

  • Anonymous

    finally a comment from someone who played the game :)

  • Lilo

     No, that Josef guy did, too.

  • Anonymous

    ah, thanks, forgot about that — i should have said the first comment that was mostly about the game (since his comment had a few lines about the game and then went on for about 3x as long about how i don’t use capitals)

  • Lilo

     Right on.  Yeah, this game was just sort of a game, I guess.  More of a story of how he’s mad that people don’t call him ‘maam’, which is honestly a little selfish.  Obviously it’s all very important to him, though, so I guess I understand.

    I feel like he has potential to make good games, and some of them are even sort of fun (The old western one, the jumping one that was over-filled with stupid S&M references), but again, always overfull of autobiographical gunk and agendas. 

    There are easier ways to get affirmation, but to each his own, I guess.

  • Anonymous

    have you tried REDDER? i don’t think there was much agenda there

    but i think it has to do with the idea of how auntiepixelante sees games: as things everyone should make and use to express themselves (a bit like how most people see poetry). so the games are at least consistent with that belief system

  • Pat Ashe

    I just want to point out that you should call Anna ‘she’ when you are writing about her as she identifies as woman and it is quite offensive to call her a he. 

    I understand what you are saying about her games being highly autobiographical but for me that’s what make them unique and interesting. I think more games should be made that deal with actual events and stories about tiny things.

  • Lilo

     I identify myself as the King of England, so please address me as “Your Highness”, thanks.

  • Mitch Weaver

     But you weren’t born as a king.  Too bad.  OHHHHHH, right.  Gotcha.

  • http://twitter.com/phubans Paul Hubans

    I played through this last night. I get that there’s a message to be understood here, however, I’m not exactly sure why this was posted to the front page; was it meant to incite a discussion because of its “controversial” subject matter? It would seem that you anticipated such a response in your original review, at least.

    I’m more concerned with how this is a game worthy of the front page, or even how this is considered a game at all. Now, I’ve played other games by Anna Anthropy, and I definitely got that they were games. With this one? Not so much. This felt more like a narrative video with very minimal interaction; it could have told the same exact story just as effectively without needing any input whatsoever.

    The definition of games is pretty loose these days, but I define a game as an interactive piece of media that has goals (which this had, albeit very stripped down), obstacles that must be avoided, destroyed, or solved that prevent you from reaching those goals (which this didn’t really have), and rewards for reaching these goals; points, the next level, treasure, a new item, etc. In the case of this game, there is almost no challenge or reward system in place.

    Games that sacrifice the conventions of tradition at least have an interesting audio/visual experience in store, but with this game I found the graphics to be base, sloppy, and jarring. in fact, my first reaction to the image posted here was “WTF?” and then “Oh…” after I realized that the point of this interactive media (I’m not calling this a game) isn’t to allure, but to provoke or express understanding. I just wish Anna would have put more emphasis on making this a fun game that told her story, instead of a story that sloppily masquerades as a game.

  • http://alllen.tumblr.com/ allen