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.

  • Anonymous

    do you also similarly feel that warioware was not a game? since it’s very similar to that game in gameplay

  • Bergam

    You are the most pathetic, least self-aware person on the internet Phubans. Congratulations?

  • http://about.me/ortoslon ortoslon

    “is this thing that i’ve just played a game?” —nerds

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

    And who are you? 

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

    In those microgames, aren’t you at least timed? Then, the time counts as an obstacle. Still, I’ve never played one and I don’t really think I’d spend my time or money on it… Though it’s funny my comment inspired such butthurt from people like Bergam, who know nothing about me, or apparently, game design.

  • Anonymous

    you’re timed in this game too i believe; if you don’t pass a mini-game in a specific amount of time it takes you to the next one, at least with some of them

  • phlegmdog_millionaire

    how is he not self-aware for having an opinion on something? huh?

  • Bergam

    Hi Phubans

  • Bergam

    It’s me, son.

  • Youbans

    Keep thumbs-upping yourself you sad, ban-dodging, 
    moronic, self-important man child!

  • Max Strater

    Thanks a lot for posting this, I love seeing a game that takes on transgender topics. I loved how personal the game was. It 

  • Anonymous

    glad at least someone liked it :)

  • Anonymous

    It’s a small game, and you shouldn’t ask too much of it.
    Writers make novels, short stories, poetry, and so on; so why shouldn’t Anna Anthropy make both relatively ambitious and relatively mainstream games like Mighty Jill Off and more artsy short ones like this one? Some people don’t seem able to judge completely different works with appropriate different criteria.

  • Rob

    Shut the fuck up you puritanical piece of shit.

  • GGringo

    haha this game is hilarious! it’s about trannies!

  • Lilo


  • Guest

    I was quite captivated by the presentation and the minigames (I really like the shaving one!) but when I reached the point where the author was saying they wanted to go to clinics where they don’t perform psychological evaluations and then proceeded to order drugs online… I really couldn’t enjoy it at all any more. I get kind of worried when the message seems to be “I want to be free to take drugs without medical control”.
    While I can very much sympathise with not feeling alright with one’s body – even if I have a completely different experience, of a woman who is “just” fairly self conscious about her body – and with the awkwardness she describes when her own self image is essentially clashing with other people’s perception of her (the scenes where they call her “sir”) I really can’t sympathise with what I always perceived as a peculiarity of Americans in particular to have such a casual attitude towards medicines. I could be wrong, or particularly influenced by the media and the people I met, but this seems to be a bit of a constant thing from my admittedly limited experience.

  • News

    Lady Godiva’s Operation

  • Guest

    I can tell you from experience that transgender people experience much more difficulty getting medical treatment than people with any other problems. Doctors who force you to jump through ridiculous hoops in order to receive treatment are called “gatekeepers”. They make it as difficult as possible to get treatment and then they wonder why the suicide rate is so high amongst transgender people.

  • News


  • News

    the blob approacheth

  • Anonymous

     You gotta admit though, the Katawa Shojou debates/dick slapping was a blast to read.

  • Anonymous

    The community surprises, not much of a shit storm brewing at all!

  • John Rouk

    dont tell me you cut your balls off….. seriusly!

  • John Rouk

    Seriusly now, did the author cut off his balls????

  • Movius

    If you are unaware of the controversy regarding ‘gatekeepers’ you could get the impression that these women are just trying to get drugs without a routine medical/psychological test 

    However the truth is that the requirements to get HRT are counter to all medical science and would be considered highly immoral in any other circumstances. eg. Things like assuming that you need to be heterosexual to be a ‘real’  transsexual who deserves treatment.

    This is just disgusting faux-moral outrage posing as caution to deny people the medical treatment they require and it would not stand in any other situation. Certainly anybody with an ethical bone in their body should oppose this pseudo-scientific bullshit.

  • No

    I’ll stop coming to this site now.  Always loved it as best source for indie games.  Just too ridiculous at this point.

  • Merlandese

    What an interesting way to tell a story. I enjoyed it.

  • Richiiiiie

    This was terrible, offensive and certainly not a ‘game’ in any way.

    I have nothing against transgenders at all but if any of the content in this piece of media is at all true, the developer has some serious issue that have NOTHING to do with his gender and more to do with his warped perception of the world. He was using female toilets even before he actively pursued a ‘transformation’, what the fuck? Where do you get off doing that? You can’t just decide you’re a female and do whatever the fuck you want. What really shits me to tears though is the bits about being referred to as ‘sir’. This just in: If you look like a man and are biologically male, people are going to refer to you with male pronouns.
    Wow, what an absolute embarrassment to the transgender community.

  • News

    bigoted intolerant transphobe

  • Richiiiiie

    So defending the fact that A: biological women have their own bathroom for a reason, and B: 100% of people who aren’t psychic will refer to obvious males with male pronouns makes me a bigot?

    Also I just came out of a 3 year relationship with a MtF. So fuck you.

  • Arucard

    I think I understand what you mean, but I don’t believe the game (or whatever you choose to call it) was about ‘why don’t people call me ma’am’ or ‘ why can’t I use the ladies room?’ More of a personal experience of frustration and trying to deal with the same world as you are changing. I saw it as, they don’t want me in the men’s room and I’m not welcome in the ladies room. Same thing with the medicine, something about high blood pressure and risks with taking estrogen with it.

    Anyway, I found it interesting and pretty funny at parts, more like hearing someone’s story than playing a game. 

  • John Rouk

     you pushed your ‘stick’ in somebodys ‘behind’??? horrible

  • http://twitter.com/jovianBlue ljv

    He’s a guy who thinks he’s a lesbian woman.
    He’s a special little snowflake, a beautiful flower

  • Yajin

    Came on, stop fighting everyone. You are acting like a bunch of kids.

  • John Rouk


  • Vegeta.

    Thanks, doc.

  • Nobody

    How come it’s perfectly okay for someone born biologically male to want to grow boobs and cut off their junk and call themselves female yet I can’t find a single doctor who is willing to give me prosthetic arms in exchange for my working one? I’ve seen the advances in prosthetic limbs over the years and they are more than sufficient now to replace organic limbs. I never chose to be born human. I want to be my true self.

  • Nobody


  • Anonymous

     You’re confusing sex and gender, dude. Pronouns refer to the latter.

  • Bakariboss

    This shit is weird 0____o

  • 1numberonedukeofnewyork

    Being “offended” is too often used a “Get out of Jail Free – Card”. Language is used for communication. If for a given individual, being born with a penis categorizes one as male, your particular proclivities have no bearing on the information that they feel is relevant and wish communicate.

    Your self-identification is not somehow more important than someone else’s categorization. We’ll even forgive that biologically there is zero support for your assertion.

  • Felipse

    What, we’re not allowed to start calling names the moment someone disagrees with us anymore? Don’t think, just agree, otherwise you’re an asshole!

  • Fed

    Because you haven’t whined loud enough.

  • Jk4736

    No offense, Paul. But your definition (or rather trying to enforce it) is what holds back the medium and makes most games into worthless junk.

  • Jk4736
  • http://www.facebook.com/sargeantibbsandthebedbugs Ben Tibbetts

    I loved this game. It was an emotional experience and I thought it was brave of Tom to feature this on the Newgrounds front page knowing some of the potential reactions. How sad, that transgenderism should be a controversial topic.

  • Gelkitten

    Retarded, shitty game. Reminds me of why I hate 95% of indie games.

  • Pinstripe Hourglass

     Why do you want to deny them their identity, though?

  • Anonymous

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