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dys4ia


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.

i’ve largely lost my interest in working on larger games though – “larger” meaning something like lesbian spider-queens or redder. i’d been making a lot of quick two-hour games like transgression: i decided i could make a lot of little games and weave them together into a collage of my experiences and frustrations. at some points i was making up to three a day. most days i managed two or three. i put the project aside a few times, to work on games like savagery and keep me occupied. by the time i found a way to actually pay for the game, i had an idea of what the ending would be.

click to play dys4ia on newgrounds!

i asked my musician friend and temp roommate liz ryerson to compose music for the game, and she produced a soundtrack that’s really beautiful and personal that i’m PRETTY FUCKING HONORED to feature in my game. and tom fulp was gracious enough to pay me for something i knew wasn’t a very mainstream-marketable game. a whole pile of people helped me test it, and a bunch of rad trans ladies who might not all want to be outed gave me opinions that were super enlightening.

dys4ia debuted at the forallgamerssake show in toronto, curated by jaime woo – a show about gender and queerness in videogames. the version that ran at the show didn’t have music – it only featured the sound effects, all of which i made with my own mouth. now you can play the finished game at newgrounds.


60 comments

  1. qubodup wrote:

    link does not work yet

    3/9/2012 at 10:28 am | permalink
  2. qubodup wrote:

    Pardon, let me correct:

    I clicked the link inside my RSS reader (Google Reader). There the link wasn’t done yet.

    It works when I use the one on this page :)

    3/9/2012 at 10:29 am | permalink
  3. qubodup wrote:

    Great music. Great sound. Great visuals. Great controls feedback. Great story.

    Thanks!

    Bad at clarifying the control scheme.

    3/9/2012 at 11:05 am | permalink
  4. Adam VM wrote:

    I loved it. And the soundtrack IS stellar.

    3/9/2012 at 11:44 am | permalink
  5. Zozo wrote:

    I don’t have Flash installed on my work computer, but I’m really looking forward to playing this later.

    3/9/2012 at 12:10 pm | permalink
  6. doctorfrog wrote:

    This is good.

    3/9/2012 at 12:14 pm | permalink
  7. Anhi wrote:

    I made a decision about HRT too, in 2010, but I live in a country with strict customs and the Official Process seems to consist mostly of talking to “professionals”, humiliation and making sure no one gets to make decisions on their own body & transition with their mind still intact. So it’s been over a year already, and probably still a few months until hormones. I haven’t had the energy for my own trans-themed game projects, and the past few days I’ve just been trying to survive.

    But then I saw this. Thank you for this wonderful little thing.

    3/9/2012 at 1:02 pm | permalink
  8. Jonas wrote:

    It’s beautiful.

    3/9/2012 at 2:58 pm | permalink
  9. Truly fucking beautiful. It even got good ratings and all!

    3/9/2012 at 4:29 pm | permalink
  10. Great job and thank you for sharing! Brilliant idea, good execution, great soundtrack! Keep it up!

    3/9/2012 at 5:00 pm | permalink
  11. Yeah, this pretty much sums up the experience up to the first few months of hormones. I had the “oh god your blood pressure is astronomical” as well but spiro plus pretty much eliminating salt from my diet brought it under control.

    FUTURE LEVELS.

    Electrolysis hurts a lot. But I feel much better now that shaving is more ceremonial than not.

    Oh great the spiro made a kidney stone happen. Cue one week lying on the floor writhing in pain.

    I think I know how to dress myself now.

    A passing man objectified me like any other pretty lady. I’m not sure how I feel about that. Wow, women are really objectified.

    OPTIONAL DLC: VAGINOPLASTY

    3/9/2012 at 5:47 pm | permalink
  12. MKS wrote:

    too cool, thanks – and good show on being a scientist and observing and taking notes on your second puberty :3

    3/9/2012 at 6:32 pm | permalink
  13. blum wrote:

    your game won daily first on newgrounds. this definitely means something. I won’t be surprised if you got frontpaged. in other words – Congratulations on making good game!

    3/10/2012 at 1:35 am | permalink
  14. not terrible wrote:

    Real nice game, congrats on being successful on NG too.

    3/10/2012 at 7:30 am | permalink
  15. f4w5 wrote:

    this is awesome and poignant. really like the way you used all of the different mechanics. gorgeous graphic and sound design, too.

    3/10/2012 at 10:25 am | permalink
  16. Red Scharlach wrote:

    For some reason I’m reminded of Deus Ex Machina on the ZX Spectrum.

    3/10/2012 at 2:42 pm | permalink
  17. Danielle wrote:

    Cute game; I love it and so identify with everything you wrote, remembering those days well (I’m only a few years beyond that point.) Congratulations!

    3/10/2012 at 6:33 pm | permalink
  18. okfmoc wrote:

    Loved this; thanks for doing it.

    (On the mechanics angle, I liked the way you used the upward movements a lot, specially when there was text on-screen, it remembered me of your analysis of Jill of the Jungle. It felt expressive.)

    3/10/2012 at 6:57 pm | permalink
  19. Em wrote:

    Anna Anthropy, I admire you. I’m happy that you’re feeling better on hormones.

    I always enjoy your games and your writing, but this piece really cut through the fog of my feelings. I felt reawakened, and I realized I’ve fallen off the wagon on transitioning. Right after playing dys4ia, I took action to get spironolactone, action that I’ve been putting off for months.

    Thanks for putting your hormone story out there. I think you told it very well. Dys4ia could be my favorite game I’ve played recently.

    3/11/2012 at 6:41 am | permalink
  20. Cassie wrote:

    Thank you so much for making this game.I really enjoyed it. It made me feel a little less apprehensive about my own journey I’ve been putting off.

    3/11/2012 at 10:23 pm | permalink
  21. Chris wrote:

    That was wonderful. I haven’t had a game move me like that in a very long time. Congratulations on so many things!

    3/11/2012 at 10:39 pm | permalink
  22. Kiri wrote:

    This is the first art game I ever liked. I saw so much of myself in it that it was ridiculous. Thank you.

    3/11/2012 at 11:00 pm | permalink
  23. prettyboy wrote:

    This was wonderful, thank you for making it and sharing your experience.

    3/12/2012 at 1:00 am | permalink
  24. eskaibo wrote:

    hey it was cool playing the second last screen and thinking about that big thing on Jill of the Jungle you wrote! and the last screen was so neat

    3/12/2012 at 1:09 am | permalink
  25. Clint wrote:

    Just got a chance to play this, it’s quite wonderful. The thing that really hit me was the Christmas present…

    Somehow the soundtrack reminds me of Earthbound.

    3/12/2012 at 5:41 am | permalink
  26. bob wrote:

    A new way to tell story

    Very strange and yet very powerfull

    Sorry I’m not an expert but who are you actually ? A girl that is too man-looking and who wants to look more girly? Or a man who wants to look like a girl ?
    I’m just curious since i followed that story but couldnt get the answer..(The fact you have a girlfriend got me confused)

    3/12/2012 at 9:26 am | permalink
  27. River wrote:

    Wonderful game. I used it to help explain things to family.

    3/12/2012 at 9:35 am | permalink
  28. auntie wrote:

    bob:

    i was assigned a male identity at birth – i was raised as a boy. i never really fit into the identity, though. i ultimately realized that the gender identity i fit into was that of a woman, though, body-wise, it was kind of a difficult fit (see: this game). i lived as a woman for many years before i finally made the decision to take estrogen and make some changes to my body to reflect my identity. this is the period of my life the game is about.

    oh, and i’m queer. i date ladies. that’s why i have a girlfriend.

    3/12/2012 at 11:00 am | permalink
  29. Justin wrote:

    That was really moving. I am not the most emotional guy you’ll ever meet, but I was really affected. Also – the $1 insurance discount cracked me up

    3/12/2012 at 2:50 pm | permalink
  30. Someone wrote:

    I just came here to tell you how awesome your game is. It made me cry. Few games can manage that. (I myself have no personal experience with transgender, though I study related things)
    I hope that things will get easier for you.
    My best wishes to you, your partner and everyone involved in making this beautiful game.

    3/12/2012 at 2:51 pm | permalink
  31. kitroebuck wrote:

    Me too. I’ve been paying attention to your work since Invader, and though I’ve always loved it, this is the one that made me want to write in. Beautiful.

    Still, I gave a little gasp about the blood pressure thing. I trust you’ll be careful, but, you know, be careful.

    3/12/2012 at 3:14 pm | permalink
  32. bob wrote:

    Ok Auntie, thanks for answering.

    Also just want to say, my fav part of the story was the tetris shape that doesnt fit in (and the end), this is very smart and we can all identify to that I believe (at least, I can).
    Really I’ve been very impressed by your game, and I’m not easy to impress..

    3/12/2012 at 4:18 pm | permalink
  33. Alex wrote:

    i actually didnt hate this as much as i expected to

    3/12/2012 at 5:58 pm | permalink
  34. Fabien wrote:

    I love this and it is beautiful.

    3/13/2012 at 9:37 am | permalink
  35. Edwin Bush wrote:

    I was wondering if you would allow me, and possibly supply me the ability to, embed this flash game on my own site, in a post, with full credit given. I am open about my transition plans and would love to share this directly via my blog.

    Best wishes!

    3/13/2012 at 11:47 am | permalink
  36. Josh McCoy wrote:

    Thank you for sharing your story as an interactive experience! I’ve already seen it give perspective/impact/something to someone. The use of existing procedural meaning systems to communicate your journey was pretty damn cool. Definitely looking forward to your next work!

    3/13/2012 at 7:03 pm | permalink
  37. Mattt Enss wrote:

    A wonderful game, Auntie. Thank-you for making it.

    3/14/2012 at 6:46 am | permalink
  38. Santiago wrote:

    Well, this is a little old in internet-time so I doubt you’ll read it, but I just wanted to drop by to say that I loved this.

    I expected more game, but it’s great as an interactive piece. I have to admit, you’ve made me think about something to which I hadn’t given much consideration before.

    I hope that, given how popular this seems to have become and how explicitly autobiographical it is, that it really has an influence in pushing people to pour more of themselves into their games.

    PS: The soundtrack is gorgeous.

    3/14/2012 at 9:16 am | permalink
  39. Truth wrote:

    You have one X and one Y chromosome. I am sure you know what this means, and how mental illness is defined.

    3/14/2012 at 1:57 pm | permalink
  40. Sean Musgrave wrote:

    I loved this as a transwoman and as a person who played a lot of Wario ware.

    3/14/2012 at 4:57 pm | permalink
  41. Fuck you, "truth" wrote:

    Gender is not two boxes that everyone fits perfectly into, matching exactly with what they were assigned at birth. Just ask the ~1% of people born with intersex conditions. Nobody’s entirely sure how this shit works re: formation of gender identity, but the way you’re imagining it is pretty much accepted as waaaay oversimplified in the medical study (which itself is pretty resistant to change and to even investigating stuff based on people’s lived experience when it doesn’t fit with the current understanding, which basically means that you aren’t just wrong, but badly wrong.)

    Fuck you again for trivializing mental illness, too.

    3/15/2012 at 4:46 pm | permalink
  42. MKS wrote:

    humanity is amazing, bringing into universe things that do not exist, like beauty or justice or mercy

    we are a powerful species

    3/15/2012 at 11:10 pm | permalink
  43. Jesse M wrote:

    Brilliant work. I’ve never seen a gameplay paradigm and embodied interactivity used so effectively to tell a personal story. Some day, theorists will start to seriously engage with this topic — with the cognitive implications of gameplay, of identifying with a character and projecting yourself into them enough to feel that you feel the consequences of choices made on their behalf. When that time comes, I’m confident that they’ll look back on Dys4ia as a landmark artifact in the field.

    And lest I sound too academic about all this stuff, I also have to say — it’s very powerful. Like the rest of the Internet, I can’t stop thinking about it.

    3/16/2012 at 10:18 am | permalink
  44. Jake wrote:

    Do get that blood pressure down. We can’t lose gaming’s premier art-dyke to something as stupid as a stroke or a heart attack or something. I don’t think I could handle the funeral game.

    3/16/2012 at 10:52 am | permalink
  45. MKS wrote:

    it’ll be interesting to see how the increased weight on her heart (breasts on a male ribcage) will influence that

    3/16/2012 at 6:39 pm | permalink
  46. auntie wrote:

    what

    3/17/2012 at 3:18 am | permalink
  47. Snowyowl wrote:

    I think the mirrors were my favourite part. It’s so cute to see your avatar change from a warped octopus-thing into a beautiful lady.

    No offence meant.

    3/18/2012 at 8:22 am | permalink
  48. Mel wrote:

    That was one of the most interesting things I’ve ever played. Reading about a trans person’s experience is one thing, but actually interacting with a game is just so much more immediate.

    3/18/2012 at 3:50 pm | permalink
  49. Edmundito wrote:

    This is truly great work. I finished it a few minutes ago and I’m still digesting it, but I could definitely relate to your experience through the combination of game mechanics. Having it be a game adds so much more than just being a blog post or a video or audio segment. I really admire what you did here.

    3/19/2012 at 12:04 am | permalink
  50. Imadjinn wrote:

    I am SO GLAD I went on NG today. I rarely go there any more and it’s usually because I’ve exhausted everything else.

    I couldn’t help but think that Anna’s “what” up there was in response to MKS suggesting a male ribcage can’t handle jubblies.

    3/25/2012 at 9:50 am | permalink
  51. DiamondMX wrote:

    That was great, both informative and heart-warming.
    Glad to hear things are starting to look up for you, and I hope you continue on your path to finding yourself and being happy.
    I also hope that awareness of the troubles you face becomes more wide and we all help to solve them.

    3/26/2012 at 6:50 am | permalink
  52. daphny wrote:

    imadjinn: thats exactly what the ‘what’ is for

    3/26/2012 at 6:10 pm | permalink
  53. Clarissa wrote:

    This totally made me cry. Being Trans myself and starting HRT a year ago this month, I can totally relate to this. Especially the liver percentages part.

    Beautifully well done.

    4/3/2012 at 12:25 pm | permalink
  54. Rona wrote:

    i started hormones about 2 or 3 months ago X3 i thought it was great thx

    4/11/2012 at 10:35 am | permalink
  55. Geekqueer wrote:

    It’s amazing! Thank you! thank you! thank you yet!

    4/22/2012 at 2:00 pm | permalink
  56. Ruben wrote:

    This was very emotional for me. Even though I can’t even pretend to understand all you’ve been through, it feels like at least I know you a bit better. I won’t forget this game easily. Thank you for all your hard work. :)

    4/28/2012 at 3:17 pm | permalink
  57. David wrote:

    Really sweet way to add a bit of interactivity to a difficult-to-express topic and turn it from first-person narrative to something closer to a second-person experience.

    I hope you keep exploring with this style of game and push even closer to interactivity, systems, and mechanics that help the world appreciate your very rare journey via play!

    Great stuff.

    7/9/2012 at 7:25 am | permalink
  58. Alex wrote:

    Wow, this was a really beautiful experience you created with this game. Beautiful in many senses.
    I’m moved.

    12/18/2012 at 8:06 pm | permalink
  59. Ungas wrote:

    thank you.

    12/25/2012 at 4:26 pm | permalink
  60. ORCUN wrote:

    Anna, i was following this game since you released it, and it is a really strong and personal answer for game-as-art critics. I was following you about your design articles, and i’ve already writen a platformer design article mostly point out your articles… I’ve always respected you as a game designer. Dys4ia is one of the most innovative game design I have ever seen.

    7/27/2013 at 8:52 am | permalink

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