I am an independent scholar, activist and artist with over two decades experience combining all three in my ongoing study of sex, gender and sexualities. I am a published peer-reviewed academic writer and visual artist as well as a screen writer, producer and actor. I currently work as a game design consultant at Uppsala University and I hope to soon begin my PhD in trans exploration, expression and embodiment in videogame-based-learning. More information can be found on my website www.josephinebaird.com including a list of my recent articles, papers presented and other work.
The Mechanics and Misdirection of The Missing: Trans exploration, expression and embodiment in videogame-based-learning
FROG 2020 – Short Talk
Hidetaka Suehiro’s (Swery), The Missing: J.J. Macfield and the Island of Memories (The Missing) (2018) is a unique videogame in many respects, but especially for the way in which the mechanics are designed to explore a trans narrative that the player is unaware of until the end of the game. I will present The Missing in the context of a number of recent high-profile LGBTQ representations in videogames and I will discuss the ways in which the game uses misdirection at the outset; which understands the wider socio-cultural context of games, politics and tropes that the player may be assuming are being reproduced initially. This misdirect implies that the narrative of the game is about a lesbian relationship exclusively, with one partner seeking out the other in puzzle-platform gameplay employing the abstract imagery that Swery is so famous for. What the player is unaware of is that the game is rather a dreamlike experience of a trans woman near-death exploring her own identity, experience, and trauma. This is achieved through a number of game mechanics that at first obscure the intent of the game, but in hindsight serve as metaphors and analogies for the experience of the titular character as it is conveyed to the player. I will describe how the unique body-horror mechanic of virtual self-brutalisation of the character serves to encourage the player to explore, express and even embody the trans subjectivity that is being communicated. I will examine this in the context of Swery’s own descriptions of the game’s function and goals to show if, and how, his attempts to convey affect and empathy to the player have worked. I will also present this in the wider context of Swery’s other projects, specifically in relation to the games in which he also represents trans experience. Finally, I will position this presentation in the context of my own wider work, which is to examine the exploration, expression and embodiment of trans subjectivities in videogames that forms the basis of my PhD thesis, and my game consulting work at the Game Design department at Uppsala University, Sweden.