Digital Diversity: The Trans Zone

You’ve travelled to the Trans Zone and begun the quest in becoming True To Yourself™.”

Created by PewkaPew & YoShellShell The Trans Zone takes the player on a life-altering journey that many embark upon, but is often misunderstood or demonised by the wider world; that of transition itself. To discard a gender assigned at birth, to become who they really are.

Welcome, to The Trans Zone…

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If you’ve any doubt what the game is about, the title screen sums it up pretty well.

Upon entry to this magical pastel world of bright colours and 2D sprites the player is asked the binary question that has cursed the diversity community for decades, but in this case asks it in a way that actually makes sense.

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This is the reality for so many trans individuals; the starting off point that leads to a lifetime of struggle and change. A tick in a box from a person who will never know you that started your life off with more than just the wrong pronoun. From here on in it’s up to the player themselves to take their journey, just as it is with life. This includes how you choose to react to comments people make about you or the world, the sort of language you will put up with, how much you choose to interact with the world, and the most important element of the game: how you choose to transition.

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Sick of having to explain your pronouns? You aren’t alone.

Instead of skill points or abilities the Trans Zone provides the player with Hormones based on who they talk to and the answers they give; the player then chooses how to spend those based on the transition path they wish to take. Going for a binary transition? Maybe you’ll choose to grow your hair out, cut it short, grow your breasts or your muscles. Non-binary? Then you could get a side shave or change out your wardrobe for neutral styles. Of course along with the positive changes comes some negative ones. The player will have to choose options that mean they will be explaining their pronouns to everyone they meet, or the facing glaring reality of privilege. Illustrating challenges faced by those transitioning.

These changes don’t change how the game itself reacts to you. Instead it alters the perception of how the player reacts to the world itself. Has your path changed how you see those around you? Do you feel more strongly when people say the wrong thing? What will it take for you to feel like “You”?

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Environmental elements are bright, NPCs subtle colours. An iconic aesthetic in the Trans Zone

In essence the Trans Zone is an open world exploration game filled with chip-tunes, vibrant colours, diverse characters and no end goal aside from those the player sets themselves. How they explore is up to them and who they become likewise.

It’s fun, short, cute and weird. It might not answer any questions the player starts the game with, but it sure as hell will give them a lot to think about.

The Trans Zone is available on Itch.io right now with sales going towards helping Pewka make a better life for herself.

(CW: This game contains dialogue that may offend or upset regarding gender and sexuality)

The Trans Zone creator, Pewka, kindly answered some pressing questions I had about the game and the queer game industry…

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Jamie: What was your ambition when you first started working on Trans Zone? Was there something specific you were trying to create or a story you wanted to tell?

Pewka: Mine and Shells ambition was pretty high, it started out as a joke and was one of 3 or 4 others game we were working on. We were aiming to release a few of them at the same time in a box set, we only got the Trans Zone finished in time for GX australia though and so we boxed it up and shipped it! As for story, I was trying to express my experience of transition in safe and sterile environments – the culture of trans people online as well as the mindset of those I met in my journey. Allot of it is quite dark but also I wanted to show how people can get stuck on passing. For a lot of trans women, the culture shock of becoming a visible target for discrimination becomes traumatic which is a very serious issue, but also there can be a lot of entitlement going on there.

I think a lot of us look back on ourselves early in our transition or when we were in ‘boy mode’ and cringe a bit because of how much we took everything for granted.

Jamie: What have been the biggest struggles in regards to the game? This could be anything including issues with development, with marketing, or the reception to it.

Pewka: The biggest struggles in making the game was keeping it fair and as close to a universal experience as possible. Its pretty challenging to create an experience so many people can relate to and I know I didn’t get that perfectly, but I’m happy with how close it got for a game that was made in a week.

The biggest challenge in promoting it has been the name, and the content – most media and content reviewers are uncomfortable engaging with this content. They see the name and the colours, read the blurb and I think they don’t know how to respond. There is an element of horror to this game so I think discomfort is a big part of the game, but its not explicit – so this “I’m not sure how to react to this” response is the best and worst aspect of The Trans Zone.

Jamie: What are issues or elements you think need to be represented more in games that would help the Queer (LGBTQ+) community?

Pewka: Umm… when I think of queer games I think of trans women in games so I’d like to see more content relating to trans men and NB (Non-Binary) people perhaps. It’s difficult to say “we need more of this content” for any issue or element. I think we need more creativity in games – and the game developers who want to make original games should look less to other games and more to art history/theory. Read a wiki article on art periods, read about artists biographies and practices. It will really inspire you to think of new mechanics and ways to tell a story in games!

Jamie: What is your next project you’re really enthusiastic about?

Pewka: The next project I’m really excited about is releasing my new game Cursedom! Its a spooky, cute and uncomfortable art game that has a lot of spins and creative interpretations of the classic dungeon format. For example, when you run into a new ‘monster’ you can either attack, talk, beg or run from them. The game plays heavily on your prejudice and your expectation of what should happen next. Mostly though, I am hoping it makes people smile and laugh. I’ll be releasing the first part of it soon and then I will launch a kick starter to finish it off!

 


 

Pewka Zilla was found in an alley by her partner Shell who scooped her up into a portable bin and carried her home where she nurtured Pewka into a the slime girl she is today! She likes to make friends and shout from afar!

You can find her games at Itch

Her music at Soundcloud

And help fund her work over at Patreon

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