Dating can be tough, and being trans in a too-often ignorant world can be really tough. Coming out to your date as trans…well that can be a challenge too difficult to put into words. Unless you’re Sav Ferguson. Then you create That Boy Is A Monstr; a narrative text-based game about a trans man’s experiences dealing with the dating world, and trying to come out to their date.
That Boy Is A Monstr is a game about dating, werewolves, being trans, miscommunication, dealing with anxiety and self image, dressing up and awkwardness. Managing spectacularly to encapsulate these things in a touching tale with plenty of choice to let the player know they aren’t just reading a story, but taking an active role in it.
Beginning the game in Sam’s (the protagonist) online dating profile (the titular Monstr, “where boys meet boys”) Sav has not gone the easy route for discussing how being trans affects how the world treats people. Chat messages from random people giving the player the choice to confront negativity directly, or let it slide and move on. While not crucial to the main story these world building moments expose harshness and different ways to deal with it.
From there the game lets the player prepare for the main event however they choose. Do you dress up formal or casual? Inspect your room? Make your bed? These things may feel cosmetic but may change your date’s reactions and say something about you as the player.
You wait till your date arrives, anxious about the night. He doesn’t know any more about you than your dating profile says, you’ve things you need to tell him. But conversation doesn’t always come easy when your heart is pounding in your chest.
What comes next is up to you and your date. It’s not going to be an easy night, it could go horribly, but then again it could wind up as something beautiful. Life is like that sometimes.
That Boy Is A Monstr is an incredible experience. Eye opening, full of difficult emotion and even a few laughs. A tale of romance and self-expression, and is available at Philome
(CW: TBIAM contains mentions of sex and sexual themes, mention of surgery, transphobia, homophobia, implied violence, swearing and a lot of queer themes.)
We asked a few questions of Sav in regards to That Boy Is A Monstr:
Jamie: That Boy Is A Monstr is obviously a very personal story. When you sat down to create it did you know how it was going to come together, or did you have a direction you wanted to take the story and let it evolve naturally?
SAV: I definitely had a plan written down, but stories have a way of writing themselves. I had a basic 3-4 act set down, but once I sat down and let the characters do their own thing, they took things their way instead.
Jamie: What have been the struggles you’ve had to overcome in making your games? Are there any lessons you’ve learned in earlier games you’ve made that you found useful making TBIAM?
SAV: Strugglewise, I was pretty okay. Twine is great if you know CSS and HTML so all of the coding was fine. The only major difficulty was I was working to a deadline during the middle of MIGW last year, so you could catch me at talks typing away on my game. My HTML skills have come a long way since my first twine game, so that really helped.
Jamie: What are issues or elements you think need to be represented more in games that would help the Queer community?
SAV: Trans issues! All of my recent games have been about trans issues, primarily trans masc people, who are not only under represented in games and media, but also underrepresented in queer spaces. There’s a real…bizzare culture of not having trans masc people in games, and i’m not sure where it came from, but I’m not happy about it.
Jamie: Are you currently working on any new projects that you’re excited about?
SAV: We’re actually still working on Micro Trans Actions! https://globalgamejam.org/2018/games/micro-trans-actions … Apart from that I have a uni game about gay cats and the moon in the works so stay tuned for more about that.
Sav Ferguson is a games developer, writer, designer, programmer. Radio presenter and games journalist. Activist. Trans dude, Queer. He/Him. Into psychoanalytic, horror and making queer as fuck games.
You can find his work at Philome