Two Novembers ago, I released a game called ‘That Boy is A Monstr’, a text-based game about the perils and confusions that come from dating while being a queer trans man.
I debated releasing it for a week once I’d finished it. Finally, I put it up, tweeted a link, sent it to my mum and put away my phone. I figured it would click with a small audience: the trans masculine queer community. But, hey, if it helped a few people, it was worth it, right?
I had no idea it was about to be the biggest thing I’ve ever released.
In its conception, it was meant to be a small introduction to some of the fears, troubles, and dangers of dating while being a trans man, as well as touch on peoples unwillingness to assume a person is trans. I didn’t intend for it to be relatable.
Straight away, messages started pouring in. All genders — cis, trans, nonbinary — everyone was messaging to tell me how the game had touched them. Messages of support, acceptance, curiosity. It was connecting with so many people, and since people seemed to be enjoying it, on a whim I submitted it to the Play By Play Awards in New Zealand.
It won. It won two awards. Then it was shortlisted at two other games festivals. Then it won an Australian Game Developer Award. Emails came in, asking to display it. I was asked to NZGDC to give a talk about it.
My little text-based game, the game I’d spent all of Melbourne International Games Week writing, sneaking away from lunches and talks… not only was it being well received, not only was it being played and enjoyed, but it merited awards. Recognition. Representation.
I first entered the games industry at the height of GamerGate. I spent my first year at a TAFE, terrified to tell people I was queer, let alone I was a boy.
Years later, I was sweating on a stage, voice breaking from testosterone, to accept an award for a queer game about trans boys, anxieties, and werewolves. Try explaining that to your younger self. Or to your less games-focused family members. “Yes it’s about trans werewolves. No, I mean they’re not actually, but it’s a metaphor. Never mind, pass the mash, please.”
With recognition however, comes a wider audience.
As the number of plays grew, so did the number of people looking in at a very personal, raw part of myself. I had bared myself to my audience. And the audience is not always kind.
“Hope you aren’t marketing this filth towards children”.
The transphobia started rolling in. At first, it really scared me. All I could do was delete, block, report.
Over time though, I started to hold my ground, engage, and to push back. Because, as time went on, ‘That Boy is A Monstr’ became something I could hold up as something good.
With the awards, with the reach, it was helping people from all walks of life. Especially me. It wasn’t until I started standing up against for transphobic comments that I realised my game was helping me, too.
It’s daunting to make a game that has been received so well! There’s a lot of pressure to do well with whatever game I release next. I’ve learnt, though: it’s so okay to make something uniquely you. People will engage. If you’re comfortable sharing it, there will always be someone ready to connect with your work.