Dys4ia is a game by indie designer and trans woman Anna Anthropy (a/k/a Auntie Pixelante). It is basically the story of the creator’s experience undergoing hormone replacement therapy, told using a series of simple minigames. The gameplay value here may be minimal, but this is a story that needed to be told, and I think this shows that the free indie space is uniquely suited to tell it.
I’ve most often heard this game compared to the WarioWare series, and while I haven’t played those, from what I’ve seen that appears to be fairly accurate. The gameplay consists of over a dozen minigames (perhaps “microgames”), that have little or nothing to do with one another, gameplay-wise. In some of the games, you will be moving a head to catch pills in her mouth. In others, you will simply walk from one side of the street to another, while people talk to you. The most interactive ones, and the ones that created the strongest connection between gameplay and story, were the games in which you had to shave her upper lip or chest. But (and this is probably in contrast to the WarioWare games) there is no real way to “lose” or even perform poorly in these minigames. The gameplay is just the vehicle through which the story is told.
And that story is an interesting and incredibly personal one. Anna stresses at the beginning that this is her experience only, and is not meant to represent all trans people, or even everyone who goes through hormone therapy. The game chronicles Anna’s journey through hormone replacement therapy, starting with initial consultations with physicians, the indignity of forms that question her decision, having people constantly call her “sir” on the street, the frustration of hairy lips and chest, the emotional struggle with her girlfriend, and finally some measure of success and comfort. It is an emotional story, and one that is totally unique within games.
Dys4ia is a great example of what indie games are capable of and why they are important. This is a story that will enrich and educate anyone who plays it, and it would not exist in a form this digestible and sharable without indie game designers. Everyone (even non-gamers) should take 5-10 minutes to experience it. You can play it for free in your browser here and visit the developer’s site here.