Mainichi is a short game created by respected critic/journalist Mattie Brice which, in her own words, “helps communicate daily occurrences that happen in my life as a mixed transgender woman.” It’s a bit like Dys4ia mixed with Every Day the Same Dream. As much as I try to avoid “It’s like Game X crossed with Game Y,” occasionally it’s the most expedient way to describe the game to those unfamiliar with it, and here the description fits. From Dys4ia, there is the use of game mechanics to convey very personal experiences with what Anna Anthropy called “gender bullshit” and from Every Day there is the repeated day structure with the ability to change the way things play out with your gameplay choices.
But luckily, in combining the two games, she was able to retain most of what was good about each. The narrative is very personal and affecting, and there are a handful of meaningful choices you can make. The game was made in RPG Maker by a single person using community assets and no programming and it shows, but it’s a worthwhile exploration of using game mechanics to say something you have a hard time saying any other way.
You begin by waking up (as the designer, Mattie), as she remarks that she’s got a couple of hours before she has to meet someone for coffee. It’s in those couple of hours (just a handful of real-world minutes) where the meat of the game takes place. In that time, you can choose to bathe, put on some makeup and some nice clothes, or you can choose to take a nap and play some videogames instead. When you’ve done what you’re going to do, you’re forced to leave and head down to the coffee shop for your meet-up.
The choices you make in your home are notable not just because of the way they affect the rest of the game, but are also interesting in and of themselves, or at least they were to me, because there’s a real feeling of authenticity in the mundanity of it all. I appreciate when writers can take the least interesting parts of our daily lives and make them feel important by treating them as though they are.
But those gameplay choices do affect things later. I won’t say anymore, since if there is fun to be had in Mainichi, it is in discovering what changes you can make. Once you leave the safety of your house, you are confronted by people’s narrow view of gender, their outright hatred and anger, and also the exasperation of politeness. Again, I won’t spoil these interactions, because seeing the way people treat you and respond to you is the central experience of the game.
Mainichi is not a perfect game. Gameplay is limited, it’s not overly good looking, and the lack of music is a real shame. But it makes you think and it makes you feel and it says something that needs saying. That, and the fact that it is adding to the diversity of voices and experiences in games easily makes it worth the 10 minutes you’ll spend with it. The game can be downloaded for free at the creator’s website.