You see, there are several personal connections that made this story resonate, and finally disappoint, so much.
I feel like I am pretty good at it, as well. Nonetheless, I have been told by my own family, who have no affinity to queer history, and by lay people, as well as by senior academics in my own field that my interest in transgender history is political. The implication being that I will somehow be fabricating, falsifying or manipulating history to prove the existence of trans identities in the past only because I am trans; that I am projecting my modern, deviant identity on a history that has no such stories to recover; all the while the same scepticism about scholarship is never heaped on white or allocishet history.
This is not an uncommon vector of thinking, as Catherine Baker remarks:.
Gay Rights Have Already Been Won - The Atlantic
Almost all of Queer History Twitter… has been feeling betrayed, because it plays into the same hands that dismiss the traces of real LGBTQ histories as fabrications…. Moreover, this way of thinking — that queer history is fabricated by individuals who are only interested in these histories because it validates their identity — also has wider-reaching, institutional consequences.
This is a silencing uncomfortably similar to that of women, POC, or disabled voices that have tried to reclaim their history, within the institutional context of historical research, in the past. This is exactly how systematic exclusion of some histories normalise a mythological history that is uniformly white, straight, cisgender, Christian etc. This dismissiveness of academic voices that work on subjectively-oriented fields of study is exactly why queer academics, academics of colour etc. I was also born in Romania; in Transylvania; actually, 40 km away from Sighisoara.
And because I loved medieval history ever since I was a child, I would spend my high-school summers in Sighisoara organising medieval history tours for foreign tourists. I know the geography Clua describes; I met the woman selling tickets for the cathedral on the hill; I know the man in charge of the Tower Museum.
I am also deeply familiar with personal and institutionalised homophobia in Romania and the rest of Eastern Europe. Throughout my read through the thread, I kept wondering what would my parents do if they could see this. You know how my parents quite liberal, educated Romanians would react to the news that the thread was, indeed, just a story?
They would not feel betrayed, as most readers of the thread have; they would be relieved. This project of presenting a fictional story as history is an especially dangerous one at a time when Gender Studies and LGBTQ history as a subset are under constant attack and discreditation not only in Eastern Europe see Central European University in Hungary but also around the world.
Eroding and eventually erasing the power of historical research into LGBTQ history has a very important role in political rhetoric of Eastern European countries such as Romania , Hungary and Poland, but not exclusively where the rights of queer people are actively endangered by current political systems. Become a member.
Sign in. Get started. Jonah Coman Follow. Write the first response. Discover Medium. Make Medium yours. About Help Legal. During a period of resurgent white nationalism, intense police violence against people of color, and rising murder rates for transgender women, it is difficult to recount the limitations of a framework called "empathy. However, the problematic ways games journalists and critics deploy empathy show that we need new frameworks for studying queer and activist feelings in games.
As queer games scholars, we must be attentive to the stories we tell about our own movements, and how these stories limit our understanding of the past and of our future possibilities, as Clare Hemmings argues feminists must do. Queerness and games must exceed the limitations of "empathy games"--not by ceasing to write about and teach key texts in queer games, nor by dismissing any version of empathy as a critical framework for understanding independent game design, but by contextualizing empathy within a broader repertoire of queer game design strategies focused on affect, embodiment, and tactility.
Games critiquing empathy are part of a longer trajectory of feminist scholarship critiquing empathy, itself part of a larger area of concern for feminists and queer theorists within and outside video game studies. Instead, I suggest that empathy is a skill and that videogames can and do train that skill.
Calling the moment when the player must place a hand on the cold screen "the paradox at the heart of. She writes: " Empathy Machine and Dys4ia work as empathy machines not by using technology to create transparent simulations of experience but rather by making us aware of the complicated imbrication of our bodies and our devices and what we represent through them and about them" In , k wrote in Videogames for Humans that Twine games are "far from.
Here k joins Wilcox and Anable, along with other scholars of videogames, in employing the idea of empathy tourism as an exception to prove the rule that conversations about affect, intersubjectivity, and embodiment must be central to videogame design and criticism. The "false empathy" of seeking to take another's place is problematic because it is lazy Dean ; truly complex game design seeks to produce more challenging and nuanced relationships with the body and the emotions, among which may be built truer forms of empathy. As site-specific installations drawing on and disrupting specific readings of their artists' work, Empathy Game and empathy machine challenged both the value of empathy in videogame criticism and the circulation of queer games to anonymous, potentially large, and geographically dispersed audiences.
Anthropy confronted fans of her work with her own experience of its reception, beginning her artist statement on Empathy Game : "I hate dys4ia. The labor of scorekeeping, placed in the hands of players, asked audiences whether they were tempted to disengage or "cheat" by writing a higher score than they had earned. This stood in contrast to the high level of emotional labor Anthropy was asked to do as a figurehead for trans women in games, and the ways in which the discourse of empathy stood in for, or replaced, genuine care.
After a Wall Street Journal editor wrote to Anthropy about "empathy," then asked personal questions about her body, the artist observed, "it seems like the people with the greatest investment in the 'empathy game' label are the ones with the most privilege and the least amount of willingness to improve themselves. By changing the user interface of Mainichi to include physical touch between the audience and the artist, an encounter only possible at a specific location where the work was installed for a short time, Brice used empathy machine to challenge the power dynamics of independent game distribution.
Mainichi had been distributed widely as an example of a game teaching empathy to cisgender players, often without Brice's knowledge or consent, and in contexts where Brice's scholarship and design innovation were eclipsed by her trauma Brice These contextual pieces--available now only through documentation and artist statements--challenged both the value of empathy as a critical framework, and the terms of independent game distribution for marginalized artists.
In addition to responding to early queer games criticism, Empathy Game and empathy machine ask: who is feeling empathy, and who is the object of that empathy? Whose labor, affective or embodied, teaches empathy? Who consumes empathy? Game designers marginalized by gender, transgender experience, sexuality, and race contend with an ongoing responsibility to diversify the videogame industry by their presence Shaw , 5. If cisgender consumers of games by transgender designers learn "empathy" by playing these games, where does this empathy go as designers struggle to make a living from their work, or as their physical safety and privacy are threatened by cycles of harassment for their visibility?
By , when k, Anthropy, and Brice's critiques of empathy were released, the visibility and accessibility of women working in indie games had made these marginalized designers relatively easy targets of misogynist, racist, and transphobic attacks.
The ever-growing demand for visible women in games to weather harassment reached a peak in through the beginning of GamerGate, a vicious online "terror dream" Cross , during which self-appointed "inquisitors" Quinn , 59 sought to cleanse videogames of women designers. While difference and emotional self-revelation had been prized qualities of indie games, women's autobiographical exploration of difficult stories made them uniquely vulnerable.
Transmisogyny was and is central to GamerGate--as continuing "witch hunts" trying to determine if Quinn is trans attest Quinn , The failure of the industry to support members of the queer games scene during GamerGate see Quinn , 73 seemed to prove that empathy games had failed to teach fans anything about the difficulty of being trans.
Instead, Empathy Game and empathy machine's calls for re-inserting the body of the artist or its traces to the gameplay moment expressed how empathy seemed to rely on erasure and appropriation.
- Emil and Xaver; or, LGBTQ history as fiction!
- Value Line Dividend Select September 2013.
- La más deseada (Mujeres seducidas 2) (Spanish Edition).
Cautioning against "the dangers of a too easy intimacy" and "the violence of identification," she argues that nineteenth-century antislavery activists unwittingly objectified enslaved people through fantasies of empathizing with their experiences. Empathy in this case is about occupying the body and subjectivity of the object of empathy, as part of an emotional fantasy that seeks to expand the awareness and sensitivity of the person empathizing, rather than to communicate with or aid the person being empathized with.
The empathizer becomes the subject, and the object "threatens to disappear" In games, too, empathy implies difference, and, by emphasizing the differences between LGBTQ artists and other indie game developers, it marginalizes already-marginalized artists. Multiple frameworks of difference useful for designating indie game development genres and cultures--such as "small games" McCrea , "personal games" Parker , empathy games drawing from Bogost , and "games you can't win" Osit and Zouhali-Worrall --tend to center the experiences of straight cisgender consumers.
These players often reported greater interest in transgender issues after playing games like dys4ia , which recounted Anthropy's experiences accessing and beginning hormone replacement therapy in the San Francisco Bay Area. For queer and transgender players, however, the game could be consumed as a humorous guide to the often-difficult first steps of medical transition, its final scene of a rising sun providing hope and encouragement for the journey ahead.
Readings of dys4ia using the framework of empathy instead assumed a player who was not in the process of considering or preparing for HRT, a player who was instead interested in learning about a version of the transgender experience from the position of a sympathetic outsider. In contrast, installation works critiquing empathy made it impossible for the artists to disappear. While Mainichi and dys4ia could all-too-easily circulate as documents about Brice and Anthropy, said to communicate their experiences in their absence, empathy machine can only exist with Brice present, and Empathy Game 's use of Anthropy's worn boots gives the piece an indexical relationship to the artist.
Closer to the hearts of queer scholars and artists in games is the problematic relationship between empathy, pain, and love. However, our ability to sustain ourselves financially, emotionally, and physically faces obstacles from without and within. The multiplicity of identities in queer games means that our unity is itself a wish feeling that sustains our difference. While Western feminists have historically used empathy, along with agency, as a strategy to collapse the self-other distinction and "extend the boundaries of the feminist subject" Hemmings , , Ahmed's model of empathy as a wish that in fact sustains difference is more applicable to feminist and queer videogame studies.
This notion of women as naturally empathetic, offering needed emotionality to masculinized-apathetic spaces in the technology field, persists in STEM through frequently-quoted studies such as Simon Baron-Cohen's The Essential Difference: Men, Women, and the Extreme Male Brain , in which the author uses a study of day-old babies to argue that boys have a masculine "systematizing" brain focused on objects, while girls have an "empathizing" brain focused on human faces see Barnett and Rivers Heather Chaplin's comments on the Manifesto for a Ludic Century which she developed with Eric Zimmerman , references Baron-Cohen in its defense of "emotional intelligence and empathy" in the future of games.
What alternate frameworks have queer artists used to describe the aesthetics and mechanics of emotion and intersubjectivity in games? What queer feelings exist "after empathy," after the moment of the queer games scene and its challenges to the empathy genre, and how do these relate to the concept of the haptic? In the series of short vignettes below, I draw out the relationship between haptic visuality as a feminist strategy and queer game design, in the surreal, pixilated exploration game Curtain.
Next, I highlight several key terms for the study of queer games after the empathy debate. First, consent, understood as a way to build procedural empathy, works to produce intersubjectivity with non-player characters as in the "hunk spanking" simulator Hurt Me Plenty Robert Yang, This aesthetic for games representing sexuality is a direct challenge to the emotional stakes of romance games of the visual novel, simulation, and role playing game genres. Second, I examine the issue of hard and soft texture in queer game design. Third, radical softness , also understood as a weapon, can be explored in game design through the use of physically soft materials like conductive thread and crochet.
Jess Marcotte and Dietrich Squinkifer expand the framework of radical softness into the realm of tactility in The Truly Terrific Traveling Troubleshooter Curtain Llaura Dreamfeel, uses pixilated and impressionistic graphics that verge on illegibility.