Right. I’ve been talking for a while about how I think this is a great game, and I think it’s time to write a review about it to say why.
Spoilers abound, though. Please play the game before reading. I think it’s worth it.
You can (and indeed I think you should) play it here. This is a Twine game about, and I’ll quote from its content warnings, “transphobia, transmisogyny, slurs, depression, scabs and blood”. So on the outset you know it’ll be meaningful in some level, but of course the question is: meaningful for whom?. For the author, always, obviously. Maybe also for a few of their friends. You also note they are potentially heavy subjects, so you don’t really know how it’ll be handled; with things like this, it’s too easy to screw it up.
Let me end the suspense. Inurashii, the author, has made this meaningul for everyone, especially people who never really thought about it much. They handle it elegantly; the prose and use of the medium are used as needles craftily utilised, as opposed to the blunt chisel and hammer you might expect from a less talented, less accomplished but equally sincere author.
The beauty about Cis Gaze is that it centers on something that everyone everywhere can relate to. The greatest challenge some people have in communicating the difficulties and daily struggles of not having a clear gender identity (or having gender disphoria) that a large swatch of society can easily identify and, ultimately, accept, is that:
Either they’re talking to people who have the same problem, which is preaching to the choir - it relieves some pressure, makes you feel better, but the rest of the world remains unaware of your problem;
They’re trying to explain it to people who just haven’t a clue (raise hand). People to whom the issue is so far removed from their world that they can’t even begin to comprehend what the big deal is; I used to think.that the important thing was for people to be who they are, and screw whoever can’t deal with it.
Games like Cis Gaze opened my eyes to the fact that it’s just not that simple. I am indebted to Inurashii (and cvaneseltine, in a previous discussion elsewhere) for having made me more aware towards some issues. So I can say from the outset that Cis Gaze had a serious impact in how I view the world. I seriously believe it made me a better person.
Not bad for a Twine “game”, heh?
As I said, it does this by making the centre of the story something that everyone can relate to. In this case, the Cis Gaze is a single glance that the PC gets from a Cis person, a glance full of hatred and intolerance; guilty of the crime of being different and not easily catalogued by society, the PC is the receiving end of a look that has “judge, jury and executioner” all over it and sentences them to the fiery pits of hell (and who knows what really is at the heart of this; who knows if the Gazer is furious because he himself wishes he could do what the PC is doing so openly?).
It’s a small incident, over in a second or two. But the confidence of the PC is crushed; they are emotionally crippled; everywhere now they see the gaze, or feel it, and the simplest task becomes a nightmare.
Here’s the thing: we all know about this. I’m sure we’ve all experienced it. All it takes sometimes is for someone to do the wrong thing, say the wrong thing, or just look at you funny, and your confidence is shattered. The wrong remark before you go on stage, or into the recording studio; the wrong look at your latest report, or your latest composition; the wrong body language during a date that was otherwise going so well; and we are crushed, we get disoriented, we get confused, we get useless.
We do allow little things like this to get to us, because we are human, and in the wrong time, when we are vulnerable, the damage they can do is intense.
So - and here’s the important thing, so important I’ll put it in a quote box:
Cis Gaze clearly shows, to a cis person unaware of many of the problems facing a transgender, what it can be like by providing them with an experience they can relate to.
It’s no longer someone else’s problem. We’ve all felt what it’s like, and we can personally relate to the PC. Every time some of us (raises hand) said “Well, they need thicker skin. The world isn’t going to change on account of them, the world can accept them but pampering to them is something else” comes back to haunt us; imagine what it’s like to feel the Cis Gaze every day of your life?
There’s also a bit of technical wizardry and ingenuity which makes all the difference. The majority of the text is in the usual black font, but there’s also a little red font that represents that little nagging voice in the back of your head, the one you have to listen to but sometimes wish you could just rip out of your skull.
At first, the little voice will appear, mid-text, expounding on sentences or creating parenthesis, as a result of some of your clicks. Then it will start appearing on its own, unstoppable, relentless. Never in big sentences at once; small direct sentences, one appearing after the other, each one more hurtful than the previous one. Just like in real life, really.
I cannot reccommend this game enough. Bravo, Inurashii.
EDIT - Corrected pronouns. Thanks, Hanon.