Recently I put a call out on Twitter for games that people wanted to talk about. This is how I was introduced to Deirdra Kiai’s work // (or “Parallel”). Gender can be a very interesting and difficult thing to talk about, and Kiai puts together an interesting story with her two parallel works following the stories of people who are coming to terms with their own gender identity.
Parallel connects two related stories, using a root word like “purple” that will allow the user to easily switch between stories and perspectives. You can go through the the entire game without shifting characters, especially if you are easily confused by switching narrators. By doing so, you miss the opportunity to experience the story as Kiai composed it. Parallel can be completed by a quick reader in just a few minutes, longer if you choose to sit and think with the text.
Deirdra Kiai creates an environment where I can empathize with the character. The writing is deep and well-managed, creating an environment that calls to mind elementary school bullies, butting up against gender norms, and the way people’s expectations can shut you down completely. It’s hard, with a work that evokes such empathy, to avoid talking about ones own experiences. I am a cis woman, but Parallel calls to mind my own experiences dealing with gender, and how I’ve never been a good “lady.” Kiai’s writing is, in this manner, both universal and specific. The game is thoughtful and well portioned, showing snapshots of the lives of its two characters as they grow and come to certain conclusions about their place in the world.
If you’re interested in powerful, empathetic work with excellent writing, you can’t go wrong with Deirdra Kiai’s //. I look forward to the longer work that Parallel is supposed to be a prequel for.