and she had the earth dug up, and they found blue and evil-looking bones…
There is a feedback, white noise that comes through my headphones. The light hum of a dryer in the other room. The steadily increasing chill that causes my finger tips to turn white. This is the soundtrack by which I played Orifice Clique, a game by Porpentine commissioned by the Yearbook Office.
There are few games where I feel like an enemy to the main character. In this case, it occurs solely because of my gender. I am a cisgendered female, and it feels like I may be defined in this piece as a member of the orifice clique.
The game starts out with our character as someone whose skull doesn’t fit into their skin, a condition that is an all consuming obsession. There is too much space between the skin and the skull, and it feels uncomfortable. This discomfort is meant for both you and the character. You rest within her life, with a femme’d up computer and an apartment submerged in the miasma of unhappiness. You rest there, but it’s a torturous place to be, jarring and ill-fitting. You go to work, but work appears to be little more than being water boarded by cis-women. The author tells you that it’s a kindness — that they are only drowning you in lukewarm water when they could’ve dumped acid on your face. The game ends.
I tried storing my flesh in a box called starvation, but that box kept springing open.
It’s been explained to me in the past that a high point of art if when it makes you think outside of yourself, when it puts you in a position of both empathy. I don’t know if I feel so much as empathy as exhaustion, a point of well-tuned horror at the displacement of others. If art is meant to make you feel uncomfortable, then Orifice Clique succeeds in that regard. You are asked repeatedly, with the dog cone wrapped around your neck and the cis-women pouring water over your face, if you want to drink or inhale. But it doesn’t matter — you are powerless in this position. Your agency is placed in the hands of people whose skull fits.
The datanet is one of the stand out moments in Orifice Clique. You are given the opportunity to explore the room, and on the computer you can “jack in” to the datanet. You can find the stories of others in the dots and dashes, the experiences of sadness and desperation, of suicide attempts and rapes. It’s a moment of honesty and starkness in the surreal world that Porpentine has created.
When the game ended, I stared at the final screen in a fog of static, until the black became overridden with the reflection of my nearby blinds, until it faded away into the credits.