Amidst all the sexist hubbub of the past month, many game developers have taken to…well, making games to address the situation. Go figure. Deirdre “Squinky” Kiai (the developer responsible for Dominique Pamplemousse) is among these devs, and released Quing’s Quest for Ruin Jam 2014. Ruin Jam sprung up in response to #GamerGate (among other things) and has this to say about itself on its front page:
Ruin Jam is a game jam celebrating the nonexistent demise of video games, inspired by a lot of current events and a certain blog post. It’s open to anyone and everyone who has been, is being, or plans to be accused of ruining the games industry. All Ruiners are welcome to contribute to the death of video games, provided that they adhere to the spirit of the jam.
In case you weren’t aware of the things that are ruining games, the site even provides a handy list of examples from things like “Forced Diversity” (having minority characters with agency) to everyday criticism and/or satire of existing game franchises. With a genderfluid protagonist, quirky music, and poignant social commentary, Quing’s Quest (get it?) is quite positively a game ruiner, and one that makes me wish Kiai would ruin the entire industry for me.
The game was built in Twine, because according to Kiai “…nothing says “hey, that’s not really a game!” like Twine,” and you find yourself aboard a spaceship in the Captain’s Quarters. Before the “main action” of the game really begins, you can visit your wardrobe and bathroom to change your attire and make up. No matter oddball combination of colors and garments you choose, you will look FABULOUS….which is perhaps the most subtle piece of social commentary in the game. No matter how you wear your hair (green pompadour my first play through) or what color you paint your nails (rainbow, duh) the player character looks fabulous, and by extension, you the player feel rewarded for your decisions, and perhaps feel a little more fabulous about yourself.
Of course, then the “real” adventure begins.
You are aboard this ship, with your fellow genderfluid pirate Nero, because you both escaped the planet Videogames which was recently taken over by the misogynerds. Honestly, I would probably rate this game highly just for Kiai’s invention of the word misogynerd. It’s just so…apropos. I digress. Though you and Nero have escaped the misogynerds, there’s nowhere else to run (Academia, WeirdInternet, New Mediaart, and Hypertext won’t take you) and they’re hot on your tail.
What follows is a poignant depiction of what it feels like to make unique games and/or criticism in the game industry. The misogynerds are always after you because you won’t follow their rules, and even your friends have defected to the misogynerd siren call, simply because they won’t want to make waves and risk the wrath of the hoard. This narrative is all too familiar to many people in the game industry, yet seeing it played out as a game made the message resonate in a way it hadn’t previously done before.
The message took on a different cadence when I realized that in the game, you can actually try to change the narrative. It’s just you, Nero, and your ship the Social Justice Warrior, but as a team you three can make a difference against the misogynerds. This is in line with Kiai’s describes of the game as “…a silly, over-the-top power fantasy.” Yet even though it is over-the-top (you can attempt to “Escape to Narnia” when the misogynerds find you), Quing’s Quest offered me a fantasy I wasn’t aware I was wishing for: agency.
In a game where your choices don’t matter at all, it was strange to find myself feeling empowered at the completion. Yet in the game, I had impacted the world of video games in a way that I never have before in the non-game world. I was left wanting to fist-pump and dance, full of renewed energy to fight the misogynerds I encounter everyday in my web space. Power fantasies may be outlandish and silly, but as Kiai demonstrates in Quing’s Quest they’re also refreshing and needed.
So, should you play this game? As long as you don’t identify as a misogynerd the answer is….duh. Play this game, make your friends play this games, and make their friends play this game. Then, we can all go out and ruin games together.