Variations on your Body, by Avery Alder | Very long
It is an anthology of sorts, compiling four "live action" (kind of) role playing games and an essay/talk. All of these talk about different things, and each one is incredibly good.
Let's start with the first one, Teen Witch. Teen Witch is a game where you become a... teen witch. Gathering magic, casting spells... and being a girl, a teenage girl, are all integral parts of the game. As it says:
In order to play this game, you must become a teenage girl who is a witch
The game is much about how believing is being/doing. By believing you are a teenage witch, you become one. The fiction is driven by what you believe, and a role playing game is pretty much all fiction... It's not all the game is about, though: it is also intrinsically and unapologetically queer; it's about consent, and how it can be revoked at any time, and that's OK, which is an important thing in a game that has you playing with your identity. It's about discovering oneself through discovering the rules of the game; much is not fixed and is left to discovery. Since it's so deeply concerned with identity, discovering the rules also means discovering oneself, through introspection, and maybe even meditation. And finally, it is also sometimes about sensuality, with oneself (accepting to see yourself as a sensual being) and with another (you generally play alone, but you can invite another person).
The second game is named Brave Sparrow, and it's one of the three pervasive games in the book (so, every one except Teen Witch). What is a pervasive game? Well, it's an "always on" game, that you play at all times during everyday life. Brave Sparrow is a game where you realize why you're so at odds with other people, and the world in general: you're a sparrow, or you were once, and now you have to return to your natural state. To do that, you have to collect feathers, find quiet beauty, and act with bravery. This game is about re-enchanting everyday life, in a way not every pervasive game is. It's about finding moments and places of beauty at all times. It's about becoming a better person, by being braver than you are normally. Most of all, it's about believing against all odd and reason. Actively being un-reasonable. Not giving up to defeat or fear or reason as radical praxis. And it's also about building bridges with others doing the same. Building community. It's quite possibly my favorite of these games (but each one is so good and clever that it's hard to say). As with Teen Witch, it's also about being by believing you are, doing by believing you do
The third game is called Universal Translator, and this one talks about that little device you've always had on the side of your head, above the right ear, that does the job of translating everything you see or hear that you don't understand into your way of thinking. But really, it's about how we try to rationalize what we don't understand in others in our own way of thinking, and thus erase part of them. It's about how to stop doing that, how to not rationalize what's foreign to us and accepting it, trying to understand it better even if it seems strange at first. Note that it's not about accepting specifically (even though accepting is a necessary first step) but about understanding. But really it makes this observation that we often jump to mapping other's reflexions or emotions to our own instead of accepting them and experiencing them as they are. It's a game about learning to undo that small erasure over time, and understanding each other better. Like the other games, it's also about being by believing you are, doing by believing you do
Finally, the fourth game is named Good Bones. In this game, you are lying down in your bed, and you've been ensnared by the forces of lethargy, weariness, and depression. You can't fight these by yourself, you can't move or do anything. You're trapped. So you summon the sleeping, ancient conscience that is in your bones, and together you fight these forces. This game is obviously about depression, and how to fight it. It's also about finding a second sentience within yourself, to fight with alongside it, and then to have it fight alongside you. It's about taking care of yourself, even if at first it only means taking care of that second sentience (since you share the same body). Most importantly, it's about bringing back mystique into everyday life, and making the process of recovering from depression as appealing (or more) than depression itself might seem (as in, how it's romanticized in popular culture, and how it might seem romantic when you're under its thrall. I know I've experienced that, at least). Once again, it's also about being by believing you are, doing by believing you do
The final part of the book is an essay titled We've been Stranger Things. It's inspired by a talk given by Avery Alder at Probabilities 2014, an annual gaming marathon hosted by Possibilities, a Bi+ community in Calgary, AL, Canada; and it's about finding possibilities for ourselves, rather than holding ourselves to a role or a standard, but mostly it's about finding ourselves outside of society's expectations, and building an alternative to the mainstream storytelling. If society's stories don't include us, if society's metrics are unreachable for us, it's easy for us to believe we are not worthy, that it's impossible for us to amount to anything. This essay tries to say that maybe we should accept that impossibility, thrive in it, and create our own stories, our own metrics, that tend towards that impossibility. That we should fight power structures not by ramming head-on into them, but by building our own power structures around them. The essay is also about how we can not only learn to accept ourselves through building our own stories, but also maybe become better people through them. Most importantly, it reminds us that building representation doesn't mean putting ourselves in the dominants' stories, in the place the dominants decide for us, it means making our own stories and doing what we want with them. (This last part, about replacing generally accepted stories with our own and changing the world through that, makes me think a lot about The Unwritten, on which I wrote a thing about a month ago)
So, yeah. These four games and this essay are incredible. Not only do they make very good points, and quite literally change the world view of the reader, they're also incredibly well written, in a style that talked to my soul. They're the best thing I've read in a long time, and they're clearly the best games I've read, ever (not in the sense that the games, and their mechanics, are the best I've read, but rather in the sense that they're so much more than simply games). They're queer as hell, and they're revolutionary.
Variations on your Body, by Avery Alder
Aaaah i forgot to add my pictures!!
Here they are
Variations on your Body, by Avery Alder
i was very curious about this when you posted about it a while ago and this just seems neat
re: Variations on your Body, by Avery Alder
@catoutofbed it's, honestly, amazing.
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