Busy Hands

Busy Hands
Dating Sims Get Real

Leigh Alexander | 20 Oct 2011 19:00
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The game is clearly written for those who find violence and power-playing arousing - it's as toothy as Anna's frustration with the genre she's trying to reimagine. Literally. The unfortunate dinner guest quickly finds herself in a struggle for her own survival with the carnivorous Anni, who has a mind to make her dinner date the night's actual meal. A rough cat-and-mouse game ensues, and the protagonist is often excited despite herself.

Whether or not it's "your thing," Anna is a sharp, visceral writer, combining the chilly humor of a B-movie slasher flick with canny, lavish homages to the archetype of the Amazonian woman, so that the player can't help but admire her antagonist even as she's trying to choose her way to a happy ending. There's only one, of a kind, and it's empowering, not romantic in the sense most people would describe it.

And yet despite all its teeth, nails and blood, the honesty of Encyclopedia Fuckme is romantic, in that it actually reflects a facet of the inner lives of two adults in a healthy, playful relationship. When Anna takes to social media to confront the gaming community forces that most commonly get her back up, she's always joined by the distinctive, often all-caps voice of her partner Daphny, whose voice is visible in the text of the game she inspired.

"It probably wouldn't surprise you that I've chased Daphny around our apartment on the premise that if I caught her, I was gonna do something bad to her (tie her up with a N64 controller cable and tickle the shit out of her, which in her case is something un-fucking-bearable)," Anna tells me, when I ask her about the extent to which the dynamics at play in Encyclopedia Fuckme are personal. "I like to externalize my desires and fantasies in my games, not just as a cruising mechanism."

"In a community as desperately inbred as the one that surrounds videogames, I think it's important to confront potentially sheltered players with the fact that identity and sexuality are far broader than they may have assumed," she adds.

Interestingly, the game about a dinner date gone horrorshow has an interesting message for those players willing to look at the interplay between the two types of appetite that are on display - deny one and become a victim of the other.

"The digital game as a form can be used to communicate meaningful ideas, ones that generate dialogue and discussion," Anna says. If players want a takeaway from her unabashed, personal textual joyride, it's this fact: "The submissive woman's power - and I'm talking about actual submissive women who know what they want and are capable of negotiating it, not the fantasy ideal of woman as doormat -- is to dictate how she'll have sex and where."

"Ultimately, no matter what else happens, this is the sphere over which the protagonist retains control," she concludes. And there's your clue if you want to try to win the game. I mean, you definitely want to try it now, right?

Leigh Alexander is Editor-at-Large at Gamasutra and edits the games section in NYLON Guys. Among other projects, she is a columnist at Edge and Kotaku, writes about cultural issues as a contributor to Thought Catalog, and spends her free time defining "party like it's 1999."

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