The Kickstarter game Aerannis, which is about halfway finished, stars a female transgender assassin struggling with her identity and culture.
At first glance, Aerannis doesn't sound wildly different than many other crowd-funding projects we hear about on a daily basis. The self-described Metroidvania combines stealth and action gameplay in a future where "Earth was torn apart by war and populations wiped out by other unknown causes." Dig a little deeper, however, and something stands out: Aerannis is described by its creators as "about a trans woman assassin in a post-feminist dystopia."
"'Post-feminist' is referring to the government having declared itself attaining complete equality for all and achieving feminism's end goals," ektomarch's Ronald Rollins told The Escapist. "The society is feminist in the sense that the Soviet Union was communist. It was in theory and in name, but not in practice as there was a very large divide of wealth and power between the people and the inner circles of the government." While Aerannis isn't meant to encompass any particular politcal leanings, Rollins called its approach to feminism "mostly a critique of radicalism."
The game's heroine, Ceyda Farhi, is a transgender woman and Bulgarian Turk, meaning she's "been marginalized by society since day one." Her background is partially based in real-life events like the forced assimilation of ethnic Turks and more recent politcal extremism in Bulgaria.
While Aerannis may sound critical towards feminist ideals, Rollins says, "The game's neutral/leaning towards feminism as a whole (and very much in support of respecting gender and sexual identities, etc)." Instead, ektomarch is trying to highlight "the divide between trans-exclusionary radical feminists and inclusionary feminists."
The world of Aerannis features the planet's only surviving city, Plovdiv, which appears to be a thriving all-female utopian society, but as the Kickstarter details, things aren't quite right in Plovdiv. During a series of seemingly routine assassinations, Farhi uncovers an organized revolt against the government that could throw the surviving world into chaos, which poses an interesting dilemma: "in a society where being a woman is a prerequisite for being human, does someone who's often not considered a 'whole woman' have any duty to save those who hate her?"
Rollins cites psychedelic art, Ristar, Pulseman, and Metroid Fusion as Aerannis' biggest graphical influences, with "a clean, colorful, plastic future... to show that it's a society that cares more about outward appearance over actually addressing the concerns of the people." The Kickstarter goes into great detail about the open-ended stealth action gameplay; Farhi can approach situations differently, taking hostages, making distracting noises, or setting traps. It's not all sneaking around, though, and some situations will require a more action-packed approach; "her gun isn't just for decoration," as the Kickstarter description reads.
With 19 days to go, Aerannis has raised $2,629 of its $6,000 goal. Rollins explains that ektomarch is "about 50% of the way through development," and without the Kickstarter funding, "progress will slow down substantially." If ektomarch meets its crowd-funding goal, Aerannis is planned for a late 2015 release on PC, Mac, and Linux.