My Gender Is a Fish

by Carter Gwertzman

2021

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Well-crafted and thought-provoking, November 30, 2021
by Mike Russo (Los Angeles)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2021

(This is a lightly-edited version of a review posted to the IntFict forums during the 2021 IFComp. My son Henry was born right before the Comp, meaning I was fairly sleep-deprived and loopy while I played and reviewed many of the games, so in addition to a highlight and lowlight, the review includes an explanation of how new fatherhood has led me to betray the hard work the author put into their piece)

My Gender is a Fish is a short, surrealist Twine game thatís hard to characterize. Itís not quite an allegory, nor a fable, but neither is it tied to the concrete in any meaningful sense (the inciting incident is a magpie swooping down and yoinking your gender identity). A sui generis work like this is usually, I find, either really good or really bad; happily, this time itís the former. Since this is a short game with only a few choices and I donít think any state changes, its success is pretty much 100% down to the writing, which is playful and thoughtful in equal measure.

The notional action involves the protagonist embarking into a dangerous forest in search of what theyíve lost, and considering whether various objects and creatures they run across are their lost gender, but whatís rewarding is the ruminations triggered by considering each possibility. While the subject matter is clearly serious, the tone here holds possible meanings or conclusions lightly, raising questions rather than driving towards any plodding conclusions. I found this approach really effective Ė as the worldís most boring cis straight guy, I think I sometimes come to art thatís about issues of gender from a more intellectual angle, but while the game probably most directly speaks to trans or genderqueer folks, I found its way of opening up these topics was sufficiently broad to resonate with me on a more personal level too.

Highlight: Itís hard to pick this one apart into component pieces, but I will say the way the opening smoothly slips from grounded description to the protagonistís new metaphysical predicament was deftly done.

Lowlight: I maybe wish thereíd been a little state-tracking, so that earlier choices had more of an impact on later ones? The fact that I canít immediately tell what that would look like, though, means this might be a knee-jerk idea more driven by the conventions of choice-based games than something that would actually improve the game.

How I failed the author: Since this is a 10-minute game thatís making thoughtful points, but not in a needlessly obscure way, even I was incapable of messing this one up.