by kiran profile

Episode 1 of Ten
Slice of life

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An earnest look into transgender identity and personal growth over time , November 17, 2022

Nineteen is about the author’s experience with gender identity during an important milestone: Turning 19. The story looks at personal struggles, not just in terms of societal stigma but also the frustrations of not knowing what definition you align with in a world where concepts of gender and sexuality are often placed in a ridged box: You either belong in this category or that category. This game, however, points out that the identity of oneself is far more complex than that.

The gameplay is in second person but built of the author’s own life experiences. As an almost-nineteen-year-old the player finds themselves moving into an apartment with an abusive girlfriend while being employed at an office job. Here, the game explores the loaded meaning behind slurs and their associations and assumptions with gender as they navigate new life changes.

Everything in the game takes a reflective approach. The interactivity does not consist of making changes to the storyline or directly engaging with the characters within. Instead, the player chooses links that reveal different components of their situation before cycling back. This created a fluid effect that made the gameplay a little more immersive. It gives the player an opportunity to “dig” through the story even if they do not influence its contents. Gameplay is extremely short, and you will have to play the game twice to see everything.

Nineteen is not a timeline of the protagonist’s life, but it does outline how identity can change. While the protagonist’s 19th birthday is in 2004, the game projects what life will be like in the future which includes life crises. We get a glimpse- just a glimpse- of the author’s experiences during (Spoiler - click to show) 2007, 2011, 2012, and 2014. In college the author identified as a transgender male and went by Aidan. Years later Aidan became Kiran.

At the end of the narrative the author identifies as neutrois. I have never heard about this term before and wanted to make sure that I used the proper pronouns and wording for this review. Neutrois, according to the definitions I looked up, means gender neutral and that “they/them” pronouns are used (inform me, please, if this is inaccurate) So, there you go. I learned a new term.

One of the takeaways in the game is the idea of considering a term about gender, and then considering the individual attached to the term. If I understand correctly, the author found hope in learning how people can be transgender, and yet, trying to transition did not bring any clarity to how they felt about their own identity. Terms do not necessarily explain the person behind it.

The subject matter is serious, but I found the author’s writing to be approachable. As a Twine game it also has polished formatting. It sticks to a basic appearance with a black background, blue links, and small white text placed neatly at the top of the screen. There quantity of text is moderate, but it is all concise and potent.

Ultimately, this is not a gameplay-oriented game. If you are merely looking for something to “play” then you may not enjoy this one as much. Rather, the heart of the experience is taking in the story and viewing every thread that the author has to say about it. And I am glad they decided to share this through an interactive fiction piece.

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