Power Up: Zine Fair Lady
Starting this issue, we’re introducing a new column by the Hand Eye Society’s Al Donato about indie games and the ways they can teach and enlighten. To begin, we’re turning the virtual pages of “Zine Fair Lady,” a Choose-your-own-microaggression by Morgan Sea.
Zine fairs are generally havens for open-minded weirdos, but like any public art event, it's possible to encounter one's fair share of jerks and thoughtless types. It's enough to make anyone skip the squashed aisles. Morgan Sea's Zine Fair Lady makes good use of these anxieties in her video game that functions as a digital “Choose-your-own-microaggression”.
In Zine Fair Lady you are a trans woman braving what's been billed as the most radical queer zine fair in town, darting from table to table with $20 and high hopes. Built in Twine, an interactive fiction engine, Sea uses an onscreen zine aesthetic. Text is stylized to look like it was cut-and-pasted — literally, not CTRL-XED + CTRL-VED — on Xeroxed scraps, populated with hand-drawn or crudely pixelated people.
Sea makes great use of the medium as a consensual storytelling tool. You decide how you respond to misgendering, what you spend your money on, and how long you stay at the fair. You can visit the one decent tabler at the fair multiple times just to see a kind face or spend every last dollar on fart-inducing dumpster burritos.
The situations, while presented humorously, are pretty terrible when piled on top of each other. Being trans at a zine fair means lousy customer service gets personal, like when a tabler misgenders you as a boy as soon as they see you in an attempt to make you buy their crossdressing zine. One particularly gross incident in the game happens when two ladies laugh over you using a urinal. Gee, thanks for that +1 stress stat!
Engaging with scumbags who comment on your body will leave you feeling more drained than proudly defiant. For anyone who is looking for a painfully real window into the trans zine culture experience, Zine Fair Lady is a great entry point.
An artist, radio host, and self-described “schemester,” Sea grew up in Saskatchewan with a DIY fixation. She made Zine Fair Lady while participating in Pixelles, a game-making incubator for women held in Montreal last year.
“Writing it felt like exorcising a lot of stuff… it was difficult turning into funny anecdotes,” Sea says. “[It's gotten] lots of groans from friends, but in a positive way. I hope that any trans women get a cathartic kick outta it instead of ‘Oh no, this brings up all the things.'”