Anna Anthropy – or Dessgeega – is an independent videogame designer and critic, and a key personality in the ongoing paradigm shift that is slowly changing the way videogames are understood, by creators and players, and by the wider culture. She is a co-founder of The Gamer’s Quarter and a regular blogger, and she is the designer of, among other games and mods, Mighty Jill Off (reviewed here at Eegra) and Calamity Annie.
Dess is intelligent, articulate, creative and prolific; she’s full of ideas and opinions, and her profile is steadily growing – so, I decided I’d better interview her before some other bastard got the same idea. We’re very pleased to present this first ever interview with Anna Anthropy – because it’s really, really good.
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Patrick: Dess, so nice to talk with you at last.
Dessgeega: yeah, why haven’t we had a real conversation yet, you and i?
Patrick: Well I think it works out pretty well this way, because the readers can get to know you at the same time as I do, which I think will make for an interesting and pleasant interview.
Dessgeega: yes, you may be right.
Patrick: It seems like, conventionally, it’s sort of rude and tabloid-y to sit an artist down and ask them about their personal life instead of their art, but in your case I’m hoping it will be okay, given that your games are all very personal. They seem pointedly so, in fact.
Dessgeega: my personal experience informs my games. feel free to ask, people are always complaining that i’m too mysterious.
Patrick: Well, let’s go through your three ‘major’ games, one by one. Invader... Well, you’ve written somewhere that you identify yourself with the Space Invader. So what was Invader about?
Dessgeega: well, it’s most readily an inversion of space invaders. often in writing about games, particularly earlier ones, i feel that the characters have stories and that it’s my duty to tell them. telling space invaders from the perspective of a space invader interested me. playing space invaders, we don’t know anything about the invaders other than that they’re ‘the enemy’. they’re the other, the outsider.
i identify with this. as a queer woman working in a field that is far and away dominated by men, as an artsy theory-head in a journalistic body that mostly considers games to be, at best, entertainment. i continually feel as though my perspective is an outside one, and i often feel as though my presence is viewed as some kind of unwelcome transgression.
Patrick: I think that’s perfectly valid, but, do you ever wonder if that feeling is just you? Even partly?
Dessgeega: i’m sure a lot of it is; truthfully, i’m probably ignored more often than i’m hated. but being so far from the established norm makes me self-conscious a lot of the time.
Patrick: Sure; I can understand that.
You said you feel it’s your “duty” to tell the stories of, I guess faceless or voiceless videogame characters. Whom or what is this duty to? The characters themselves; the developing mythology of videogames...?
Dessgeega: i like to think the characters themselves want these stories to be told; i maintain the belief that games desire to be played. but yes, videogames need a mythology and a history, and i feel driven to contribute.
Patrick: I’m fond of the idea that games keep going after they’re turned off; that cartridges contain living worlds, waiting for us to come back to them.
Dessgeega: yeah, that a game has an inner life. that’s what i try to explore, often.
Patrick: There’s something about videogames, particularly, that encourages that notion – especially in childhood. People say the same thing about books, and it’s true, but not nearly as true as with videogames, I think.
Dessgeega: it’s the way games are systems, i think. they have rules and interactions that we can believe extending beyond our interactions with them.
Patrick: That might be it. Again, especially during childhood: Games are these magical things... Just the fact that you can move the little man left and right and up and down, and you make him do a thing, and it makes another thing happen! It doesn’t even occur to you that these interactions must, at some point, reach limits.
Dessgeega: yeah. games are worlds. and the boundaries are awfully nebulous when you’re so young as to not really have a grasp on the boundaries of your own world yet.
Patrick: All right, next game: Mighty Jill Off. I happen to love this game and replay it often. It’s openly inspired by your relationship with your girlfriend, right? Should I call her your slut or are only you allowed to say that?
Dessgeega: oh, i encourage people to call her that. yeah, my design is strongly informed by kink – i think the way a game challenges the player while leading her through an experience is similiar to the way a top challenges a bottom while leading her through a scene. jill off is an exploration of that dynamic – of the masochism that’s part of the experience of playing challenging games, games that challenge the player while coaching the player to overcome the challenge at the same time.
and yeah, she’s about as boot-hungry as jill is.
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