Getting Some Play: Greetings from Arse Electronika

Arse Electronika 2012

While the big-release season begins to heat up, it’s only appropriate that I spent the very end of September at a conference dedicated to the most indie and subversive of all Arse Electronika. Now in its fifth year, the conference is a celebration and examination of the intersections between technology and sex, and this year’s theme was “4Play,” with a decided focus on games.

It was perfectly fitting, then, that Monochrom (the folks behind the con) decided to bestow the lifetime achievement award to Anna Anthropy, the outspoken queer game maker who created this year’s incredible, intensely personal Dys4ia – a game about Anthropy’s own experiences with hormone replacement therapy. She’s made countless games – many centered on sex, sexuality and gender identity – all playable on her portal.

Upon receiving the award, Anthropy gave a passionate speech about the necessity of access to technology. From her site:

Almost all of the queer people I know, including myself, live in poverty. The bay area is an expensive place, and there sure are a lot of castaways and runaways who find their way here. I live paycheck to paycheck, and because I’m a freelancer, I have no idea when the next paycheck is. I have an iPad because someone DONATED one to me, not because I could ever afford one.

Most of my games – the games that, I assume, got me here – are made with free software. I do my mixing in audacity. I get my graphics from google image search. and ALL of the games I’ve played about real sex in the last six months have been made by queer people using free software. In most cases, it was a program called twine, which creates hypertext fiction and generates self-contained, ready-for-the-web html files.

Technology that only a small minority has access to is useless.

Important, interesting, personal games – and vitally, games that will represent our community with any kind of realism – need to be made. And they’ll be made by people with interesting life experiences to share – not necessarily by folks who’ve chosen to make videogames professionally.

That’s important to take to heart, especially as we move into high season for AAA titles.


With that said, there’s also a time and a place for ultra-polished, high-budget productions, and fall is feeding frenzy time.

Resident Evil 6 – the latest main “numbered” title in the increasingly melodramatic (and action-oriented) horror series, arrives tomorrow (October 2), on the 360 and PS3. Expect cheesy intrigue, recurring character cameos, and tons of disgusting monsters to kill.

If you’d rather bounce basketballs than sling a shotgun, NBA 2k13 is out on the same day, with versions hitting the PS3, 360, Wii, PC and PSP. Don’t get it confused with rhythm-action/dribbling sim NBA Baller Beats.

Next week, hardcore gamers have a very difficult choice to make. With two very different – yet equally hotly anticipated – games in Xcom: Enemy Unknown (the strategy reboot) and Dishonored (a steampunk action-assassin outing). Both games will grace the same platforms: PC, 360 and PS3, so the only really tough call will be which to play first.

Sega nostalgia is abundant this month as well, with Saturn favorite NiGHTS: Into Dreams and Sonic Adventure 2 landing on both PS3 and 360, and Jet Set Radio on the Vita on October 16. Look for the PS3 versions to land on October 2, and on October 5 on the 360. Do note NiGHTS (and Jet Set, for that matter), have aged more gracefully than Sonic’s second Dreamcast platformer.

Finally, Pokemaniacs have Pokemon Black Version 2 and Pokemon White Version 2, both dropping on the DS on October 7. Does anyone keep count of how many Pokemon there are now? I’m just curious.

Next time around, we’ll be talking Dance Central 3, 007 Legends, and perhaps even Assassin’s Creed 3. Until then!