Who Should Play Transgender Roles?

Who Should Play Transgender Roles?


When considering the question ‘who should play transgender roles?’ when working in television, film and theatre it seems the answer should be obvious. However, unless the director or writer is trying to make a creative statement, most roles are filled by people of the same gender as the character and in the case of transgender characters, cisgender actors are largely filling these roles.


It has only been in recent years that transgender stories have been told in mainstream media, with the recent success of Orange Is The New Black, Transparent, and Dallas Buyers Club to name a few. However, in the majority of these recent productions the transgender characters (almost always transgender women) have been played by cisgender men.


There has been much debate as to whether cisgender men should play transgender women characters. The loudest voices in these debates often arising from transgender individuals frustrated with their lack of representation in acting roles, from LGBTQ people or straight cisgender people who have worked on pieces with transgender narratives.


Discussions and debate comes down to personal opinion, defensiveness of the work created, anger at misrepresentation and not considering LGBTQ experiences when casting. We can hope to improve this situation by examining what has worked well up until now and why it has worked well. We can also look at the nature of gender and how its performative nature can be worked with in an ethical way to best represent transgender people.


Transgender narratives are rare in media and theatre and when they are told, transgender women are often portrayed in a negative light.

Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Media Defamation (GLAAD), a US LGBT media monitoring organization, examined transgender television representation over a ten year period and found transgender characters were cast in a “victim” role at least 40% of the time. Transgender characters were cast as killers or villains in at least 21% of the catalogued episodes and storylines. Transgender characters were most often depicted as sex workers, ‘a fifth of all [transgender] characters were depicted as 20%’

It is important that transgender women actors have access to realistic transgender roles. If the only roles available to them are stereotypes and damaging to the LGBTQ community, they are forced to choose between work as an actor or ethical representation.


Only this year has a transgender woman played the role of a transgender woman in a television show in the United Kingdom. Bethany Black plays Helen in an episode of Channel 4’s Banana, which tell the story of a woman who becomes the victim of revenge porn. Helen’s story is not overshadowed by her transgender identity, unlike many other popular portrayals of transgender woman. These progressive roles are so rare and when they do come along they are not being given to transgender people to play as positive representations and role models.


In an example given in Cracked’s podcast Unspoken Stereotypes Movies Trick You Into Believing a contributor explains how the in television show Doll House, the lead character loses her sight. To play the part, the actress Eliza Dushku met with a blind woman on set. Dushku copied the woman’s movements but the director said she did not look ‘blind enough’, so she was asked to be clumsier and ‘more helpless’ so that audiences would think “ok, we believe she’s blind now”. ‘The acting didn’t look realistic, so they made her seem more helpless to conform to what people expected’. This sends a message to both the public and actors that these signifiers are what we should expect from blind people, consequently spreading misinformation.


This misinformation can have serious consequences. For example in Italy this escalated to the media sensationalism, accusing people of faking being blind, but the accusations were based on ignorance of the capabilities of blind people. This same problem can be applied to transgender representation. For many of us, our first exposure to minority groups is through television, film and theatre. It is the responsibility of these mediums to clearly show the context of their portrayals of these groups. If creating a narrative that the writer wants to be natural, realistic and believable, then the representations should correlate with the acting style. It can be argued that if transgender people are involved in the production of their stories, then the stories are more likely to be well informed and realistic.


In 2014, Jared Leto won an Oscar for his portrayal of Rayon in Dallas Buyers Club, although the film is a biopic, the character of Rayon was created for the film. In Time magazine, Steve Friess says of the character


She’s a sad-sack, clothes-obsessed, constantly flirting transgender drug addict prostitute… there are no stereotypes about transgender women that Leto’s concoction does not tap into….she’s an exaggerated, trivialized version of how men who pretend to be women, as opposed to how those who feel at their core they are women behave…. she’s the only figure played consistently for comic relief, as when fake-Woodruff points a gun at Rayon’s crotch and suggests he give her the sex change she’s been wanting… hilarious.


Although Leto said he had spoken with transgender women (none of which have been credited or come forward) the problem of the stereotypical transgender woman could have been avoided if a transgender woman had played the part of Rayon or transgender people had been involved in the production of the film.


In contrast, in Transparent, an Amazon online series, the lead character Moira (a transgender woman) is played by Jeffery Tambour but the series is produced with a great amount of influence from transgender individuals. The creator of the show, Jill Soloway said on the production of the show


We have one gender-queer writer and three trans consultants, … we’ve had six or so trans people come through the writer’s room and inform how we’re telling the story. I would say the most important person in creating Moira is Jenny Boylan [a transgender woman] … she really had an empathy for the late-in-life transitioner. All of our trans consultants helped us be aware of the victim or villain path that most trans characters fall into. So we just wanted to make Moira the most normal person in the family.


Soloway based the story on her father’s own transition and cast all other transgender parts to transgender people. Amy Landecker who plays Moira’s daughter said of the casting of Tambour, a cisgender man, as Moira


[Soloway] casts from a very personal place … in her mind, she would see Jeffrey through the years and he reminded her of her father and I think she felt very deeply that he was the right actor for this part.

Transparent has been received well by reviewers and the LGBTQ community, being praised by the LGBTQ website, Pink News and Time Magazine.


Tambour brings a lot to the role, being the appropriate age and able to play Moira as a woman who has not taken estrogen. He also stated that he recognizes transgender people should play transgender roles. Soloway said of his casting ‘I think he’s got a kind of gender-queerness. He’s a big tall man, but he’s very feminine and very vulnerable and soft and sweet. He just seemed to embody the contradictions that I wanted Mort to have. Mort/Moira.’ Both Soloway and Tambour, informed by the transgender community, put a lot of work into the character of Moira. Consequently, this meant that Transparent avoided some of the issues that can arise by casting a cisgender man as a leading transgender women whereas other works, such as Dallas Byers Club, did not.


When receiving his Oscar Leto was heckled, ‘Trans-misogyny does not deserve an award’. Leto asked ‘What do you mean by that?’ (It is worth noting that as someone who researched a transgender role, Leto should be aware of the meaning of ‘Trans-misongyny’). The Heckler replied ‘you don’t deserve an award for portraying a trans-woman, because you’re a man.’ His response was “because I’m a man, I don’t deserve to play that part? ‘So you would hold a role against someone who happened to be gay or lesbian – they can’t play a straight part … you’ve made sure people that are gay … people like the Rayons of the world would never have the opportunity to turn the tables and explore parts of that art’.

This type of response from someone outside the LGBTQ community encourages the attitude that the opinions of minority groups about their own portrayal are equal to, or less than, those who are appropriating their identities. A Cisgender person playing a transgender character has been compared to blackface, and is sometimes informally referred to as ‘transface’. Friess compares Leto’s role and the award he received to Hattie Mcdonald’s award for her ‘authentic’ portrayal of a black woman in ‘Gone With The Wind’ for which she received an Oscar (while sitting at a segregated table during the ceremony). Society does not consider it acceptable for a white actor to change their skin colour and play a character that is a person of colour. When acting in blackface there is a significant change in appearance and voice, as well as the character being an offensive black caricature.

It is argued that cisgender men playing transgender women are appropriating the bodies and experiences of transgender women. Leto’s response to being heckled is a good example of people’s differing views about gender, and if it is something that can and should be performed. He argues that the same argument with regard to cisgender individuals playing transgender roles can extend to gay people not being able to play straight roles. When acting with a love interest you are (most likely) acting out this attraction, no matter the sexuality of the actors coupled. When a cisgender man acts as a transgender woman they are acting as another gender and modifying their body. The portrayals of cisgender men acting as transgender women can, as previously discussed, lead to a character and performance based on stereotypes. When analyzing the problem of ‘transface’ this way, it is easy to see the parallels to blackface.

However, if gender is perceived as just another character trait that can be captured in a performance, just as any other character trait can be, does that justify cisgender people playing transgender roles? Feminist philosopher, Judith Butler, pioneered the idea of gender being performative, creating the term ‘gender performativity’ in her book Gender Trouble. Butler explains gender as ‘the repeated stylization of the body, a set of repeated acts within a highly rigid regulatory frame that congeal over time to produce the appearance of sub- stance, of a natural sort of being. … there is no gender identity behind the expressions of gender; that identity is performatively constituted by the very ‘expressions’ that are said to be its results’. Butler means by this that gender is created by our actions and the way we present our bodies, and that there not an innate gender within us that makes us act a certain way. If this is true then a cisgender actor can act out the ‘set of repeated acts’ and stylize their body with costume, and take on a transgender role just as they would take on charter traits from any other role.

Repeating gendered acts to experience what it like to be another gender is a good starting point for cisgender actors playing transgender characters but transgender people have had an entire lifetime of repeating these acts to inform and shape their gender. It would also seem that film and television do not want a transgender women character that could not, in some way, be read as a man.

Cisgender women playing transgender women in film often ends as a shock gag, with the men who have been lusting after them throughout the narrative reacting in disgust. Examples of this can be found Ace Venture (multiple people throw up after a transgender woman is stripped to her underwear in front of them, and her tucked penis can be seen through her underwear), Naked Gun 33 1/3 and The IT Crowd (after finding out the woman he has been dating is transgender, a character starts to cry and then has a physical fight with her, despite being very much in love with her beforehand). By casting cisgender men as transgender women the audience are always being ‘warned’ of the true sex of the actor, so as not to fall into the ‘trap’ of being attracted to a gender sex or gender they would not typically be.

Other arguments that transgender characters should be played by transgender actors relate less to artistic integrity and the quality of work being produced, but instead focuses on the positive effects it would have on transgender people. Laverne Cox is currently one of the most famous transgender actresses, also well known for her work as an LGBTQ activist. She plays Sofia in the television series Orange is the New Black, her story line showing many of the realties faced by transgender people, especially those in prison. Cox is the first openly transgender person to be nominated for an Emmy as well as the first to be on the cover of Time Magazine. She is a prominent face in the transgender community, as well as an inspiration to transgender people. Cox is producing a documentary about CeCe McDonald, a transgender woman in a men’s prison.


McDonald spoke about her excitement at Cox being cast in Orange is the New Black, ‘I was like really in awe that a trans woman is getting this opportunity to shine and to be put in a more positive light because usually roles of trans women are filled by cis men and also, roles that are portrayed by trans women are usually sex workers or drug addicts. So to know the story of Sophia and what she’s been through and to have it sound so familiar … to know that this beautiful strong woman who I look up to, finally got her chance in life ’.


Cox is only one actress and yet she has had a large impact on the transgender community, a community that desperately needs role models and representation. Paris Lees, a writer, and trans activist said on representation, ‘it’s looking at the matrix, the mix, where everything is happening and not seeing people like you and me … You look for people that are respected, people that are taken seriously, people that are a part of things, and that can be very isolating when you look for yourself and you’re not there.’


Statistics from a survey taken by Pace in 2014 reveal that 59% of transgender people under 26 had consider taking their lives in the last year. Having positive and visible transgender representation in media and theatre could contribute a great deal to helping young people feel less isolated, and having transgender people play these parts would provide them with inspiration and role models. Jeffrey Tambour recognized the importance of authentic transgender narratives, ‘lives are at stake, … the conversation needs to go forward, and their needs to be freedom.’


Big names in the film industry will always pull more audiences than little know transgender actors, with recent examples like Eddie Redmayne being cast in The Danish Girl as a transgender woman, after winning multiple awards for his portrayal of Steven Hawking in The Theory of Everything. Since 1988, fourteen out of twenty seven Oscars for best actor have been won by actors portraying characters that have ‘significant mental or physical barriers to what people would consider a normal life’. This has included autism, blindness, ALS and living with HIV.


Through exposure and greater education these subjects may have become more normalized to the general public and the curiosity factor has died down. So now writers turn to society’s new curiosities, transgender people. The exposure of transgender narratives is helpful to educate and promote sympathy from the audience. However, it is these stories that are giving cisgender men recognition and awards for transgender struggles that they have not experienced, whilst transgender people are have fewer acting roles available and little recognition.


The nature of the film industry means slow progress for transgender actors playing transgender roles. Laverne Cox commented ‘It’s about business and we are in … [a] Imperialist White Supremacist Capitalist Patriarchy, so that market forces can’t be dismissed when casting decisions are made.’ Currently transgender actors aren’t being considered for roles that could instead use big name cisgender actors. However, it is possible that the breaks transgender actors need will come from the theatre and not film. There is the freedom in theatre to have greater autonomy over creative choices, especially in fringe productions. Transgender roles should go to transgender people when possible, it is clear both the transgender community and the productions in question benefit from casting transgender individuals in transgender roles. The production gains greater authenticity and avoids tired or offensive character traits, whilst the transgender community gains representation and strong role models.

If casting a cisgender person in a transgender role, it is important to follow the example set by Transparent, by consulting transgender people and having transgender people involved in the production.




BBC News (2014) BBC[Online] Entertainments and Arts BBC. Available from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-26107011 [4/6/2014]


Bregar, B. (2014) ‘The Creator of ‘Transparent’ Talks Amazon, Family Secrets, and TV Sexism’, New Republic, [Online] Available from: http://www.newrepublic.com/article/116598/interview-jill-soloway-amazons-transparent [3/6/2014].


Couch, S. (2014) The Hollywood Reporter [Online] Available from: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/jared-leto-heckled-accused-trans-677290 URL address [3/6/2014]



Cracked. (2015) ‘Unspoken Stereotypes Movies Trick You Into Believing’, The Cracked Podcast. [podcast] Available from: http://www.cracked.com/podcast/seemingly-harmless-stereotypes-hollywood-cultivates/ [3/6/2014].



Entertainment Tonight (2014) Golden Globe Nominee Jeffrey Tambor on His ‘Transformative’ Role in ‘Transparent’

[online video] Available from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gtN1N6WffiI [5/6/2014].


Friess, S. (2014) ‘Don’t Applaud Jared Leto’s Transgender ‘Mammy’, TIME, [Online] Available from: time.com/10650/dont-applaud-jared-letos-transgender-mammy/ [5/6/2014].


GLAAD Glad.org [Online] Available from: full http://www.glaad.org/publications/victims-or-villains-examining-ten-years-transgender-images-television [4/6/2014].


Jefferson, C. (2011) ‘How I learned To Hate Transgender People’, Good, [Online] Available from: http://magazine.good.is/articles/how-i-learned-to-hate-transgender-people [4/6/2014].


Katz, E T. (2014) ‘Amy Landecker: Jill Soloway Cast Jeffrey Tambor In ‘Transparent’ Because He Resembles Her Father’ , The Huffington Post, [Online] Available from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/06/amy-landecker transparent_n_5941356.html [4/6/2014].

Kyriacou, A. (2014) ‘Review: ‘Transparent’ – the true transgender tipping point?’, Pink News, [Online] Available from: http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2014/09/25/review-transparent-the-true-transgender-tipping-point/ [5/6/2014].


Molinari, Ml. (2013) ‘Why Italy’s Media Hysteria Over The ‘Fake Blind’ Is Misplaced’, Equal Times, [Online] Available from: http://www.equaltimes.org/italys-media-hysteria-over-the-fake-blind-is-misplaced?lang=en#.VXNzumRVikq [3/6/2014].

Poniewozik, J. (2014) ‘Season Review: Transparent Is a Change for the Better’, TIME, [Online] Available from: time.com/3446282/season-review-transparent-is-a-change-for-the-better/ [4/6/2014].


Salih, S. (2006) ‘On Judith Butler and Performativity’. SEXUALITIES AND COMMUNICATION: 55 – 67


Stahler, K (2015) ‘Laverne Cox On The Casting Of Cisgender Actors in Transgender Roles: Why It Probably Won’t Change’, Bustle, [Online] Available from: http://www.bustle.com/articles/25344-laverne-cox-on-the-casting-of-cisgender-actors-in-transgender-roles-why-it-probably-wont-change [3./6/2014].


Strudwick, P. (2014) ‘Nearly half of young transgender people have attempted suicide – UK survey’, The Guardian, [Online] Available from: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/nov/19/young-transgender-suicide-attempts-survey [4/6/2014].

The Film Theorists (2015) Film Theory: Oscar Hacking pt. 2, How to Win Academy Awards for Best Actor and Actress, Film Theory.

[online video] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ygVVbi1ILwQ [4/6/2014].






Transgender Representation In Film And Television, UCLA’s Feminist Newsmagazine – Antoinette Georgy


Trans Actors, Producers, Writers and Advocates Weigh In On Trans Representation In TV And Film – GLAAD


10 Facts About TransFace, YouTube – Grishno


The Rayon Effect: What Cisgender Actors Bring To Transgender Characters – E Jessica Groothuis


Is hiring cisgender actors to play transgender roles just as bad as blackface?, Quora – Sophia Hudson


Should Trans Screen Roles Be Played By Trans Actors? The Guardian, – Juliet Jacques


9 Cisgender Actors Who Played Transgender Characters – Jessica Klein

Felicity Huffman Discusses Cisgender Actors Playing Transgender Roles, The Huffington Post – James Micheal Nichols

How Amazon’s Latest Pilot Could Reshape Public Understanding of Trans People, advocate.com – Parker Marie Molloy


21 Times Actors Who Aren’t Actually Transgender Have Played Trans Characters, Buzzfeed – Rafe Posey

Cisgender Males Playing Transgender For Oscar Bait Is Still A Thing, Pajiba – Kirsty Puchko


What Transgender Looks Like in Pop Culture, U.S News – Tierney Sneed


Very Short Stories

I’m practising writing some VERY short stories (about 13 words long). I might submit them for an anthology. I’m giving them titles here, but I’m not allowed to submit them with titles.

Lesbian Problems

'She’s not my friend, she’s my girlfriend. Back off.'


Filled with excitement from her picture I type ‘hi’.
Now we wait.

Sneak Preview

I ordered mussels. She saw my tongue in action. Second dates’ tomorrow.

Love Wins

Jonathan would have asked him regardless. But was relieved they could call it marriage.


I had things, you had things.
We have things.
Where’s my stuff gone?


I didn’t remember there being sex in this show when I wasn’t watching it with family.


I know you're sad. I won't tell anyone.



3 Ways Video Games Can Change Your Life

NOTE: This was written as university assignment, as a publication intended for cracked.com It was published on my blog so my tutor could access a version with easily working links.

Have you ever been told that you won’t get anywhere playing video games? That going out and doing some exercise would be better than running along a platformer, that you should spend some more time in the real world instead of the World of Warcraft? Well I have some good news for you, video games are becoming real or should I say what you do in video games has the potential to affect your real life. Let’s dive into why games work, what they do for us and how our lives are shaped by video games. Video Games Help Us Learn In 2013 Colorado, a little boy called Gryffin Saunders was in a car with his little brother, his Great Grandmother at the wheel. While driving along this busy road his Great Grandmother had a heart attack. Because this kid decided that being called Gryffin wasn’t awesome enough he took the wheel and drove the car full of his family members to safety at the side of the road. When the police arrived, they asked how he did it. He answered ‘Mario Kart’. Although this is an unlikely situation it’s an example of how we retain knowledge from the games we play. And if you have to take a few less driving lessons because you feel naturally comfortable at the wheel due to driving games your wallet with thank you. Games can also teach us valuable skills that don’t just come in handy during “code brown” inducing moments.

If only ...

If only …

Video games are the perfect way to teach people, mostly because through buying a video game and playing it the player has made a conscious choice to engage with that game. How many times in school did you ask ‘What’s the point?’ ‘When will I need this?’ ‘Why can’t you teach us how to …?’ When learning through video games this problem doesn’t arise since the player has chosen to spend their time this way. James Gee, a researcher who has written a lot about video games and learning, and still finds time to be a professor at The University of Wisconsin and author of ‘What Video Games Can Teach Us About Literacy and Learning’ says on this  ‘the beginning of learning is knowing who am I going to be, what am I going to get if I do this and learn this, games are very good at creating an identity … they give you an avatar … clear goals … and a clear sense of who you are going to be’.’ When playing video games, the player gets very involved. Have you ever played “Mario Kart” and tilted your body with the wheel, or jumped out of your seat while making a character jump? Yeah, that’s because your mind has got so involved in the game your body has as well, and this is the perfect state to be in for learning. Have you ever done something way too hard in real life and never tried again for fear of failure, or got way too bogged down with information and given up? Video game level design means the player solves problems in the right order of difficulty, being introduced to information as and when they need it. Imagine if the first level of “Portal” had both portals available on the gun, turrets all around you, gels falling on you and all while you can still hear the radio from your cell blasting? It seems kind of ridiculous, but as learners we are often treated this way, given too much information too quickly. As players we choose our difficultly level, how quickly we want to progress and are free to try and solve problems in any way that the game will allow. Imagine how much better school would be if it was tailor made for our interest, learning pace, and skill level.

I would have got all A’s

I would have got all A’s

So we have that sorted, you’re all up for learning and the way you’re being taught is tailored to you, so what can you learn (apart from how to save your family from a car accident like a bad ass)? The first thing Video games can teach is how to learn (I know this is sounding a bit Zen but stick with me).  In his book ‘Videogames’ James Newman explains how the act of playing games gets players used to learning and adapting to new tasks.  He asks us to think about how much time it takes us to learn how to use computer programs like Word or Excel (whatever the hell that’s for) and compares that to the time it takes to get going with a new video game. ‘Watch the player encountering a brand new game and, after an initial period of acclimatization, you will doubtless find a player performing a complex series of immensely precise and interactions with little apparent effort [and] minimal contemplation of the joypad … What is almost certain is that [the] controller will soon look like an extension of the player’s hand.’ Many gamers will play for hours and when they look at the clock have no idea they spent that long playing. This is because the gamer is in a state of ‘flow’, when each task progresses to the next with clear goals and is within the person’s capabilities they are motivated to keep going and get lost in the task. Because of this state we adapt to new situations games throw at us. Newman goes on to say by playing video games even developers of more ‘serious’ software could expand their horizons ‘from an examination of the interfaces of games like Super Mario Galaxy, which see players effortlessly negotiating movement in three dimensions while viewing the action upside down and with inverted gravity.’

It was with the help of the power stars that cern final discovered the higgs boson particle.

It was with the help of the power stars that cern final discovered the higgs boson particle.

Other specific examples of learning through games are text heavy games that require the player to read, possibly far more and at higher reading levels than they would if left to their own devices. Games like Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh have entire worlds and jargon of their own and require the player to pay attention to detail and work on strategy. Pokemon can even be thought of as a kid’s version of chess, the trainer has to think about the strengths of the opponent and use a strategy to respond to their moves in order to win. That’s actually a lot of hard work, but because it’s happening through play, we don’t tend to feel that it is. Games that require a lot of concentration can even help kids with ADHD concentrate. Gee says  “Kids diagnosed with ADHD because they can’t pay attention will play games for 9 straight hours on the computer. The game focuses attention in a way that school doesn’t.” So all these factors that make games a great learning tool meant that Grythis Saunders, who chose to play “Mario Kart” of his own free will and for extended periods of time could put his skills to work. Games can open up an avenue for those of us who don’t learn in conventional ways and help us change our lives for the better. Speaking of better … Video Games Can Help Us Make Better Choices Assuming you don’t have kids and you would like some, you’re probably not confident about being a parent when the time comes. The game “The Walking Dead” puts you in the role as a carer, you have to make big decisions that will affect someone else. This is like a simulator for caring for another person, except if you fuck up, you don’t have to pay for the years of therapy bills like you would in real life. What could be better than having a chance to show what a kind and moral person you can be through gaming? Being a complete ass hole according to Matthew Grizzard, assistant professor in the department of communication at the University of Buffalo.  Grizzard led a study called ‘Being Bad in a Video Game Can Make Us More Morally Sensitive’, in which the test subjects played a modified “Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis”. Some of the test subjects were asked to play as terrorists and then asked to write about a standard day in their lives. The test subjects who played as terrorists felt guiltier about any morally dubious actions described in their normal day than the control group. Grizzard believed that these reactions could lead to players exhibiting more pro-social behaviour  (being more empathetic and altruistic for those of us who don’t do science) .

The test subjects for the study found this job easier than their last.

The test subjects for the study found this job easier than their last.

Even games like “Grand Theft Auto” can teach us morality by putting the player in situations they would have to get into some serious trouble to experience in real life. James Gee says “Grand Theft Auto 3 does not exist to get off on shooting people … The game offers you a palette of choices, Players must confront moral dilemmas, develop social relationships, and solve challenging problems that might apply to real life. How compelling would a game be if you only had good choices?” So by trying to decide if you’re going to take the moral high ground (well, as high as you can get for GTA) or sink to the depths of depravity in a video game, your giving yourself a test run for when you have to make morally ambiguous decisions in your life. Hopefully those choices won’t involve if and how to torture someone. But for some people just being given meaningful choice can change their lives. A games developer visited a ‘lower income school’, described by his YouTube show as ‘the sort of school where students didn’t think of going to college and where pregnancy was something that just sort of happened’. He had planned on speaking to them about the scientific method, but as he watched them play “Mario” he realised the game was giving them a feeling of making meaningful choices. The group ended up discussing freedom of choice, that their choices mattered and that they did have a choice in how their lives played out. In an environment where the students were only thinking about the present, and saw their lives as written out for them, this was a really important message. autonomy If you look at the above, I’m sure you would prefer the options from the left column. Very often in our lives we don’t have opportunities to do those types of things and have to stick to a rigid way of working. One of the reasons games appeal to us so much is the sense of freedom they can give players. Games like Skyrim and World of Warcrack (sorry, craft CRAFT) give players a sense of freedom and choice but most importantly makes them feel their choices are meaningful and effect the environment around them. I’m sure you feel pretty good when you nail something in a video game using creative thinking, because you were given a choice in what method you would use to solve a problem. Sometimes in life we forget we have that freedom and for some people it’s important for them to see that they have a choice in the first place. Your Life Will Become a Game, Like It Or Not Earlier we talked about how games are an ideal learning environment because of levels of increasing difficulty, unlike life that can throw a load of hard stuff at you in any order that you are not ready to deal with. There are apps to try and change all that, they organise your life into manageable levels with rewards, and this is called Gamification. Gamification is taking the mechanics used in games and applying them to non-game activities like writing that paper you have been putting off or getting through your to do list. You can get apps that help you keep fit by running away from zombiesor turn your to do list into an RPGGamification has even been used for scientific research. Using the game Foldit, which gamifies designing proteins, players and scientist co-designed an enzyme that would not have been achieved through conventional computing methods and their work has been published as a scientific paper.

This is EA Calling, good news! We want to make your life into a game. The bad news, this is EA calling.

This is EA Calling, good news! We want to make your life into a game. The bad news, this is EA calling.

 There are three reasons why we play games (we already talked about the sense of freedom they can give) because yes, we do actually play games for deeper reasons than ‘because it’s fun’. These can be broken down into competence, autonomy and relatedness. Players who like playing games to for fill competence like the feeling they get from gaining XP, collecting achievements, or any kind of rewards given throughout the game. It’s a feeling of very obvious progression, that the player will eventually be rewarded. Autonomy would appeal to players who want freedom of choice, and to see their actions matter and affect the game world around them. Examples of good games that give players autonomy have very lose structure where players can establish themselves in the world and choose how they interact. People who enjoy social games that rely on others to help them play are enjoying a game for its relatedness. When playing games that rely on others to help you finish or need the players to work together to achieve a common goal, social interaction becomes a lot easier. People can instantly connect as they all have similar objectives and feel valued as part of a team. These different factors that keep us playing games are taken and used to make Gamification effective. The video above explains Superbetter, an app that gamifies your life and helps you improve in any area you choose. You decide what game you are playing by setting your own goals, you choose your achievements all which result in a level up once you have accomplished a bigger goal, and you use friends and social media to help. Gamification works because it uses all the aspects of why people like to play games to get people to complete whatever they have set for themselves. You might be thinking nothing can make you do the tasks you don’t want to do or you’re so lazy that you have actually considered doing this, that Gamification won’t be able to motivate you? I hate to break it to you but it probably already has.

‘OK we’ve tried salt, fat, rat shit, tears of small children, and the blood of an innocent. How can we make Mcdonald’s more addictive?’

‘OK we’ve tried salt, fat, rat shit, tears of small children, and the blood of an innocent. How can we make Mcdonald’s more addictive?’

Gamification is everywhere, and when I say everywhere I mean “marketing” … which is everywhere. Take for instance McDonald’s Monopoly. They have LITERALLY made buying lunch a game. You are rewarded for buying their food by being given collectable Monopoly board squares, and when you have a set of the same colour you are rewarded, like an achievement in video games. McDonald’s Monopoly also has an online version (because everything does) and with online gaming comes social media pages and apps, so we can share our progress with our friends. Gamifying McDonald’s works, so what? You don’t eat and McDonalds? But you play video games … I know you do because you’re reading this. Steam, for example, a computer gaming platform, uses Gamification in their last winter sale used cards and points as rewards for buying games, then split players into teams and rewarded the teams with the most points with give aways. Regardless whether you consider yourself a ‘gamer’ or not video games will work their way into your life, for better or for worse. _____________________________________________________________________________________ Rhisify is a creative arts student who spends more time learning about video games than playing them. You can read more of their writing here, and follow their thoughts on twitter.


Some song lyrics I have been working on

Sitting by my bedside table,

The answer seems to glow like a beacon.

I’ve lost all control

or maybe it’s been taken.

I know, I know I know.


Walking past my desk,

The answer seems to light up like a firework.

I didn’t plan on this.

I miss feeling like I’m a person.

I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know.


I don’t want to go, well maybe,

maybe just a little.


Abuse, threats and harassments, because of video games. Please Read.

I am very tired. And very sad.

Two women who’s content I very much enjoy have been targeted on mass in the last few days. Some terrible things have gone down in the video game industry, Anita Sarkeesian, a feminist video game critic, had to leave her home due to rape and death threats. Zoe Quinn, a game developer who made a game called ‘Depression Quest‘ about what it is like to experience depression is being discredited and ‘slut shamed’ all for things that did not actually happen. Look into there work and there games, they are talented women who don’t deserve this.

I’m going to link some articles as it is explained better than I could. I need to get this out there now while this is happening and we can use our voices and show support.

My Review of Depression Quest

Part 1

Part 2

Letter To A Young Male Gamer

Each New That Anita Sarkeesian Posts Is A Sign That The Bullies Are Losing

It is thought the threats to Sarkeesian may have been even more brutal currently as her most recent episode was noticed by people in the industry, including Joss Whedon. I have included her latest video.



A poem in which I consider going back on medication

Another sleepless night.

now is the time

for staying up late,

of thinking in rhymes.

of thinking of tunes

and picking up the guitar.

of looking down and seeing scars

I watch my self

a year ago ,

that girl is someone I hardly know.

To think a few months after

the video was made

I’d find a day when carrying on

was no way to go about things.

and that I would see the end so clearly

in my mind I wrote a will and sat and cried.

In that person

I see more life than there is in me now

I remember the prescriptions I tried out.

And I realise I have had my rebellious time,

of saying I don’t need chemical help,

that I’m in control of my mind.

But if thats who I was

so passionate and lively

when my world was dismantling around me.

And now everything is fixed and still,

while I ignore that i’m ill.

I need that again,

to go back to medical school.

I need the drugs to teach me

that i’m not all I can be

and with there help I can

I can go back to sleep.