A few months ago, I introduced a new videogame anthology series I’m working on called Squinky and the Squinkettes present: SECOND PUBERTY. The second game in the series, called “hold in your farts or die”, is now finished – you can play it now if you support my Patreon, or check out this 20-second preview:
“hold in your farts or die” is a game about what it’s like to be autistic, trans, queer, racialized, and/or any other marginalized identity where being your whole self makes other people upset with you for reasons you don’t understand, so you have to “mask” or “pass” just to coexist with them. Those of you who have been following queer games for a while may recognize some similarities with Lim1 – indeed, it wouldn’t be completely inaccurate to suggest that “hold in your farts or die” is my personal take on it.
I began working on this game during yet another long Montreal winter, a time when my seasonal depression tends to kick in, causing me to spend long stretches of time never leaving my apartment and turning even more solitary and introspective than usual. Of course, as soon as the first signs of spring showed up and I started to get all excited about going out more and feeling somewhat human again, this whole pandemic situation happened and is still happening – now, everyone has to stay home and/or avoid other people as much as possible.
Thinking about social distancing when you’ve already lived a life feeling distanced from others, in various ways, is… well, I can’t even put my feelings into words. So instead, I threw myself into finishing this game, where you continuously fart these rainbow-coloured clouds that bother other people so much that they chase after you and punish you. You can hold in your farts, but it comes at a damaging personal cost. The obvious message, if we are to believe everyone who says things like “just be yourself!” and other similar platitudes, is that you ought to be free to fart as much as you damn well please, but what if people have perfectly good reasons for not wanting to smell your farts? What if holding them in, even though it hurts, is the only thing you can actually, realistically do, given the situation that you’re in?
To be clear, I’m not so much saying that being autistic/trans/etc. is the same thing as carrying a contagious and potentially lethal virus, so much as expressing how the ways we are being asked to behave in the face of the latter can exacerbate trauma experienced from the former. When going out and having a social life is something you’ve had to work very hard to learn how to do, to be asked to stay home and be alone, the thing you’ve always found the easiest, is incredibly weird, especially when you read so many other people complaining that a life spent like yours makes them feel crazy. When you finally transition and actually like your body enough to feel present in it, and then are forced back into a situation where you can’t really interact with anyone as a corporeal entity anymore, causing you to fall back on behavioural patterns from back when you had to dissociate to cope with the dysphoria, it’s even weirder.
I feel fortunate and privileged that I’m still able to make games and art at a time like this. I’m not one of those people who thinks everyone ought to be using quarantine to write their version of King Lear or anything like that, but I’ve been making games ever since I was a scared, lonely teenager going through first puberty, and it gives me an anchor to hold onto as much now as it did back then. I’m not doing it for capitalism, or even for social capital; I’m doing it to save myself. But if other people happen to get something out of it too, even better.