Glitch as a Trans Representational Mode in Video Games

Gass, Arianna

Following recent work by transgender studies scholars that has questioned the relationship between queer theory and trans studies, this essay considers how glitch video games, which have previously been considered to be part of the “queer games movement,” use the glitch as a way of representing transgender life. I survey three glitch games, Problem Attic (2013, Liz Ryerson), Strawberry Cubes (2015, Loren Schmidt), and Anatomy (2016, Kitty Horrorshow)—each of which uses the glitch as an expressive visual aesthetic, remediating the analog artifacts of signal noise or error as a sonic and visual quality, as well as a game design principle. These games place an emphasis on the body as that which glitches, exploring the bad feelings of trans embodiment, including dissociation and dysphoria, as well as demonstrating how the glitched body can be both desired and transformative. In the final section, this essay considers how transgender artists and the ways their work foregrounds glitch as an operation of the body are integral not only to glitch art history, but also to video game development more widely, exploring the influence of glitch aesthetics and game design in Pony Island (2016), a glitch video game by cisgender designer, Daniel Mullins.