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Game of the Year 2019 #1: Disco Elysium

c/w: abuse

Someone’s been walking around in your dreams lately, looking for something. Tidying up, rearranging. Storing away all the unrealized dreams, putting old pains in boxes. The worst nightmares have settled down for a while. A spot of light on the bedroom door after the dark. The fluttering of eyelids in the spring sun. A thought that arises, only to disappear again. And yet there’s a pattern emerging…

What if you didn’t lose your memory? What if something in Martinaise came and stored it all away. For you to slowly open one box at a time. So you can *choose* which parts to keep. Keep almost none of it. Only the flowers on the windowsill. Only the distant sound of a radio. Lose all the actors, the dark shadows, leave only the still lifes, the blissful distant wash of waves. If everybody knew — you never did. She’ll be coming soon. That is all.

well if i had to pick one quote from Disco Elysium to encompasses how transition became a place of peace and growth instead of a painfully obligatory step to sever a part of me, it’d be this one. so what if it’s actually about the spectre of your ex-girlfriend haunting you from beyond [the breakup]? it’s 2021! you want the moon, too?

(“if everybody knew, you never did”??? like come on. SHE is coming soon?! 🙄💅that’s all i’m gonna say, okay.)

harry dubois is a heavyset bearded dude with a hair trigger pivot between avuncular intimacy and excoriating abuse–so basically, he reminds me of my dad.😌 so for all my trans friends who say  “don’t want to play a dude,” you don’t even know. he’s not just a dude, he’s one of those worst dudes. a sad-sack, substance-abuser-cum-regular abuser (oh and also he’s a cop). so like…. i get it. who cares if he’s slowly succumbing to 24 different anxieties-given-soul arguing in his head? he’s an asshole.

but i also know that most of my trans friends’ favorite game of all time is Planescape: Torment, and here we are again. one day the worst asshole in the world gets a soft reset and you’re at the helm for how he uses it.

so like……. that metaphor of opening boxes, of taking an active process in deciding what was a part of you……. that was very helpful, for me. a person with a varying sense of self, due to a childhood defense mechanism involving jettisoning whatever characteristics i sensed were currently putting me at risk. sorta makes it tough to discern the “real” from the “fake” of your self. something like that.

there’s that part in Disco Elysium where one of your inner monologues (Volition) takes you aside during a convo to inform you how the femme fatalé is just working all your other inner monologues. Drama, Logic, Authority. none of them can be trusted, they’re all under her spell. which is like…. okay, good to know. but also? why should I trust you, Volition? you’re usually kind of a prick. i mean not as much as Authority but jesus who could be.

though the “fuckload of conflicting voices” is something i’m sure everyone has to some degree or another, for me it is at its rawest in the ever-rotating decision to “come out.” to whom? when? what method? (in person? (in text? (well, do i wanna throw up from looking them in the eye or from waiting? (and did i factor in how to appropriately apologize for a delay of X months/years due to emotional intimidation based on the length of the friendship?))) and then, after that horrendous equation was resolved, how long after i told them i was trans would i also be obligated to let them know i was a fag (neverrrrr😇)? and how much longer after that to let them know i was not only a trans fag but also a slutty trans fag (never ever everrrrrrrrr👼👼👼)?

around these subjects, and countless others like them, i had augmented my anxiety to a knife point, and i knew just where to stab to bleed the pressure, how much data to provide another person to to keep myself sane, but not overexposed. because once you discover that “coming out” never really truly ends–not just among strangers, but even with friends–the yearning for this true revelation of the self that the idea of “coming out” paints is quickly overwhelmed by dawning reality of “exposure,” the hazy state of uncertainty around cis people, even the cis people that love you the most. which bleeds into your safety around trans people, somehow, even the trans people that love you the most. distrust of people close to me makes me feel magnetically vile–and therefore unworthy of love–and i can conjure a reason to distrust anyone about any thing so quickly they should make it into a reality tv show competition. does this sound familiar? 🤷‍♀️

Wild Pines, Feld, Coupris, Tricentennial, Villiers & La Salle… names of Revacholian indotribes spring into your head, set loose at the mention of *Wild Pines*. Royal monopolies, octopuses and swordfish, most of them gone now: YBP, Expander, Saint-Batiste, Brightest Star, LUM, Resplendent, East-Insulindic, Welter, and Elcassette… but isn’t one missing? Wait, no. There were only fourteen. Then why do you feel like there was a *fifteenth* indotribe?

maybe everyone feels the initial desire to use transition as a way to wholesale delete the past, not just the parts you didn’t like, not just the traumatic parts you can’t quite sort, but everything: bit by every single bit. Gone. it has to be. the only way to feel safe with a new body, a new name. because otherwise any single piece of data anyone has on some past version of you will crack the glass you’re  tiptoeing over. that big, yawning abyss that’s always visible, and always below you. that’s why no one who has ever known you before this single second–before the YOU of your most recent breath–can be trusted with this information, that is somehow new and fragile when you hold it in your hands to show it to them, even though the sensation it gives you is ancient enough that you have only ever felt it in your deep, deep marrow. so why can’t you explain it, then? aren’t you fluent in your own mind? don’t you know? haven’t you always?

and why would anyone believe you, if you admitted you didn’t?

Because there was. The fifteenth indotribe was comprised of eight kids from Faubourgh and North Jamrock, running from wild dogs in the Valley, hiding cents under rocks and stealing clothes off clotheslines, and sometimes even the copper wiring of phone lines. You may have been *one of them*. This must be a childhood memory. The fifteenth indotribe was *your* indotribe, set to rule Insulinde. The rest of the kids are dead now. Car accidents and drug overdoses. Only you remain.

twice this year i’ve burst into tears scrolling through twitter DMs because a person on the other end of one of them was dead. this is the life we live in, this world that hates and kills us all. maybe it’s as simple as that. murdering your past, coping with a rapidly dying present, and feeling like it’s totally arbitrary. that the reasons that made it them and not me were just dice rolls. that this body of mine is meat that just keeps existing, with disturbingly little control on my part besides what i can inflict with drugs, hormones, a tattoo needle.

you can weigh this and Planescape in either hand and be like “whatever whatever” about them, because they are both about amnesiacs who have done things that disappoint, disgust, or embarrass, their present selves. but Disco Elysium’s manic see-sawing from grueling suicidal ideation to fruity flights of fancy makes me feel seen, makes me feel held.

maybe i’m too good at compartmentalization–don’t get mad at me on twitter if i am, i have daddy issues😅i agree you’re correct in advance–but i can’t not see the part of harry dubois that is this flickering match flame that any one of us is. fragile and lonely and in the dark, in a world that does not exist to nourish him or anyone else.

the harry dubois who emerges from your memory wasn’t just a shitty bad guy. over the course of the game, harry’s seemingly psychic ability to detect other lost souls floating out there in the world, is revealed to be rooted in his past. he’s not just a cop, he’s a searcher, he’s got an instant rapport with kids because he used to be a PE teacher. if you’ve gotta play an asshole, at least he’s got layers?

i get hung up on the cop thing like everyone else. but at least they’re “community-funded militia with varying local authority whose guns are tiny muskets that can only shoot one bullet at a time” cops. that’s like….. at least different. cools my Cop Stuff brain enough to look past it, to the guy who woke up one day remembering only all the worst things that he ever did, because that is how our brains are wired to keep us safe, but who, if you like, can slowly, slowly, slowly let himself remember the people he helped, and the people who helped him.

the world hurts us all, so so bad. it carves away so deeply, and for so long before you even start to feel it through the numb. finding ways to make yourself hurt in ways the world never could is a way of maintaining control. i’ll stick to my safe wounds, thank you very much, rather to inducting yet more people into this this raw nerve direct to the center of my heart. i will partition my life with the precision of a time table, if i have to. i will become the barest minimum version of myself around anyone who is not 100% safe. because i was so convinced everybody knew, even as  i never fucking did. 

it’s a very powerful feeling, to feel that anger and loss, on behalf of a past version of yourself. like painting your nails, getting an undershave, getting shoved in the shoulder over and over by the dykey bar manager at my job when i was 18 despite being a full foot taller than her, going on hormones, wearing certain kinds of clothing in front of straight men without being convinced they were going to kick the shit out of me, wearing that same clothing around trans femmes without being convinced they were gonna revoke my trans card, it is one of the innumerable steps of transition that i could possibly quantify how much they will mean to me until i did them.

a shorter way to phrase this: the anxieties stay pretty much the same, but NOW the titties are poppin.😏💅

Your face looks like it’s 58 and your body feels like it’s 60. Your mind feels like it’s lived for one day or a hundred. Both longer than they ought to be, the day and the century…. But for how long, then, has this thing attached to your sentience walked the planet’s crust? Time to start racking those brains of yours, Elder One. When and where were you born?

this is the body you’re in. it’s bad. this is the brain you have. it’s very bad. and this is the society we live in, which is predicated on the idea that the death of the poor is necessary, like venting gas to keep a landfill from exploding, and even the powerful people “on your side” are reprehensible toadies. a certain degree of pessimism may, in fact, be warranted. and i guess gender stirs a similar emotion in me as the iraq war, which is probably why Disco Elysium’s stinky melange of garbage, gross, and hope among the hopeless pierces all the way through to my back.

what an inevitably lonely world we live in. how can you not cry? the game is so so so rigged, and we have already lost, and yet…. like…….. we’re here anyway, so we might as well be here for each other. that sort of thing………………….

You were born in the year ‘07, in the last year of the Commune of Revachol, right before it fell. In the Old Military Hospital, on the ground floor where people usually came to die, during a snowstorm. The Revolution had about one year left to go and the fires were still burning bright. There were explosions in the blizzard. This was 44 years ago. You are 44 years old. The bloating might never leave your face, but beneath it — you still have some years. You still have some hope.








Side-note for posterity: haha can’t wait for this game to come out again in March so it can be my GOTY 2021 (not to be confused with GOTY 2020, which will probably start in March (of this year (2021)) love u miss u byeeeeeeeeeee😽💗




my most underrated sidequest moment is when you keep calling back to the base about the serial number on the dude’s boots and eventually she gets back to you and says the PMC the boots belong to has rebranded so many times she can’t even fucking find the end of the chain? this just like…. total abdication of government responsibility towards even military oversight is like…. that’s us!! 🙀that’s OUR world!! omg!?

second favorite (probably not that under rated): Raphael Ambrosius Costeau: The Final Decision

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