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A 17-year-old designed a painfully relatable video game about what it’s like to have dinner with transphobic family

Emma Powys Maurice July 6, 2020
A young person looks into the distance

A 17-year-old has made a video game about having dinner with transphobic family members. (The Gender Spectrum Collection)

A 17-year-old game designer has perfectly encapsulated the awkwardness of enduring familial transphobia in an award-nominated computer game, Family Dinner.

Tom Hosford from Camberley was named a finalist in the Game Making Award: 15-20 years old category of the BAFTA 2020 Young Game Designers competition.

The innovative choose-your-own answer game simulates the experience of a closeted trans teenager at a family dinner, who is forced to listen as his relatives share their bigoted opinions.

“You play as Toby, who navigates the minefield that is talking to these family members,” Hosford told BAFTA.

“This minefield is often overlooked by non-LGBT people, and I wanted to highlight how something that appears so trivial (or even boring) for them can be seriously upsetting and stressful for LGBT (especially closeted) people.”

It begins with Toby’s mother entering his room to tell him the extended family will be arriving in thirty minutes — and she’s got a dress ready for him to wear.

“You’re a grown woman,” his mother says. “Time to start acting like one.”

Horsford’s game switches between a conversation and text-message format, to give it the “flow” of a normal teenage life.

The game is a choose-your-own-answer conversation simulator. (Family Dinner)

“Each answer you give in the game leads to different dialogue responses, with everything having an impact — meaning you really have to be careful what you say (or to continue the minefield metaphor, where you step),” Hosford said.

Toby interjects with his thoughts and feelings throughout the game, which can influence the answers available to pick, while online conversations with his friend Jack provide the opportunity to mull over his situation.

After the game’s positive reception, Hosford is now keen to expand concept further.

“There are still stories and ideas I want to convey with the game’s characters, and whether that’s through further development or another game entirely, I’m not sure,” they said.

“Some features which expanded on the game’s world were cut, such as a faux-social-network, in order to keep the game focused (to keep its message more direct).”

Family Dinner is now available to play on Itch.io.

More: Bafta, gaming industry

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