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Author Interview: anna anthropy
2015-10-08 · by Devi Acharya
anna anthropy is a 30-year-old teen witch. She is a play designer, author of Rise of the Videogame Zinesters and ZZT, and maintains the game history archive ANNARCHIVE.COM. She lives in Oakland, California with her familiar, a black cat named Encyclopedia Frown.
This interview was conducted by email in September 2015.
Devi Acharya: To begin, tell me a bit about yourself—who you are, where you’re from, a strange confession?
anna anthropy: hi! my name is anna. i’m from the bronx, new york. i grew up in a neighborhood where people hung out on their front stoops and there was a place on every street corner that’d sell you a slice of pizza bigger than your head. most of those places are still open, if not under the names i originally knew them by.
currently, i live in oakland, california. but probably not for much longer. everyone i know here is packing up and leaving. everyone’s too burnt out trying to eke out a living in a place that gets more expensive by the day, where—i know i’m not alone in this—it’s hard to really feel community any more. i was here before most of the people i’ve grown close to. now i’m afraid of being here after they’re gone. no one’s really close to each other here any more.
i’m consistently happy with how much of working with twine is just writing, and not struggling with code. i resisted doing a lot of technical stuff in my interactive fiction for a very long time. i’ve finally started doing it, and i find myself grumbling each time i have to enclose something in brackets. if twine were even a spoonful more complicated, i would probably just write paper “choose your own adventure” books.
the thing i always like to say is that there came a time when staying silent about my experiences became scarier, more painful, than speaking them aloud. but i think there’s also a thing where i’m careful about how autobiographical i’ll actually let a game be. metaphor is a way of protecting myself. i never actually say “trans woman” in witches & wardrobes, for example. i say “witch.” i say “plucking hairs from warts” instead of “shaving my face every morning.” i think i’m wary of casting myself as a victim. it’s too easy, and i’m tired of people using my games to make themselves feel like they’re good people for sitting and listening to me.
i mean, i say this having just released “ohmygod are you alright?,” my most blatantly autobiographical game so far. i guess there’s just a point where you’re so hurt and so angry that you can no longer keep up the pretense that the tiny pixel girl bobbing around the screen isn’t just you. i try to make things that will outlast my moments of pain, but the pain got too big, and here were all these people sitting around and talking about what great listeners they were. i wanted to really be heard for once.
Devi: In the same vein, what has the reader response to your work been like?
anna: they don’t like the right games! my biggest seller—the game everyone emails me asking if they can exhibit—is still this game about hormone replacement therapy i made four years ago. i would disown it if it didn’t provide such a big chunk of my income. i made the exhibition fee $200 so people would stop emailing me.
the projects i’m proudest of are weird interactive fiction pieces no one else seems to care about. star court has almost 30,000 words—the length of some of my books—but you only see a fraction of the game in any single playthrough. i spent weeks on the mystery of the missing mythics—this weird, very silly adventure game i built around this “image search madlibs” idea. the idea is that the game will give you a phrase—”weird beard,” for example—and you image search it. pick your favorite image from the results, tell it to the game, and the game will spring it on you at some point in the story. i’m really proud of how i used many of the images.
but every time i go out, i have to deliberate over what i feel like i can get away with. what ways will this outfit invite strangers to question my womanhood? what failings of my trans body to look cis will this outfit emphasize? do i have the self-confidence today to weather the judgement (and catcalls, and harassment) of strangers? maybe if i wear tights i won’t have to worry about people looking at my legs. maybe i can get away with wearing pants and a simple top today.
anna: well, if you’re reading this and it’s october, then i just put my kid detective halloween adventure game, “a very very VERY scary house,” on sale at a big discount. it’s free! you can find it on my itch.io page.
anna: here are some links:
sorrynotsorry.biz is the home for all my tabletop projects. most recently: a two-player role-playing game where a dungeon janitor and their apprentice argue over who’s going to clean up the minotaur poop. it’s also where you can get “be witching,” a game about witch fashion that might be appealing if you like “witches & wardrobes.” actually, “witches & wardrobes” was originally going to be the name of that game, but the game changed to the point where that name no longer really made sense.
patreon.com/queenofspace is where you can support all the free games i make and get updates on all the new stuff i turn out. i post a lot of previews and sneak peeks that are patron-only; if you want to play my new games before anyone else, this is the place to be.
wizardofvore.itch.io is my storefront. you can get many of my tabletop and digital games there, including several pieces of interactive fiction.
finally, annarchive.com isn’t really about my own work, but i want to mention it anyway. it’s where i host all the scans i do of documents i think are important to games and technology history. my most recent additions are martin amis’ invasion of the space invaders and the 1993 book the joy of cybersex. possibly by the time you read this, i will have started scanning and posting issues of lisa palac’s future sex magazine, one of the first ongoing attempts to chronicle the world at the intersection of sex and technology.