“Your look doesn’t match your sound.”
From its opening line, The Artful Escape sets its sights on being a allegory for the transgender experience. Young Francis Vendetti has a mountain of familial and community expectations, the weight of which seems inescapable to him. His world is drab and his fate is written… until a colourfully dressed and temerarious Violetta enters his life.
She not-so-gently pushes Francis from the nest, encouraging him to embrace his flamboyance despite the pressure he feels from his family. “Folks think they know who I am,” laments Francis. “Have you considered becoming someone else entirely?” prompts Violetta. Francis does much more than consider.
The subsequent hours of gameplay see Francis embark on an epic and psychedelic journey of self-discovery and self-actualisation. With each step he takes, he becomes more gloriously himself. New clothes? Check. New attitude? Check. New name? Check!
When first asked his name after having decided to become himself, Francis weighs three possible answers:
a) “It’s complicated.”
b) “It haunts me…”
c) “Is something I don’t want to take with me.”
When prompted to type a new name for our protagonist, the player is also given the choice of a prefix adjective. The game acknowledges that a name is not just a name, it is a reinvention.
This tale confronts the fear, uncertainty, joy, empowerment, failure, triumph, and peace that come with fundamentally redefining yourself in the eyes of everyone you know… including yourself. The Artful Escape pulled from my genderqueer self many tears of commiseration and of joy – and it did it all through subtext.