So, let’s talk about Jam For Leelah. Leelah Alcorn was a 17 year old transgender girl who took her life on December 27th 2014 after writing a chilling suicide note and publishing it on her personal Tumblr page. The note detailed how her parents had pulled her out of school and forced her to attend conversion therapy in an attempt to change her gender identity, which she had been struggling with for over a decade. Conversion therapy, an attempt at brainwashing used to try to change gender identity or sexuality has been acknowledged to cause distress to those subjected to it, and is often forced on transgender youth by unsupportive parents. It is considered by many a form of child abuse that has managed to stay legal across most of the United States, even in 2015.

JamForLeelah is a month long trans positive game jam to raise awareness on LGBTIQ issues, specifically trans youth issues and Leelah’s Law as well as an attempt to raise money for trans specific charities such as the Transgender Law Center,Camp Aranu’tiq, and the Sylvia Rivera Law Project. Initially money was to be raised for the Transgender Human Rights Institute, but they graciously recommended funds be passed to other trans specific charities.

Leelah expressed an intense interest in not only gaming, but game development as well. She made this clear on both her Tumblr and Reddit accounts, so an indie game jam felt like a possible way to raise awareness for Leelah’s plea for social change, in a method she may not have only approved of, but also taken part in.

So, with all that in mind, I felt a certain degree of responsibility that if I was going to finaly take part in a game jam, that I should make it this one. As a trans woman, I really believe that a game jam dedicated to raising awareness of Trans issues, raising money for trans charities and remembering a life tragically cut short is as good a time as any to get a team together and make a game.

Right, so what am I working on for this month long game jam? I’m taking a Twine game I drafted half of back in 2012, redrafting it, fleshing out the currently empty second half of the game and turning it into a visual novel made in Ren’py.

The current team working on the game  includes myself, as well as Alex Roberts (@lexicobob) and Twitter user @8BitGoggles. I’m going to be focusing on the redrafting and polishing the female narrative branch and co-ordinating the project. @8BitGoggles is going to be focusing on taking the existing Twine narrative, adapting it for the male branch and rewriting portions to better fit that half of the narrative. Alex is going to be focusing on taking the Twine and transferring the narrative over to Ren’Py. We’re still in need of an artist for the project, with finding one we all like fairly high on our current to do list.

I’m going to attempt to post regular dev blogs throughout this process so you can see how the game is coming along. As of today I’ve hastily gender flipped the female branch, located issues where direct gender flipping won’t work well and forwarded the Twine map to @8BitGoggles. Here’s the current Twine map of the game.

Twine Day 1

Thanks for reading, look for more updates as this month goes on.

About The Author

Founding Member

Laura’s gaming journey began in the 90′s when she was given a SNES by her older brother with Mario paint. From that day video games were all she thought about day or night, be it playing them, designing them, discussing them or writing about them. Why does she want to write about indie games? Because indie devs are awesome and she wants to be their new best friend by telling them how terrible their games are. That’s how it works right? Twitter: @LauraKBuzz Email: Laurak@indiehaven.com

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  • mutatedwombat

    An interesting project and a worthy cause. I look forward to seeing the result.

  • I hate to say it but I feel like a lot of LGBTQ people wish they were back in the 90s the last time it really did feel like everyone was arrayed against you, but the world has changed, at least it has in much of the west. The real problem today is just pockets of extreme religious fundamentalism, which is a whole other issue, and one that isn’t likely to draw a GameJam or anything like that anytime soon.

    But I do think shallowness is the new racism. A lot of us, especially young people, are really genuinely not racist. But we are all pretty shallow, and so I think we really should try to tackle shallowness with the same tools that have been applied to racism successfully over the decades. Especially for transgender people shallowness can hit pretty hard. It doesn’t have anything to do except for with the numbers. What used to make you out to be gay now just makes you look like you are not stuck in the 20th century. But trans people still have more tells and are an even smaller minority. If people were just not shallow, 90% of the nonsense trans people still deal with would go away.

    I think trans people will have a pretty easy time going mainstream from here because they represent an apotheosis of science. The fact that (if we want) WE can change gender with technology, I mean what in human terms can actually top that? What’s more interesting to me though is getting away from gender binary and other kinds of rigid classifications and dress codes altogether.

  • After skimming the game, it seems pretty impersonal and generic to register as real literature. Just an idea, but I think an interesting way to communicate what it’s like to feel like everything about you is wrong to a lot of people is to liken it to having to wear dumpy clothes that don’t suit you, or be forced to wear a really drab work dress code day in and day out.

    Look at the “Asch conformity experiment” and you get the idea that a lot of people probably don’t care how they present themselves. But for the people who do care, the people who aren’t in line with the results of that experiment, they can probably be reached. When you have a sense of identity and you don’t have clothes that are in sync with your identity, I know that I for one would rather be naked! Literally. When my clothes wear out and have to be replaced it’s a mad dash to find something that works. Something I can look at in the mirror and nod my head in agreement that yes this is me. It becomes priority number one for that moment. And in the dreadful 90s and early 00s a real challenge. Thrift stores were a lifeline.

    But what if the problem is deeper than just your clothes? Just framing it like that might to connect to a lot of people on an intimate level.