Designer Anna Anthropy—whose games like dys4ia and Lesbian Spider-Queens of Mars look at sexuality outside the normative way ordinarily found in games—has a hot-off-the-presses new book; and as usual, the subject is something near and dear to her heart.
ZZT the book, courtesy the retro game-focused imprint Boss Fight Books, is an exegesis of ZZT the game, a classic game creation tool for DOS that Anna cut her game-designing teeth on. But knowing Anthropy, don’t expect this to be a straightforward technical account of how she created her first games, but an untidy search for self-identity through games rules and code.
Great writing about games is a thing we’re obviously a fan of here at Kill Screen, so you might want to add this one to your summer reading list.
ZZT limited me in the right ways. It also opened up to me in the right ways. ZZT-OOP is capable of so many things way beyond what its creator ever envisioned, complicated machines comprised of systems of Objects all talking to each other, but it was also really well-suited for the simple stories I was trying to tell. Move a thing around a screen, display a message, ask the player a question. ZZT was the perfect theater to act out my confused childhood fantasies, my flailing attempts at self-identity and exploration. Operas where characters of different genders were captured and recaptured, tortured, held, and gratified.
Out of my confusion and dysphoria I was building worlds that moved and spoke, worlds that responded to my touch.