This article was featured in our 2023 May issue. Check out more articles and interviews in the full issue.
CW: mention of suicidal ideation, violence, sexual assault
We are excited to present interviews with both Taylor McCue, creator of the powerful He Fucked The Girl Out Of Me, and Fuglekongerige, who translates and introduces indie games in Japanese. HFTGOOM is a semi-autobiographical GB Studio title exploring the trauma of a trans sex worker. We asked Taylor about making HFTGOOM, and Fuglekongerige about translating it into Japanese.
The Japanese version of this article is here.
Interview with Taylor McCue
Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Taylor McCue.
People think from my game that I am a soft delicate mentally ill baby but I’m actually a tall and very awkward woman.
I like to eat spicy foods but I hate hot weather.
How did you get started making games?
I had vaginoplasty and it went poorly. I saw my own flesh, fat, and bone. I had mysterious holes for micturition that would heal and form spontaneously as my body tried to form a functional urinary system.
The pain was so severe I thought I was going to die.
When you have a close encounter with your own potential death, you see your own life differently.
I regretted dying without making some games such as “He Fucked The Girl Out of Me.”
I felt I’d wasted my life and if I survived I promised myself I’d make those games.
As I got better I started to make games and I kept trying no matter how pathetic my early attempts were.
What does your general process for game development look like?
I have two games, maybe three games, that I absolutely had to make before I died.
Of course you don’t just make your dream game the moment you start unless you are extremely talented or brave. The first thing I ask is basically will this bring me closer to being able to make those games.
After that I mostly just draft the smallest version of the game I can play and see if it sucks or not. If it doesn’t suck, eventually I commit to just expanding it slowly and then finishing it no matter what.
I play through the entire game from start to finish each before I begin working on it or make a single change. It forces me to cut out the frustrating fat from the game and when I can no longer stand it, I release the game.
What are some of your favorite games and game genres? What do you find most appealing about them?
Some of my favorite games are:
Urban Dead (2005) by Kevan Davis: Imagine if George Romero and Animal Crossing had a baby and it was a video game. That’s what this game basically amounts to being. You can read about my experience here.
VA-11 Hall-A (2016) by Sukeban Games: This game had a sex worker character and her whole sex work thing was treated as more like a fun game. I hated the character and yet at the same time I couldn’t hate her because she was loved by everyone and was never shamed for it. It helped me realize that I wanted to explain sex work from my perspective. I hope one day I can make a game that feels as fun as this one.
Open Sorcery (2016) by Abigail Corfman: This was my first Twine game that I can super remember as being a Twine game. When I played it I kept thinking “oooohhhhh I want to make games too!!!” and I got into Twine as a result of this game. I wouldn’t be making games today without this game.
Nightmare Temptation Academy (2019) by Fellatia G: I had so much shame that I was afraid to be open about what really bothered me. This game gave zero fucks what others thought of it and the developer paid for it by getting massively harassed. Despite that it gave me the courage to be open about my own things and I will always be grateful to Fellatia G for that. This game profoundly changed my life.
Madotsuki’s Closet (2021) by Kate Bagenzo: I couldn’t figure out how to write about trauma because trauma is something that has happened in the past. Games are all about choice and avoiding bad outcomes. This game showed me how to write about the past and painful things while still being captivating. It inspired the core mechanics of HFTGOOM and is a beautiful unappreciated gem.
Please tell us about HFTGOOM.
I had trauma, I still feel an agonizing feeling in my gut typing this out but uhhh it was about sex work. Talking to people individually about it just isn’t really viable. The conversation leaves me feeling like I’ll throw up or crying.
Even if I tell someone, what about the next person, or the one after that?
By having a machine have that conversation for me, I can explain myself once with all the agony that comes with it and then never technically have to do it again or something. That’s what HFTGOOM basically is, it’s a machine to help transfer that experience to the player a bit so they can understand me and hopefully accept me.
What was your greatest influence when making HFTGOOM?
I think my greatest influence when making the game was shame. Shame was making me suicidal. Spending every day suicidal is an agonizing way to live.
I wanted that shame to stop.
The way to stop shame is doing the opposite of what it drives you to do, which is hide away.
By having my game out there it meant I could never hide in shame again and that meant freedom from those painful feelings. That’s what influenced me to make the game.
What was the most challenging part of making HFTGOOM?
The reality is most people don’t like to feel like shit. When our feelings decide to try to get in touch with us we tend to want to lock them out with literally anything else. That meant facing my feelings made me want to just flee into distractions.
The problem is the reason feelings suck is they make you fucked up. Nightmares and losing sleep or just the reality that most people become useless while sobbing, which makes doing art or coding really difficult.
I basically had to keep switching to increasingly simpler engines because I couldn’t keep my shit together enough to do complex game development stuff.
Why did you make this as an adventure game as opposed to a comic or novel? What are some things that you could express better as a game?
I am not a good person. I wanted people to understand me, not pity me.
If I had passively just stated the facts, people would have been an observer not a participant. Though it is likely some would have understood me, the reality is that more people would have simply pitied me.
To get people to understand me I had to place them in situations where they would be forced to identify. I don’t want to spoil my own game so I will try to be careful.
One example of this design was the scene in the bar. Someone asks the player if she is a hooker.
In that situation I turned over the conversation to the player where they had to deal with those awkward feelings.
The game was calling the player a hooker which is something that could only be done in that medium. Otherwise people would have simply watched a woman being called a hooker and been able to detach from it.
The shopping experience in 7-11 could only be done in a game.
Tiny details that were important to me like the vending machine or the failing restaurant could only be done through the medium of games. Novels could have included the computer from the past as a series of footnotes but it would have been clunkier. The computer from the past would not have been viable in comic form.
As a whole, I needed to use games as a medium to string together smaller bits of both comic and novel with game mechanics to create something that allows players to go from passive observers to people able to identify.
Without that I would have had no chance of obtaining my dream of being understood as a person.
What kind of person do you hope will play HFTGOOM, and what do you hope they will take away from the experience?
I made this game to get over a lot of shame that I had. Part of getting over shame means that you don’t really hope for a certain reaction, rather you accept how people react.
So I have no hopes for them to take anything away from the experience, instead I hope that I will be able to accept their reactions and feelings both positive and negative.
What has the response been like so far, and how do you feel about it?
I’m not sure I have the full energy to answer this question.
I’ve had good experiences and bad experiences as a result of my game.
Some responses have been horrifyingly negative, others have been positive.
The scale of it is something I was not prepared for.
Imagine if you have 1% of people who if they played your game would bake you a cookie and mail it to you. Then imagine 100k people played your game and you got sent as a result one thousand cookies.
If you ate that many cookies you’d lose all your teeth and get very sick and be in a ton of pain. You wouldn’t be the same person after all those cookies.
An overwhelmingly huge amount of good or bad things still is overwhelming.
Can you tell us about any other games you worked on in the past?
Oh god, I’ve made so many shitty games.
Since it is unlikely there will ever be another resource in Japanese on my games I will give a brief summary of them.
“Hazel Series”: My earliest games, I wanted to create my own ultra-cringe set of games. This was to primarily get me to the point that I could write anything without flinching. They were made for a thing called OCTs which are a deviantArt tradition known as Original Character Tournaments.
The primary goal of it was that you make art, two people go in, one walks away as a winner until only one artist remains. It’s a grueling schedule and not realistic for a game. I rapidly developed art skills and writing skills through repeated failures.
The true deepest value of it is that the only thing that matters is if you are entertaining. That means that you can get your metaphorical ass handed to you by like 12-year-olds who have been drawing since they were 3 or something. You let go of your ego and learn to just be an artist.
The Hazel series sucks and most people who like my stuff hardcore spend 2 minutes on these and then recoil in horror and never read them again. I wanted to infuse my art with deviantArt DNA and aesthetics and I accomplished that.
“Saving You From Yourself”: This is a game where you play as a therapist and decide if a girl is really transgender. Of course by denying her hormones she goes to increasingly desperate methods to be able to transition. Continually denying her destroys her, which left players enraged at me for making them feel bad. It was my first serious game attempt.
“Do I Pass?”: In this game you play as a transgender woman who wonders if she passes or if people are just being polite. In her desperation she rips her own soul out of her body so that she can become a ghost and observe what people really think of her. In the end, ultimately she finds people have their own concerns and problems and don’t really care about her that much.
She learns she doesn’t pass 100% of the time but that she also doesn’t not pass 100% of the time either. She decides to transition for her own sake.
“My Executioner and I”: Failed game project about a suicidal girl who has an AI designed to care for it. It overreacts to every threat that sets off her suicidal feelings. I’m planning on returning to it but I want to do another game first. This one just got to be emotionally too much after HFTGOOM.
Can you tell us about anything you are currently working on?
My current game is code-named “Project Fancy” and unlike “My Executioner and I,” I’m not going to announce it half-baked before it’s ready to go out the door. “Do I Pass?” was one small section of this game as a trial at making it.
The primary question I am exploring is, how do you live in a world that hates you so intensely for being queer without turning into someone filled with hate. When the world fucks you, rapes you, and violates you, how do you manage to stay kind? Can you still love anyone or be a better person?
Plotwise it is about the protagonist trying to prevent a gender apocalypse from killing all cisgender people. It is up to the player to save cisgenderkind even if ultimately cisgenderkind will never show her the same mercy.
Do you have any messages for your players?
The greatest happiness for me is to be understood as a human being and have my games played.
The second greatest happiness for me is to live in safety and comfort shielded from the horrors of being homeless. I hope that you can support me on my journey to having security and stability and being a game developer.
Thank you for playing my games and reading this interview, you give my life meaning and purpose.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us!
Interview with Fuglekongerige
Translated by Renkon
Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
Hello. Under the name Tori no Okoku (Fuglekongerige), I sometimes translate and introduce games in Japanese.
How did you get started translating games?
It all started in 2020 when I bought the Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality on itch.io. There were many different kinds of games that I had never experienced before. One genre that I hadn't touched before was self-made visual novels. While looking through various titles, I played Dungeons & Lesbians by Noeybodys. Overall I really liked the queer themes and gentle story, but (obviously) it was only available in English. I was a little interested in translating it into Japanese from the start, so I did a little research and found that it was entirely possible. (The fact that the game was made in Ren'Py was a big factor.) I dug around the Internet for information, and was finally able to get in touch with the developer and publish my translation. I was so happy that the developer liked my translation, and since then I have been translating games, although not very frequently.
Can you tell us about some of your favorite games or genres?
It's hard to choose a favorite game, but when I was a child, the game I played a ton of was SaGa Frontier, and it left a huge impact on me. I loved to play as Blue. My favorite genre is of course visual novels, and adventure games in general. I especially like the ones with branching paths, and point-and-click titles. I also like simulation games (Dwarf Fortress, RimWorld, SimuTrans, etc.) and end up playing them for an unhealthily long amount of time.
How did you feel when you first played He Fucked The Girl Out Of Me? Did your impression change after you finished?
I first started playing feeling pretty casual about it. It's a popular game, and I figured I should try it. But after the game started and I read some of the opening scenes, I realized that I was not in the right headspace to approach this work, so I stopped playing. But even at that point, the artwork and writing had left a strong impression on me, and I thought I ought to play this eventually, so I gave it some time. I can't remember when I started playing again, but it had to have been at least a month later. The second time I played it all the way to the end, and was overwhelmed.
There are many impressive aspects of this game. (These are not so much my changing impressions of different playthroughs, so much as a summary of my thoughts after translating the game.) The quiet yet shocking presentation, the distinctive artwork, the Game Boy format, the narrative structure, and so on. But most of all, I was struck by how the narrative starts with abstract expressions and shifts to depictions of real-life events. When portraying the hardship of speaking about trauma, the way the screen shifts from the inner world to events in the past is incredibly powerful. I am convinced that this story can only be told in this format as a game.
Did you have any challenges translating this game into Japanese?
A new challenge that I faced with HFTGOOM was that since it was made in GB Studio, it would not be able to display kanji. I didn't have to think about line breaks and spaces when translating Ren'Py games.
The most difficult thing to translate was the title. I'm still a little unsure even now if my translation properly captures its meaning and nuance. However, the original title leaves a strong impression, so I put a lot of thought into maintaining that impact when translating it into Japanese. Specifically, the way I translated it was to get the player to imagine an auto-translated porno. After they got hit with that first impression, players would come to understand the meaning of that title when it appears in context within the game... that was my goal.
About how long did it take to translate HFTGOOM? Was it different for other games you've translated?
Looking at the e-mails we exchanged at the time, it looks like it took about ten days from when I first asked about translating to the time I announced I was finished. I think the translation itself went pretty smoothly. However, it was my first time using GB Studio, and I remember that it took some effort to check for missing translations. So checking things like missing translations in the choices, or if the dialogue matches up properly after paths branch, etc. There is a good chance that there are errors, so if you find any, please let us know.
Can you tell us about some other games you've translated in the past?
The first game I translated was Dungeons & Lesbians by Noeybodys. Lesbian girls get together and play a TTRPG, and in the process, they uncover their feelings and accept their true selves. It's a gentle and fun game, but the message it delivers is a pressing one. The next game I translated was Peyton's Post-Op Visits by armin littlerat. It is about visiting the home of a trans man who has just undergone top surgery from the perspective of the the main character, himself a trans man. It depicts the real struggles that confront trans men, and the interactions and diversity in the community.
Can you tell us about anything you are currently working on?
I don't currently have anything to announce. I am always thinking of games I want to casually play and introduce, but it's quite difficult.
Do you have any messages for your players?
My output is quite low, but I am always incredibly grateful to the people cheering me on. Thank you very much for playing.