“There’s thirteen playable characters, eleven who were originally male and two who were originally female,” Lachlan Snell of Transcendent Games tells me. “Seven of the characters were transformed in the explosion, and the other characters are transformed by other means later on in the story. The game follows these characters and how they adapt to their new lives after being transformed.”
The worry with a game such as this one is that the comedy could quite easily be laughing at its characters, rather than with them, or otherwise being harmful, either intentionally or not.
Lachlan insists that, although Gender Bender is a comedy with gender identity and sexuality at its heart, and although it does contain some really ridiculous scenes, like cat girls and breast expansion, it’s a game that doesn’t play off its themes as a joke.
“For example, one of the characters had been considering transitioning prior to the accident and is now really happy about this sudden transformation. But another character had never even thought about being a girl, but now that she is one, she really begins to wonder if she’s actually preferring it, and her perspective on life changes completely,” Lachlan says.
“A Romantic Comedy Visual Novel that follows a group of characters who suddenly have to adjust to putting on a bra every morning.”
It might be somewhat surprising to know that Lachlan, the writer and programmer of Gender Bender, is not transgender himself, nor is artist David Kerr. However, they are aware that the characters and themes of the game do effect the lives of real people, and they’re not out to cause upset.
“We’ve spoken with a number of transgendered people via forums or email, and we’ve tried to treat the issue with the respect it deserves,” Lachlan reveals. “Even though we’re a comedy game, we’re hoping we can use that to tackle some bigger issues that are often ignored.”
Being a game that centers around relationships too, Gender Bender approaches all forms of sexuality in some form. However, these are not player-directed, but are spread across the range of characters, each of whom have their preferences.
Yael, for instance, is attracted to women, and becoming a woman does not change that fact. Bri is another character in the same boat, but ends up being a little more curious and is able to date either a male waiter named Ryan or a punk rocker girl called Sophie. There are also female-to-male characters currently still being designed who can date either gender.
“With a game like this, it’s important to be inclusive, and adding all these different relationships is a lot of fun to make, but because this game is about seeing the perspective of other characters, rather than inserting yourself into the story, the love interests are dependent on what character you play as,” says Lachlan. “It helps make each character feel unique and different.”
Finishing up the conversation, Lachlan informs me that Transcendent Games do have a couple more game ideas based around gender identity themes, though their games won’t always revolve around this.
“It’s a really interesting theme with a lot of potential,” Lachlan says, “and I’d really like to see more games out there that deal with issues like this.”