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MTAA-RR » texts » sissyfight:

Beat Up by Grade School Girls in Drag, M.River’s Report on SissyFight 2000
2001, a shorter version of this text was originally published in Sandbox #9, Gender Play

A general confession: I wasted WAY to much time last summer hanging out on the playground of PS 666 dressed up in a catholic school girl’s uniform with my new punk rock hair style. I tried to get with the "cool crowd" by destroying the reps of little girls. I taunted and scratched them to no avail. In the end, I failed. I was deemed a bully and in general, "totally uncool". I am, in what passes as reality these days, a 33 year old male who spent to much time last summer enjoying the gender/social twisting online game SissyFight 2000.

Before I begin my sad story of humiliation at the hands of rabid pre-pubescent trannies, a little background on the game. SissyFight was created by the game designer/game theorist Eric Zimmmerman with the good folks at In contrast to most testosterone heavy first person shooter games, SissyFight relies on social interaction between players as a style of combat. The SissyFight action takes place in a candy colored playground amongst 6 girls. Cartoon speech bubbles allows each girl to chat in realtime as a clock ticks down to zero. As the clock ticks by, the girls select a victim and an attack move such as "grab" or "scratch". In order to balance the action, girls may choose instead for a defense move like "cower" or the all powerful "tattle to the teacher". The moves have an overlapping hierarchy in a Rock/Scissor/Paper schoolyard game style. Make the right moves and knock points off the other girls esteem. Lose all your self-esteem points and you’re out of the game. Sound easy? Well, you try to be cool when two girls named "Bob" and "Starsuck" decide to team up and pummel your newbie butt. Yes, that’s right, all the child like meanness and grade school angst you thought was out of your life suddenly comes back with pigtails swinging.

The heart of the game is not the specific fights but the way one navigates and partners with the other girls. So, as you are kindly informed by SissyFight at the beginning of the game, "If you wanna win this game and be most popular, you definitely have to make the right friends. Because the best way to, like, totally let a particular girl know what a worthless dweeb she is, is to, like, seriously gang up on her. So while you’re playing, make sure to chat with the cooler people in the game and discuss the different ways you plan to join forces to majorly crush these massive dweebs. In the end, they’ll be outta the game, and you… well, someone has to be the Empress of the Universe, right???". As you might guess at this point, two-faced sweetness, unguarded jealousy and general character assassination make fine game strategies. Using traits needed to interact with strangers in our real world adult life, being helpful, compassionate, and honest, will lead your SissyFight avatar to a bawling break down of shame.

Okay, here are some reverberations from playing a game whose goal is to force others into said "bawling breakdown of shame". If the catch phrase "Theater of Cruelty" is dredged up, one might picture some black leather dungeon. SissyFight takes a different tact. As Zimmerman points out in a interview on,"SissyFight kind of encourages cruelty and that’s why it makes the social space so highly charged. At the same time I would say that it’s aggressively playful too, in the music played and the very stylized nature of the girl characters. Those elements cut across the cruelty of the game in interesting ways." With a subtle humor embedded within its choice of game space, SissyFight allows the player the joy of conflict without the cultural props.

And now for some questions from my editor:
"I assume most of the players are male taking on a female persona. Is this correct? Is there any way to find this out? If so, why resort to a female online persona? Any instances of real-life women using it?"
Well, let’s think back to the game Pac Man, or Ms. Pac Man for that matter. Gender choice was not that big of deal. Both sexes enjoyed both games. SissyFight ups the stakes a bit. In the game, one is asked to act out a gendered role. Not just a female role but that of the stereotypical "bad girl". In online space, race, gender and over all morals are sometimes malleable. The social fallout of malable avatar identity is up for question. But in the mean time, why not strap on an "other" and take it out for a test drive? To question who is really behind an avatar named "Bob" or "Starsuck" denies the game space. Be they male or female, in the game they are grade school girls. In the game they are still beating the crap out of you.

So, I thought I’d wrap this up by letting my game character Char2000 (named in lovin’ honor of my mom) have the last word. Take it away Char…"I was like…devastated. I mean, like, I had cool hair and sassy comebacks…but Noooo. Those brats grabbed me and pushed me down …AND then acted Oh-So-Holy about it! Screw’um! I’m dropping out this school and joining a Riot Grrl band."

MTAA-RR » texts » sissyfight

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