While most gamers spent 2012 immersed in Mass Effect 3, Diablo 3, or still under the spell of the iconic The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, I was getting used to having my first computer. There were many reasons why I didn’t have a computer of my own until I came of age, or why I spent my teen years fiddling with a Game Boy Color packed with Pokémon Crystal and The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages, and all of them are, in one way or another, connected to why I’m Scared of Girls was so important to forming the man I am today.
You’ve probably never heard of I’m Scared of Girls, a small RPG Maker 2003 story-driven adventure game developed and published in the rpgmaker.net community by Moga (also known by the username CARRIONBLUE). It tells the story of Lamb, a young cross-dresser who finds himself in a purgatory-like dungeon. There, he must cut the ties to his former life in order to be reborn.
Now you must be wondering, “how the hell did this RPG Maker shit no one ever heard of change his life, and why is he bothering us with it?” It just so happens that a story like this is exactly what I needed to break free from what my family wanted me to be. Since I was never going to get married to a woman and give them grandchildren, they wanted to make sure I fit into their preferences as to what society entails. That included making sure that I understood the difference between being gay and being a “fag” (a word prominent back when I came out). Dying my hair, for example, was unacceptable. “That’s what fags do,” they would say.
I grew up believing that “fags” hurt the image of the LGBT community. I was one of those guys who would say things such as “hide thyself” or “man up,” all the while trying to repress my femininity. My mother even told me at one point that I could forget I ever had a mother if I put on a dress, so to pick up I’m Scared of Girls and learn the story of this troubled individual made me realize that I was becoming a horrible human being.
The game’s mechanics are nothing to write home about. As expected from an RPG Maker title developed by one person, movement and combat are clunky, with the latter also being arbitrary. The environments, while visually appealing, lack substance. It’s unfair to even compare it to more successful RPG Maker titles such as To The Moon, LISA, or classics such as Space Funeral and OFF. Moga’s limitations were made clear in the simplicity of I’m Scared of Girls, but that doesn’t make the original artwork and emotional story less worthy.
Piecing together Lamb’s story, discovering the person under the dress, and understanding the supporting characters that are crucial to the game’s events is almost like interviewing a real person. The non-linear nature of I’m Scared of Girls allows players to experience the story at their own pace, with each fragment presenting itself like a puzzle piece. This level of interaction reminds me of a novel by Brazilian author Angela Gutiérrez called O Mundo de Flora (lit. “The World of Flora”), where the reader is encouraged to open the book in no particular page order and read the short story there present. The novel as a whole tells the story of a young woman named Flora, but it’s up to readers to piece it together through the short stories organized in an extremely non-linear fashion.
Getting to know Lamb and his struggles – the friendship he had with Angelica, the affection he felt for Conor, and how others perceived him – made me look at my own life and who people thought I was meant to be. It made me realize that no matter how much you stray from what society and family demand, you have to stay true to yourself to find happiness in your own skin. The ending of I’m Scared of Girls throws some of these concepts out of the window, but Lamb’s everyday struggles make him as human as anyone else. It serves to show that outcasts deserve the same amount of respect as the next person – because, as cliché as it is, we’re all walking sacks of meat who happen to be capable of complex interaction.