Trans Folks Walking Alpha Demo Release

By Blair Johnson and Cody Mejeur

Palah Light Lab is excited to share the first public release of the alpha demo of Trans Folks Walking, consisting of its first playable level.

The player of Trans Folks Walking enters the space to a familiar scene: two swinging bathroom doors on either side of an industrial drinking fountain, each door clearly labeled with the standard blue sign for women and men. We’re in a library, it’s finals week, and the voice tells us that “trying to use the bathroom here when it’s so busy is scary. I don’t know which one to use.” As the player lingers in the hallway, trying to choose between these binary options, the inner voice offers more hypotheticals, accompanied by a foreboding and urgent score. 

Trans Folks Walking, a first-person narrative anthology game designed in Unity, creates a sense of space and embodiment as it is experienced by a trans character. The first level, in which the player character is put in the position of having to choose between two binary options for bathrooms in a college library, narrates the complexity and vulnerability of navigating this space. No matter which choice we make as a player, the anxiety and fear persists — a feeling which is made palpable through the game’s inner monologue and score. 

The game was included in an exhibition highlighting empathetic games developed by students at MSU, titled “Future Present: Design in a Time of Urgency,” an exhibit that ran during September 2020 curated by the Science Gallery Detroit. Trans Folks Walking  was created  in collaboration with the Empathic Games Initiative in the Department of Media & Information at Michigan State University, and is being further developed with support from the Mellon Foundation and UB’s Digital Scholarship Studio and Network

Palah Light Lab co-director and Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Media Study, Cody Mejeur, is the project lead for Trans Folks Walking. Cody initially started the game in 2019 based in part on their research with queer games and their narratives and with the desire to increase opportunities for games made by and for queer and trans peoples. A major goal and commitment for the project is to invite community members to contribute their own stories to the anthology and have an active role in what those stories look like in the game–in other words, for trans players and community members to tell their stories as they want them to be told (and played!). The team currently includes Ronny Ford (MSU, project manager, narrative designer), Famous Clark (UB, programmer, level designer), Wes Turner (independent artist, environment designer), and Austin Wilson (MSU, composer, sound designer). Working on the game together has been an encouraging and hopeful experience in what games can be when they center community, care, and creating and sharing together across difference. 

The game will eventually include a series of levels in different spaces, and form a collection of short stories and experiences, ranging from the broad, as in the bathroom level, to the specific — the next level, for example, will center on being trans in a Christian church. The team describes the game as “[creating] space for trans folks to share their stories and for players to experience small parts of what it means to be trans. The game is intentionally designed as an anthology of short experiences that will grow in collaboration with trans people and their communities.” Another future level will focus on the experience of visiting a doctor’s office, particularly in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Beyond these few levels, the team welcomes people interested in the project and potential collaborators to reach out with ideas for expanding the collection moving forward. 

For those interested in playing the first level, the alpha release demo can be found at https://cmejeur.itch.io/trans-folks-walking-alpha-demo. The team welcomes feedback from all and ideas for stories, levels, and experiences from trans folks in particular. They can best be reached by contacting Cody Mejeur at codymeje@buffalo.edu or Ronny Ford at fordron@msu.edu.

Screenshot of Trans Folks Walking

Call for 2020-2021 Cohort Members!

The Palah Light Lab at the University at Buffalo Department of Media Study welcomes an interdisciplinary, creative, and diverse community of artists, academics, and activists to join the 2020/2021 cohort of members. Our mission includes a commitment to political engagement and social justice through poetry, participation, gaming, and pedagogy. In particular, our lab has an emphasis on gaming and poetry and the innovative ways technology and equity can intersect in participatory ways. We are interested in working with individuals working in these fields and utilizing these approaches. Utilizing a feminist and queer-centered approach, we are interested in design and scholarship anchored in the humanities and scholarship informed by transdisciplinary practices. We are open to and encourage applicants in and out of academia, at any stage. International applicants are also welcome. Palah Light Lab centers the question of equity at the forefront of our work, and we seek to creatively and critically engage new media in experimental ways that address pressing social issues and injustices. 

Based out of the University of Buffalo (SUNY) Department of Media Study, Palah Light Lab is funded by SUNY Diversity Faculty Fellowship and co-led by Dr. Margaret Rhee and Dr. Cody Mejeur (Associate Director). Our graduate lab leads include Blair Johnson (English) and Leonardo Brida (DMS). To apply please fill out the form below.  For more information, see our website: https://ubwp.buffalo.edu/palahlight/about/

This year, the Palah Light Lab cohorts will consist of a small group of researchers, artists, and activists who join the Palah Light Lab for a year (or longer) to join our creative, intellectual, and political community. Members will receive access to community meetings, training, workshops, resources, and community from the lab space by virtual membership. Cohorts are invited to work on the lab’s ongoing projects, and/or to work on their own projects in creative, feminist, and queer new media with lab support and in conversation together. 

Lab Members Receive Access To 

  • Monthly Community Meetings
  • Workshops for training and mentoring
  • Opportunities for collaborations and movement building 
  • Optional writing group and creative group – space for critique and feedback
  • Skill share
  • Network of affiliated labs
  • Opportunity to write for the lab blog,  podcast, and leadership
  • Contribute to ongoing projects, such as video games, tangible computing poetry projects 
  •  Creative and scholarly community emphasizing diversity, innovation, and social justice 

What We Ask For

  • Participation in the monthly meetings
  • Rotating participation in leading the meetings (ie facilitation, notes, agenda)
  • Sharing projects
  • Providing feedback on others’ work/projects
  • Commitment to diversity, innovation, acceptance, and social justice 

If you have any questions or concerns as you complete this application, please contact Palahlightlab@gmail.com, Cody Mejeur (codymeje@buffalo.edu), or Margaret Rhee (mrhee@buffalo.edu

Members are committed to creative and intellectual conversations in a new media community committed to questions on justice guided and generosity, and questioning structures of power through creative and critical response. Committed to diversity, we activity seek and welcome Black, Indigenious, People of Color, Women, LGBTQIA, persons with disabilities, and other people at the intersections of these identities.

Applications will be accepted through November 16, 2020 11:59 pm, Eastern Time. 

Google Form Application Link: https://bit.ly/33ASd3P

Spanish Translation: 

Solicitud para formar parte del laboratorio de Palah Light 2020-2021

Este formulario funciona como aplicación para unirse al grupo de miembros del laboratorio, investigadores y artistas de Palah Light Lab 2020-2021. Las miembros de Palah Light Lab consisten en un pequeño grupo de investigadores, artistas y activistas que se unen al Palah Light Lab durante un año (o más) y reciben capacitación, talleres y comunidad dentro del laboratorio. Se invita a los participantes a trabajar en los proyectos en curso del laboratorio y / o a trabajar en sus propios proyectos en nuevos medios creativos, feministas y queer con el apoyo del laboratorio. Estamos abiertos a postulantes dentro y fuera de la academia, en cualquier etapa de formación. Los solicitantes internacionales también son bienvenidos.

Palah 파랗 Light Lab es un espacio creativo y crítico que fomenta la poesía, la participación y la pedagogía a través de la tecnología y la equidad. Utilizando un enfoque feminista y queer, estamos interesados ​​en el diseño anclado en las humanidades y el conocimiento informado por prácticas y tecnología transdisciplinarias. Palah Light Lab pone la cuestión de la equidad en el centro de su trabajo, y busca involucrar de manera creativa y crítica a los nuevos medios de manera experimental para abordar problemas urgentes  en el ámbito social y de injusticias. Con sede en el Departamento de Estudios de Medios de la Universidad de Buffalo, Palah Light Lab está financiado por la Beca de la Facultad de Diversidad de SUNY y dirigido por la Dra. Margaret Rhee. El laboratorio está codirigido por el director asociado, el Dr. Cody Mejeur, y Blair Johnson (Departamento de inglés) como líder del laboratorio de posgrado. El laboratorio promueve la creatividad, la guia y la colaboración feministas a través de un espacio creativo. Para obtener más información, consulte nuestro sitio web: https://ubwp.buffalo.edu/palahlight/about/

Lo que ofrecemos:

  • Reuniones grupales mensuales
  • Talleres de formación y tutoría
  • Oportunidades de colaboraciones
  • Grupo de redacción – espacio de crítica y retroalimentación
  • Compartir habilidades
  • Red de laboratorios afiliados
  • Oportunidad de escribir para el blog y liderazgo
  • Contribuir a proyectos en curso, como videojuegos, proyectos de poesía y podcast de laboratorio.

Lo que pedimos

  • Participar en las reuniones mensuales
  • Rotación de participación en la conducción de las reuniones (es decir, facilitación, notas, agenda)
  • Compartir proyectos
  • Proporcionar comentarios sobre el trabajo / proyectos de otros

Si tiene alguna pregunta o inquietud mientras completa esta solicitud, comuníquese con Palahlightlab@gmail.com, Margaret Rhee (mrhee@buffalo.edu) o Cody Mejeur (codymeje@buffalo.edu).

Las solicitudes se aceptarán hasta el 16 de noviembre de 2020 a las 11:59 p.m., hora del este.

Aplicación: https://bit.ly/33ASd3P

Graduation 2020

Palah Light Lab congratulates two of our graduating Light Labbers: Awa Sow and Andrea Pagan. We are grateful for all the work and research they contributed to the lab. Their presence will be missed as they move forward into the post-Buffalo beyond. 

Awa Sow graduates this May with a BS in Biological Sciences. Awa’s interests are in queer and film studies, and she worked on several related projects over the course of the semester. First, she facilitated the planning and visit of Alex Juhasz and Kat Chairs for their screening and talk, “Metanoia: Aids, Women, Incarceration and Video Activism,” as part of Buffalo’s PLASMA series. Awa also helped research the finalists for the Lambda Literary Awards, for which PLL founder Margaret Rhee was a judge this year. 

Andrea Pagan will defend her thesis project this August for her MFA in Media Study. She specializes in physical computing and installation work. 

In the lab, she applied her expertise to helping update and re-install “The Kimchi Poetry Machine,” a 2014 tangible-computing project by Margaret Rhee. Andrea also worked on compiling grant research and helping to research funding sources for the future of Palah Light Lab.