[Content Warning: Discussions of death, murder, trans/queerphobia, exorcisms, religious and familial abandonment, and teenage pregnancy.]
Disclaimer: Mx Medea was apprenticed under a pastor in the protestant church for several years.
As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…
There is a monster here, although not the one charging at me from the treeline, nor the one hovering towards me with supposedly murderous intent, instead the monster is more austere, more insidious, more indignant. This demon wears a clerical collar, waves aloft a crucifix, and is absolutely convicted that what he is doing is not only acceptable, but the will of a completely just and loving God. Today, his God says to kill.
FAITH, by Airdorf, is a retro-styled game that leans heavily upon Exorcist horror tropes that compliment the simple style quite well by framing the expected archetypes clearly within the mind of the player by evoking already established characters. It’s a well-made horror game that stays true to its roots and will definitely make you more afraid of a white pixel-monster charging towards you than any game since Ski Free.
But for me, the horror is far more personal. Having grown up as a trans person in an extremely religious environment where you’re as likely to hear your neighbours screeching in “tongues” as they writhe on the floor as you are to hear the words “Oh, bless”, these archetypes less echo clever world-building than thunder as vengeful Gods visiting their misguided wrath upon all that don’t fit their narrow scope of acceptable humanity.
Enter Amy, a 17 year old girl who volunteers at a clinic of unstated purpose that causes the religious fellowship to eschew contact with her already isolated family. She lives a fairly mundane life of correspondence with missionaries between homeschooling and chores with her twin siblings and mother while her father is on deployment. Over time, of course, Amy is removed from her volunteer position by her family, grows sullen, and begins to repulse her mother- a situation that only worsens when her father returns and is implied to retain the services of a pair of priests to exorcise whatever demon has driven his daughter into this state.
If you’ve ever witnessed an exorcism, I don’t need to tell you that it goes horribly wrong, because they almost always do. If you haven’t witnessed one, count your blessings that you don’t have the images of the reality of the ritual haunt you at night. Amy supposedly breaks free of her restraints and murders the priest, as much an act of self defense as one of mental self-preservation, leading to a string of events that leave her family dead, and the priest’s assistant haunted. Not by demons, of course, but by the idea that he needs to finish subjecting this girl to the living hell she was once forced to endure.
The main character is portrayed as a potentially unreliable narrator, a fitting state of affairs as it’s so often the case for those seized by such religious fervor that they’d subject a teenage girl to a long arduous torture session for her own good.
As a queer person, I find myself relating deeply to Amy, to the feelings of isolation and community distrust and derision for every perceived misstep because you don’t fit perfectly into your pre-ordained position. There is a familiarity to the idea of smiling, bearing the pain, shaving away the parts of yourself that are seen to stick out in day to day life for the sake of yourself and your family, despairing that the real you still flickers through the cracks. After all, the 16 year old who got pregnant was the talk of the church for years, and her father, the pastor, was never allowed to preach again.
The cruelty is as familiar as the complete fervor with which everyone around you knows they’re doing the right thing, by punishing you, by punishing your family, by punishing everyone you care about. Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord, but where’s the fun in that?
There is horror in a monster bearing down on you, splayed on all fours, ready to rip you apart with its gnashing teeth, but it’s a comparatively small horror compared to every aspect of the world it exists within, one that’s full of men in black raiments and white collars who want nothing more than to be your judge, your jury, and if they have their way, your executioner.
But, it’s ok, because God said so. Well, the message scrawled in blood on the floor of the house where you’ve been relentlessly hunting a teenage girl said so at least. Good enough.
Mx. Medea is a writer, artist, and editor who spends most of their time drawing things with squares and buried under a small pile of endless paper copy. When not working they can be found playing everything from interesting indie fare to oldschool games. You can find them, their art, and their opinions @Mx_Medea on Twitter.