Earlier this month, Tom Hosford’s BAFTA-nominated game, Family Dinner, released on itch.io. As we talked about before, Family Dinner is a narrative-focused story that follows Tobias, a young trans man who must sit through a dinner with their transphobic family members.
I’m someone who still struggles with understanding who they are, so Family Dinner was refreshing. As terrible as Tobias’ family members are, Tobias never stops being certain of who they are, even when forced into wearing clothes – such as a dress – that makes him uncomfortable. His agreement to do so is to avoid confrontation yes, but it’s also about survival. It’s damaging, traumatizing even, and Hosford doesn’t hold back in conveying this as plainly as possible. Even when Tobias speaks with his friend about the dinner, it’s with a tone that while brave on the surface, is easy to read as someone who can at least find strength in knowing who they are, even if others don’t.
The game is short and can be played in under 10 minutes. Regardless of its length, that doesn’t stop it from being poignant in what it conveys. My own struggles with understanding my gender aside, I felt myself growing more and more uncomfortable as Tobias’ family’s conversation twists and turns from a stilted conversation about family life into discussion about those ‘damn liberals.’ I won’t spoil too much about what happens, but it inevitably leads to the discussion of transgender issues.
The way Hosford uses sound – and the lack of it – made my stomach flip more than once. It felt suffocating, and with the location of it being the dinner table, a place where we’re all equals in breaking bread, is particularly hard to swallow. Tobias is made to feel an outsider, by what he wears, by his family’s overt hatred, by their transphobia. He is made to feel unwelcome, and worst of all, it’s happening under his own roof.
This is what makes Tobias eventually standing up for himself so pivotal. He takes back the control of his own narrative, something which is so very hard to do when you feel like the whole world is against you.
Hosford’s Family Dinner is eye-opening and a very crucial game to understand just how alienated it can be to take part in something as simple as sitting down and eating with family. Please go check it out for yourself over on itch.io.